Previously, singer Lee Seung Gi held his first-ever US tour and received much attention for his actions. The Korea Times Atlanta reported that he had “disrespected his Korean American fans.” With the growing backlash, he eventually canceled his New York leg of the tour.
Most recently, the representative of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), which signed a contract with Lee Seung Gi’s New York-New Jersey performance, officially protested the agency’s “media play” and released the email to the public.
Official protest from the concert venue
Human Made, Lee’s Korean management agency, responded to media outlets that the New York-New Jersey concert “was not canceled due to poor ticket sales, but because of problems at the local concert hall.” However, the NJPAC emailed the agency stating, “I’m not authorizing this message to be sent to customers to purchased tickets through TicketMaster.” They felt that Lee Seung Gi was tarnishing the reputation of NJPAC with false explanations.
Below is the KaKaoTalk conversation on August 1 with Jang Jaeha, CEO of Human Made, released by Hugh Entertainment.
Jang Jaeha: How about we exclude stating ticket sales for the reason for cancellation?
Hugh Entertainment: There should still be a reason for cancellation to avoid severe backlash. Did you have anything in mind?
Jang Jaeha: The consensus with our PR team is that due to the geographical issue, we decided not to go through with the New Jersey performance to focus on the L.A and Atlanta concerts. The reason for the cancellation hasn’t gone out yet from the venue, right?
Hugh Entertainment: We didn’t state specifically that it was low ticket sales and just wrote ticket sales, but we think there could direct backlash regarding this. We will add the portion about geographical issues. There hasn’t been any statement released from the venue yet.
Jang Jaeha: I think we should take out the part about ticket sales altogether. The current statement makes it very clear that ticket sales are low.
Hugh Entertainment: If you want, we will take it out (about low ticket sales), but if geographical issues are emphasized, it makes it look like Atlanta is okay and not New Jersey, making the justification for cancellation weak. We do not currently have enough justification to convince New York fans of their opposition to this.
Jang Jaeha: We are currently still in discussion regarding this. I think we need to go as vague as possible. Rather than emphasizing the geographic issue, we should announce the cancelation due to the local market. Even when inquiries come in, in the case of Hugh, since it’s a company headquartered in L.A., I think we will have to notify them of the cancelation due to local circumstances in New York.
Hugh stated, “At the time of this conversation, the New York-New Jersey ticket sales were around 250 tickets, which was far below the break-even point of 1,704 tickets.” They added, “In the end, the ticket sales were so low that the performance was canceled and the reason for the cancelation was ‘venue circumstances,’ which caused a protest from the NJPAC.”
Jang Jaeha: I think local circumstances are the best way to state it. When inquiries are received, we should state the ticket and geographical issues. If we explain in detail in the official statement, both Hugh and Human Made can receive damage. Please trust us on this and release an official statement as general as possible.
Hugh Entertainment: Ok, then we will organize it and post a statement. But if you could specify something. You said it’s local circumstances, but when fans or reporters contact us regarding this, we need to know how to explain it in detail to them.
Jang Jaeha: Alright, I will send you something more detailed by today. For now, please create an English version statement please. Then we can work on choosing a time frame for when to release it.
Hugh Entertainment: For us, I think we need to release it at noon local time. It we delay it any more, more problems will occur. We will post it on our site and even if we send it to the venue, we don’t know exactly when they will post it. As for the English version, we will just take out the part of the ticket sales and not add or edit anything else. We think its better to not make it any longer and just make it short and sweet.
Atlanta concert would have canceled without sponsorship from Korean businesses
According to the released KakaoTalk conversations, the U.S. agencies were considering canceling not only the New York-New Jersey performance but also the Atlanta performance. At the time of the decision to cancel the New Jersey-New York concert, the Atlanta ticket sales were only 305, which was only a quarter of the break-even point of 1,210 tickets.
Hugh Entertainment told CEO Jang, “The LA performance is difficult to cancel, but the remaining New Jersey and Atlanta performances are reasonable, so it’s right to cancel them. Also, please know that it was a big decision for us to keep the Atlanta performance in consideration of the singer.”
Ultimately, Hugh went through with the Atlanta concert to preserve the singer’s image and paid Lee the promised performance fee. To compensate for the low ticket sales, they cooperated with Korus Entertainment, a local Korean entertainment agency in Atlanta, to sponsor Korean restaurants and businesses. According to the KakaoTalk conversation, they verbally promised to visit the restaurant and company and shared the schedules and details of the visit with Human Made before leaving Korea.
However, the explanation for Lee canceling the visit to the restaurants poor physical condition due to turbulence and delay of the flight to Atlanta. In the KakaoTalk conversation, the manager sent a message in the early morning before the flight departed from LA to Atlanta.
Kim Bosung manager: The restaurant visit might change based on the artist’s condition or the menu. We hope you understand. I’ll have to talk with the artist on the day of and let you know through the group chat.
Paul Huh: Manager Kim, today is Sunday so I’ll probably get details regarding this tomorrow, but I am sending this message because I am a bit shocked. Ticket sales for the Atlanta concert are so low so we are looking for several sponsors. In the case of the restaurant, the singer team and Hugh team will go have their meal sponsored by the restaurant and take a few photos and sign autographs. Other sponsors are preparing to take photos and sign autographs at the concert venue. We have already discussed this with CEO Jang, and director Lee Ji Hoon will send the list of sponsors and details for the photos and autographs before the end of this week. The above was incorrectly released at the restaurant, stating that the fans would be able to eat with the artist. We have never approved this, so we have asked them to take it down.
Jang Jaeha: Ok. For the photos, we are taking photos with the restaurant owners, correct?
Paul Huh: Yes, the owners and maybe some of the employees, but we have not approved taking photos with customers.
Jang Jaeha: Ok, understood.
First time popularity has plummeted…Large losses due to poor ticket sales
Hugh reported that they suffered a huge loss due to Lee Seung Gi’s Atlanta and New Jersey-New York performances. Even with the cancelation, they had to pay the venue rental fee, marketing and advertising costs, flight cancellation penalty, and more. For the Atlanta performance, with final ticket sales being only 449, they had no choice to receive sponsorships from Korean restaurants and businesses.
Hugh stated, “Up until now, we have never received sponsorships from restaurants, but in order to keep our contract with Lee Seung Gi and save face, we pushed ahead with the performance and worked with local agencies to reduce our losses.”
Meanwhile, regarding the reason for disclosing the contents of the KakaoTalk messages, Hugh stated, “Human Made has consistently provided explanations that are far from the facts and continue to deceive Korean American residents who were planning on attending the concert and the Korean companies that sponsored it. We decided it was necessary to make the reality known. We have decided to open the content through Atlanta K, as they have reported on the issue in the most detailed and objective manner so far.”
Netizens were shocked at the news and hoped he would take a step back and reflect on his actions.
- “He needs to look back on himself objectively. He hasn’t released new music in years, how can he expect good sales in the U.S. or overseas.”
- “Gossip regarding overseas concerts need to be handled well..singer Kim Gunmo once ruined an overseas concert by drinking and the local agencies got angry and exposed his personal life.”
- “His previous agency really worked hard to preserve his image.”
- “How could he not go even with the agency working hard to get him sponsors due to low ticket sales…”