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Modhaus CEO and founder Jaden Jeong has clarified the controversy surrounding Acid Angel from Asia, the first sub-unit of the company’s girl group tripleS, and commented on whether they have “disbanded”.
Acid Angel from Asia, or AAA, debuted on October 28 with the EP ‘Access’ and the title track ‘Generation’. Less than a month later, the South Korean outlet Wikitree claimed that AAA had been disbanded after failing to sell 100,000 copies of the record. At the time of the report, the EP had sold under 20,000 copies.
Speaking to NME this week at Modhaus’s offices, Jeong answered “half yes and half no” when asked if AAA was no more, noting that “disbanding” doesn’t have the same meaning within the tripleS system. Units in the group are intended to be temporary, with fans voting on who makes the line-up – and on their singles – via the app Cosmo. Units will exist for one album, unless they meet the 100,000 sales threshold.
In late November, it was revealed that all four members of AAA will debut within another tripleS unit next year. Jeong added that fans will “be able to see AAA again” in the future.
Read on as Jeong explains the 100,000 copies sales quota, why AAA content is still being uploaded, and the use of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in the tripleS system.
Acid Angel from Asia were disbanded because they didn’t sell 100,000 copies of their album. What is the logic behind this?
Jaden Jeong: “We built this band with the intention of having many types of sub-unit and to make many different types of music, but with the fans’ participation and decisions. If someone is asking if AAA is disbanded, our answer is ‘half yes, half no’. We can’t say that AAA is going to have another album come out, but we do have a fundamental principle that fans can decide our next steps. We can never say never.”
So in theory, fans could vote the same four members back into a unit together and essentially revive AAA?
“It depends. We will make many sub-units for a single year. We’re expecting to have four or five albums [a year], which will mean four or five sub-units. That unit can be maintained or disbanded. In the future, there will be lots of mixed situations and one artist could be in several sub-units. Everything is possible. For example, we could have a vote among the disbanded sub-units, which are then reborn. We have a lot of imagination and there are a lot of possibilities.”
What’s the idea behind this 100,000 copies sales quota? Does this not make the group all about numbers and business rather than music?
“Selling 100,000 copies is quite tough for any K-pop idol, especially rookie idols. But this rule is intended as a way of introducing our system to fans. If we set 10,000 or 20,000 as our threshold, [our message] cannot be delivered to the audience. It’s also a marketing tactic. If we made it 1million, that’s too unrealistic, but 100,000 is a number with possibility and purpose, [in terms of] advertising. In the near future, we have to expect that 100,000 is a realistic [threshold to meet].”
You’ve said fans can decide every aspect of the group, but they can only decide every aspect except whether a unit continues?
“We know that many of our loyal fans want to keep AAA for the future and we’re very thankful for the reaction. But we don’t want to take the opportunity away from fans to see multiple variations and combinations of the tripleS members. If we release a second AAA album right now, people would think that’s the only combination. We still love our fans’ voices and they’ll be able to see AAA again.”
One thing that has been confusing fans is the fact that AAA video content has continued to be uploaded, despite them disbanding.
“Selling more than 100,000 albums is exceptional in our system so that’s why we’re still releasing content [to boost sales]. If we have a concert right now, AAA would definitely have a performance in that concert. The meaning of ‘disband’ isn’t actually disband, but just that there are no new albums coming out under that sub-unit. They will work as AAA in festivals, concerts, content or broadcast programmes, but having the 100,000 rule means that if we reach a certain level of popularity, fans will have another chance to get an album from them. AAA will continue to perform under the tripleS name so that’s why we are continuously releasing content.”
TripleS has a big NFT element, where fans use them to vote for members and songs. Why did you want to incorporate NFTs into the group?
“The NFT itself is not a core value of our system. I started this project to have more participation from fans and more activity. As a voting tool, the NFT has a certain value and transparency because it cannot be manipulated. We could vote via email, text or CD, but we’ve seen many manipulation scandals. With this technology, we have integrity in our votes. TripleS is a girl group with many decisions made by fan vote, not a girl group with NFTs.”
NFTs generally have been quite controversial and there’s been a big backlash from fans when other K-pop agencies have announced plans involving them. How much did you consider that potential negative reaction before you launched?
“When we chose NFTs as the voting tool, we knew there would be a possible bad reaction. We are trying to put as much effort in [as possible] so fans don’t see our NFT as being the same as other agencies’. We believe other agencies are treating NFTs as another type of merchandise to sell to fans and that’s the opposite of what we intend.
“The reason fans appreciate our ‘objekt’ is because it’s just an ordinary photo card [which becomes an NFT when scanned into the Cosmo app]. So fans buy the photo cards and then have the opportunity to participate in the voting and decision-making. Many K-pop fans are teenagers and don’t even have a credit card so we don’t think they’re going to buy our objekts as assets for investment and that’s not what we intend either. That’s why you can’t find the word NFT on our app or web page.”
You have +(KR)ystal Eyes and the 10-member unit that tripleS is debuting next year. What can you tell us about plans for those units?
“We can’t disclose our next plans. But we want to maximise our fans’ imaginations and debates because it is a fundamental role of our system and integral to our fan communities. One thing we can say is stay tuned, many interesting things are coming up and you won’t be disappointed at all.”