Dispatch has revealed that Lee Seung Gi has never been paid for his music over the past 18 years despite releasing numerous hits.
Since Lee Seung Gi debuted in 2004 with his first full album The Dream Of A Moth, it has been 6,743 days as of the writing of this article and he has not been paid even a single won for his music. This does not take into account any of his acting or variety show appearances, only music. Lee Seung Gi has been working for the past 18 years on a slave contract for Hook Entertainment and has been a victim of gaslighting by his own agency.
Because You’re My Slave (A pun on his hit song “Because You’re My Girl”)
Lee Seung Gi rose to stardom through his song “Because You’re My Girl”. As Lee Seung Gi started to hit it big, his agency began to realize he was a money printer for them. He has been deceived by his agency’s lies, and some of the revenue documents from earlier in his career have already been deleted and destroyed, making it impossible to verify how much he should have received.
On November 17, Lee Seung Gi formally requested a report on his revenue for his musical activities over the past 18 years and Hook Entertainment noted that they are in fact attempting to work on the accounting side.
The musical “slave” of Cheongdam
Lee Seung Gi captured the hearts of Koreans through “Because You’re My Girl” in 2004. He then solidified his position as a top soloist with his song “Delete”, winning Rookie of the Year awards at the Seoul Music Awards, SBS Gayo Daejeon, and MBC Gayo Daejejeon. At the time, the SBS and MBC music festivals gave out awards.
Lee Seung Gi sold at least 100,000 copies of his first three full albums, released in 2004, 2006, and 2007. He also was experiencing unrivaled popularity in the download market, with users using his music for their ringtone and Cyworld page background music.
While Hook Entertainment collected the revenue from Lee Seung Gi’s music, Lee Seung Gi did not receive any money. Over the past 18 years, he has released a total of 137 songs, but his music related revenue remained 0 won.
Dispatch was able to obtain the documents where Lee Seung Gi requested his settlement, which requested details for the album profits and Lee Seung Gi’s profits he was supposed to receive.
There should be 10 billion KRW in my bank account
From 2004 to 2002, Lee Seung Gi released a total of 27 albums (full, mini, and single). There were 137 songs released in total. He earned a total of 0 won, but how much was he supposed to earn? PSY hinted that he should be earning a lot based on his comment on Radio Star.
The song that has been one of the best for me is Lee Seung Gi’s “Because You’re My Girl”. Even today, some young man is singing it.
PSY was the producer for “Because You’re My Girl” and also receives royalties from sales and streams of the song. If PSY receives plenty of royalties from the song, Lee Seung Gi should too.
Dispatch obtained a statement of settlements from the distribution channels that distributed Lee Seung Gi’s music. Between 2006 and 2022, Lee Seung Gi’s musical activities earned over ₩9.60 billion KRW (about $7.16 million USD) in revenue. In other words, that same amount was recorded as sales in his Hook Entertainment corporate account. The documents for 2004-2009 were lost, so not all of the information was able to be retrieved.
As the information was lost, the accounting books from June 2004 to August 2009 were unable to be fully verified, meaning that both the revenue and expenses report are no longer in existence. There is no way to confirm how much was spent compared to how much he earned for his hit songs during that time, although some estimates were made for 2006-2009. However, it is safe to assume that Lee Seung Gi’s music sales would easily surpass ₩10.0 billion KRW (about $7.46 million USD), should the missing years be factored in.
It all started with a mistakenly sent message
On January 29, 2021, Lee Seung Gi received the following text message:
“The Ordinary Man” digital sales: ₩63.8 million KRW (about $47,600 USD)
The Project – Lee Seung Gi’s 7th album: ₩170 million KRW (about $127,000 USD)
Total: ₩234 million KRW (about $174,000 USD)
Production Fees: ₩200 million KRW (about $149,000 USD)
Difference: ₩33.6 million KRW (about $25,100 USD). The tax invoice will be issued this month and will be deposited the following month.
Based on this message, Lee Seung Gi was internally pleased, having the thoughts of “I’m not a minus singer” (which means he loses money on music releases) and “I’m, making a profit from this song.” Lee Seung Gi also shared this message to a senior musician. However, it did not take long until his moment of realization. A conversation between Lee Seung Gi and a senior in the music industry went as follows:
Lee Seung Gi: Hyung. I guess I make money from digital sales too. Even after the ₩200 million KRW (about $149,000 USD) production fees, I made ₩33.6 million KRW (about $25,100 USD).
Senior: What are you talking about? How much do you think the royalty fees that I get are? For you, you make a lot of money. You haven’t been paid yet?
Lee Seung Gi: That’s right. I always hear that I am a minus singer.
Senior: What are the terms and conditions of your contract with Hook? Why haven’t you been paid yet?
Lee Seung Gi’s contract
In 2004, when Lee Seung Gi first signed his contract, the profit split was 4:6 — Lee Seung Gi would receive 40% of the profits and Hook Entertainment would receive 60%. In 2009, the split was adjusted to 60% to Lee Seung Gi, 40% to Hook Entertainment and adjusted again in 2017 so that 70% would go to Lee Seung Gi and 30% to Hook Entertainment.
