The Biggest Difference Between SM & YG Trainees, According To A Former K-Pop Trainee

Each K-Pop giant is looking for something completely different in potential trainees.

Bianca Zhou is a former K-Pop trainee affiliated with two of the biggest entertainment companies in South Korea, SM Entertainment and YG Entertainment. Her experiences as a trainee have provided her with valuable insights into the inner workings of the K-Pop industry, which she has shared with her followers on social media platforms such as TikTok. Through her videos, Zhou has become a great source of information for aspiring idols who are curious about what it takes to make it in the industry.

SM Entertainment artists for SMCU Palace. | SM Entertainment

In one of her TikTok videos, Zhou explained the differences between the two K-Pop giants, and according to her, the answer lies in the type of trainees each company works with. Bianca notes that YG Entertainment seeks individuals who already possess a unique style and brand. This approach is in contrast to SM Entertainment, which tends to prefer individuals who have a more “blank slate” personality.

YG specifically looks for people who already have their own style. They love people who have their own brand. Whereas, for example, SM is kind of the opposite.

— Bianca Zhou

BLACKPINK | @jennierubyjane/Instagram

The difference in approach between the two companies can be seen in the type of artists they have introduced to the K-Pop industry. SM has produced a more diverse range of artists, from the popular boy bands EXO and Super Junior to widely loved girl groups Girls’ Generation and Red Velvet, who have more polished and refined images.

They [SM] want someone to have more of a blank slate-type of personality.

— Bianca Zhou

EXO | @weareoneEXO/Twitter

In contrast, YG has a reputation for producing edgier, more rebellious artists, such as BIGBANG and BLACKPINK, who have their own distinct styles and sounds. Even their most recent group, TREASURE, follows in their seniors’ footsteps with their strong image and powerful edgy music.

YG definitely wants people who know who they are, who are very confident — who, when you sing your song or dance your dance for them, they know what type of idol you’re going to be.

— Bianca Zhou

BIGBANG | YG Entertainment

Bianca also explained that YG’s approach is different from most companies in the industry, as the rest often look for a “blank slate” trainee type as opposed to ones with stronger characteristics.

This is different from other companies. Most companies look for a ‘blank slate’, whereas YG does not. If there are two auditionees who are really talented and they can only take one, they’ll choose the one with the more [distinct] style.

— Bianca Zhou

Red Velvet’s Irene as part of SM’s trainee project “SM Rookies” | SM Entertainment

Despite the differences in approach, both companies are known for their rigorous training programs, which can last several years. These programs are designed to prepare trainees for the intense competition in the K-Pop industry and to ensure they are well-rounded performers.

BLACKPINK’s Jennie as a trainee. | YG Entertainment

Zhou ends her video with some advice for any viewers interested in auditioning for YG Entertainment. She shares that though YG is looking for idols who can show they have a strong personality, aspirants shouldn’t undermine how important being adaptable is during a trainee’s life.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be adaptable; it just means you need to be convincing.

— Bianca Zhou

Watch Bianca’s full TikTok here:


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♬ Hype Boy – NewJeans

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