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Factory Girls

The making of the boy and girl groups that are leading the international K-pop explosion:

"Lee founded S.M. in 1989. His first success was a Korean singer and hip-hop dancer named Hyun Jin-young, whose album came out in 1990. But, just as Jin-young was on the verge of stardom, he was arrested for drugs. Russell writes that Lee was 'devastated' by this misfortune, and that the experience taught him the value of complete control over his artists: 'He could not go through the endless promoting and developing a new artist only to have it crash and burn around him.'

"In effect, Lee combined his ambitions as a music impresario with his training as an engineer to create the blueprint for what became the K-pop idol assembly line. His stars would be made, not born, according to a sophisticated system of artistic development that would make the star factory that Berry Gordy created at Motown look like a mom-and-pop operation. Lee called his system 'cultural technology.' In a 2011 address at Stanford Business School, he explained, 'I coined this term about fourteen years ago, when S.M. decided to launch its artists and cultural content throughout Asia. The age of information technology had dominated most of the nineties, and I predicted that the age of cultural technology would come next.' He went on, 'S.M. Entertainment and I see culture as a type of technology. But cultural technology is much more exquisite and complex than information technology.'"
SOURCE:New Yorker
PUBLISHED: Oct. 3, 2012
LENGTH: 29 minutes (7351 words)

The Song Machine

Inside the making of a hit pop song—or hundreds of them. Stargate and Ester Dean are a producer-"top-liner" team that helps write hits for stars like Rihanna:

"The first sounds Dean uttered were subverbal—na-na-na and ba-ba-ba—and recalled her hooks for Rihanna. Then came disjointed words, culled from her phone—'taking control . . . never die tonight . . . I can’t live a lie'—in her low-down, growly singing voice, so different from her coquettish speaking voice. Had she been 'writing' in a conventional sense—trying to come up with clever, meaningful lyrics—the words wouldn’t have fit the beat as snugly. Grabbing random words out of her BlackBerry also seemed to set Dean’s melodic gift free; a well-turned phrase would have restrained it. There was no verse or chorus in the singing, just different melodic and rhythmic parts. Her voice as we heard it in the control room had been Auto-Tuned, so that Dean could focus on making her vocal as expressive as possible and not worry about hitting all the notes."
PUBLISHED: March 22, 2012
LENGTH: 26 minutes (6649 words)

Streaming Dreams

Google and YouTube exec Robert Kyncl's plans for the future of web TV—and the company's big bet on professional content:

"Kyncl’s relationships in Hollywood would help in securing premium content; and, more important, he understood entertainment culture. He brought 'the skill set of being able to bridge Silicon Valley and Hollywood—an information culture and an entertainment culture,' he told me. The crucial difference is that one culture is founded on abundance and the other on scarcity. He added, 'Silicon Valley builds its bridges on abundance. Abundant bits of information floating out there, writing great programs to process it, then giving people a lot of useful tools to use it. Entertainment works by withholding content with the purpose of increasing its value. And, when you think about it, those two are just vastly different approaches, but they can be bridged.'"
PUBLISHED: Jan. 7, 2012
LENGTH: 26 minutes (6547 words)