Being a successful K-Pop artist is rare. Only a handful of soloists or groups become A-listers, selling millions of albums, charting number one digitally, filling up thousands of seats per concert, and more.
Unfortunately, most K-Pop idols are on the other side of this spectrum. Many of them are so unknown that performing on a music show is considered a dream come true. DPR IAN (formerly C-CLOWN‘s Barom) confirmed this in a recent interview with the Zach Sang Show.
The [music show] waiting rooms are also divided into a VIP waiting room and all that. And one of the lower waiting rooms, they have about fifty groups that don’t even get on to the stage. They just arrive in the hopes of convincing the PD to let them on just [for the day]. And a lot of them would just go back.
— DPR IAN
There are also hundreds of K-Pop groups who are in the middle of these two extremes. Though the K-Pop community knows a few details about them, the general public has likely not heard of them or their fanbases are not as large or loyal as others.
DKZ‘s Jaechan (formerly called DONGKIZ) used to be in this category. In a Korea Herald interview, he touched on what it felt like to be a singer before he blew up as an actor on the show Semantic Error (2022).
I thought that singing on stage and hearing fans’ roars would make me so happy. But it was totally different from what I imagined at first.
DKZ debuted at the end of 2018 after three and a half years of practice. They released numerous albums and actively promoted, but they still had a hard time selling even 5,000 albums. Their YouTube music videos also averaged at around 200,000 views, the highest being “LUPIN” at one million.
Jaechan admitted that he was not expecting the group’s lack of popularity. Despite everyone’s hard work, they would almost never be noticed outside of fan events.
I thought that once I debuted, people would recognize me and I would go up on stage all the time. But not everyone listened to our album or even knew about it.
It was the type of situation that made him feel hopeless and despondent after three years of not being able to break into the mainstream market.
Actually, it doesn’t hit me right after a performance, but once I’m back home it does.
It was a tough pill to swallow. He added that “learning those realities was the hard part” since he wanted his efforts to bear fruit.
Luckily, Jaechan hit the jackpot in both Korea and around the world after starring in the viral Viki BL drama Semantic Error. He played the role of Chu Sang Woo, a straight-laced and intelligent student who bumped heads with Jang Jae Young (Park Seo Ham), an upperclassman with a completely different personality.
Following this viral success, Jaechan helped DKZ gain a larger fanbase and their latest comeback was their most successful yet. Not only did their YouTube views quadruple, but they also sold over 200,000 copies of their Chase Episode 2 Maum album.
Check out Jaechan’s full interview below to learn more about him.