However, the way that Hook Entertainment handles the costs and production fees is what made it so Lee Seung Gi did not receive any payments. They had Lee Seung Gi responsible for his agent fees and other expenses that the agency should be handling. Normally, artists of Lee Seung Gi’s caliber receive 80/20 splits and the costs are also split 80/20. Hook decided to offer a 70/30 split on the condition that they would cover the costs. This did not end up coming to fruition.
Lee Seung Gi — The example of modern day “slave labor”
According to the terms of Lee Seung Gi’s contract with Hook Entertainment, 60% of the sales from 2009-2016 and 70% of the sales from 2017 to 2022 should go to Lee Seung Gi. This totals ₩5.80 billion KRW (about $4.33 million USD). Dispatch was able to obtain the production costs associated with Lee Seung Gi’s 6th full album And… and they are as follows:
Song arrangement cost: ₩8.90 million KRW (about $6,640 USD)
Production costs: ₩32.0 million KRW (about $23,900 USD)
Session fees: ₩14.6 million KRW (about $10,900 USD)
Recording studio: ₩12.1 million KRW (about $9,000 USD)
Mixing fees: ₩9.89 million KRW (about $7,380 USD)
Mastering fees: ₩1.76 million KRW (about $1,310 USD)
VJ: ₩3.00 million KRW (about $2,240 USD)
Album Jacket filming: ₩22.4 million KRW (about $16,700 USD)
Album production: ₩39.7 million KRW (about $29,600 USD)
Album promotion: ₩3.00 million KRW (about $2,240 USD)
KOMCA certification: ₩23.4 million KRW (about $17,500 USD)
Total: ₩171 million KRW (about $127,000 USD)
Hook Entertainment spent ₩171 million KRW (about $127,000 USD) on Lee Seung Gi’s 6th album. But how much was earned? The amount that was deposited from digital sales into his settlement account with Hook Entertainment was ₩210 million KRW (about $157,000 USD). Another ₩131 million KRW (about $97,800 USD) was recorded from album sales and a further ₩13.0 million KRW (about $9,700 USD) as made from direct distribution sales. On top of that, the amount received from Kakao for the album was ₩700 million KRW (about $522,000 USD).
In summary, ₩1.05 billion KRW (about $787,000 USD) in revenue was recorded for Lee Seung Gi’s 6th album. Subtracting the production costs, ₩884 million KRW (about $660,000 USD) would remain as profit. It is clear that Lee Seung Gi should have received a large amount of money for his 6th album. But all of the money went into Hook Entertainment’s pockets.
Lee Seung Gi, You’re A Minus Singer
Did Lee Seung Gi ever ask for a proper settlement of his account? Yes, he did. An individual identifying themselves as a close friend of Lee Seung Gi’s told Dispatch that he asked several executives in Hook Entertainment and also tried to find out what his rights were, but the answers that were provided made him doubt himself even more.
1) June 2021: Seung Gi! I don’t want to say this to a singer from our agency… You’re a minus singer, how are we supposed to calculate things?
2) August 2022: Do you know how much it costs to promote an album? I had to give a gift to media director A and bought another gift for media director B…
3) November 2022: You’re so annoying! We asked accounting team member Park to prepare the settlement data, but the f***er didn’t do it because he didn’t want to work.
The June 2021 instance was when both Lee Seung Gi and his mother were at dinner with the executive. The August 2022 instance had a director blurt out his answer due to the sudden question. The November 2022 remarks were made in a meeting following Lee Seung Gi’s request to prove his account statements.
After 18 years, A Counterattack Has Finally Begun
Lee Seung Gi was a victim of gaslighting. It was gaslighting by Hook Entertainment that took over Lee Seung Gi for 18 years. It was psychological abuse by those in higher positions, telling him statements that forced him to think this way.
“Seung Gi! Your fans dont buy albums. They don’t have money but have a lot of things they want.”
“Manager Kim. Lee Seung Gi is done for. Take the right path. Save on expenses.”
Hook Entertainment CEO Kwon Jin Young even ordered Lee Seung Gi’s manager to make sure he doesn’t use the company card for food while he is out on a schedule.
Lee Seung Gi’s Manager: Reporting to work. Once I disable the security on the fourth floow, we will proceed with his schedules.
Lee Seung Gi’s Manager: We have arrived at Seung Gi’s filming location near Samsung Station. He will start filming after getting ready.
Lee Seung Gi’s Manager: 24,000 won has been spent on breakfast for Seung Gi’s team.
Lee Seung Gi’s Manager: 52,000 won has been spent on Seung Gi and his staff’s lunch.
Kwon Jin Young CEO: The car was washed yesterday, we cannot do anything anymore.
Kwon Jin Young CEO: There are too many expenditures, Lee Seung Gi needs to also use his own money for a meal.
Kwon Jin Young CEO: Lee Seung Gi should use his own money for one meal a day.
Kwon Jin Young CEO: If the card limit is exceeded, you can’t use it anymore.
Kwon Jin Young CEO: You better do this right.
Kwon Jin Young CEO: This is your last warning.
Lee Seung Gi’s Manager: Understood, CEO.
According to Lee Seung Gi’s side, he could not demand his settlement due to such comments. He had to read the room and simply accept it at the time. But opn November 17, he finally spoke up, replying to a Hook Entertainment director.
Tomorrow is the most important filming for my movie… but I’m worried because it will be cold. Good luck tomorrow.
— Lee Seung Gi