For those riding the Hallyu Wave, South Korea is a music mecca full of hardworking individuals and companies who strive to make the music happen. The same goes for those who want to produce music or even act in movies and TV shows. However, for many, breaking into the Korean entertainment industry is an unattainable dream, so acting or singing alongside the stars is something fit for fantasies and not reality.
What if someone told you it is possible to attain your dream, especially if you’re a foreigner? What if someone told you it’s possible to become a global star instead of a Hallyu star?
If this sounds like a joke, don’t start laughing yet. A new entertainment company called IT Factor wants to step up and turn idol dreams into a reality and help turn potential stars into global icons. Kcrush America obtained an interview with Jermaine Risby, Co-CEO of IT Factor, and he’s here to tell you a lot about his goals and IT Factor’s mission.
Kcrush (KC): To begin, can you tell readers a little bit about yourself and IT Factor Entertainment?
Jermaine Risby (JR): My name is Jermaine Risby, Co-CEO and founder of IT Factor Entertainment and I am a former musical theater actor. I’ve been in musicals all over the US, including Hairspray, Jesus Christ Superstar and The Fantasticks. I studied musical theater at The Hartford Conservatory and The Tisch School at NYU, and have a degree in music education with a focus in voice and cello.
Our mission is to nurture and develop talent, from marketing and branding to thoroughly training them. During the process we would also develop projects around them by producing films, TV shows, and web series featuring developed talent. We will manage every aspect of their career as well as record/produce all their albums and create original content for them to star in once officially signed as an IT Factor Artist.
All artists under IT Factor Entertainment will be role models and leaders in the world of not just entertainment but in their communities and communities around the world. We will use the K-Pop formula to not just bring foreigners to K-Pop, but also bring the beauty and traditions of Korea to an international audience.
KC: What led you to want to create It Factor Entertainment, and what is your ultimate goal for the company?
JR: I truly respect the Korean way of developing artists, it reminds me of the Motown way of developing artists as well as the training I received when I did musical theater. I really believe that for an artist to have longevity, they need to be thoroughly trained and able to show their ultimate potential. I wanted to create something similar with international talent as well as spotlight musical artists from Asian countries to the western audience.
The ultimate goal for IFE is to create “global” pop – where all nationalities are represented, and ultimately anyone can enter any entertainment industry around the world regardless of their race.
KC: You’re based in Korea. What made you choose Korea over anywhere else in the world?
JR: South Korea is a great metro area that has so much to offer, and their competitive nature makes it a great place to really focus on training. Plus they have great trainers (some of the best in the world), but really don’t get the recognition they deserve.
I also personally love the traditions and cultural aspects of South Korea, and the language is simply beautiful.
KC: In your “About Us” statement, you say that IT Factor will “be able to give a voice to those who are talented but aren’t given a fair chance to really shine.” Could you explain what you mean by this statement and how you plan to do that?
JR: We mean that we will be able to showcase those who wouldn’t have the opportunity to do so because of lack of opportunity by marketing them to the masses and really developing their talents for longevity in the industry.
KC: In terms of talent, what are you looking for in potential signees when they head into the auditioning process? What would make them have the “It Factor” that could turn them into stars?
JR: We are looking for those who have raw talent that can be molded into amazing artists. For the first round of trainees, their training experience will be very condensed compared to future training classes. Right now, we are looking for those with some existing training as well as potential because we need talent that will be able to handle the tight training schedule. Once the first two groups are established, we will bring in those who may be younger or have less experience for a longer training period.
KC: For those who may be interested, what will the audition process be like? What should people expect during the process, and how should they best prepare for an audition?
JR: Well, right now we are doing an online audition process first, and from there we will chose ten guys and ten girls to come to South Korea for a week of auditions and training. We will also have live auditions in South Korea as well.
The audition process is pretty simple, so expect us to be fair and honest. When it comes to preparing for your audition, just don’t try too hard and make sure you put the best “you” out there. So, don’t rush to make your videos because this is your first impression.
KC: There are a lot of young people domestically and abroad who dream about entering the K-Pop industry. However, they may not understand what it takes to train properly to become a star. For anyone who is interested in auditioning for your company, could you describe what to expect during the training process so future participants understand what’s involved?
JR: Because of the intense training schedule, talent should honestly be prepared to be training every day. In between training times, they will also be doing interviews, Web series, and cover videos to build their fan base.
There will be opportunities to work on song writing skills as well as community services to show South Korea that we are serious about integrating into the community.
It will be stressful and slightly overwhelming, and since our trainees will debut within a year, they need to be mentally prepared for it all because we will release those who don’t keep up.
KC: It seems your focus is on bringing foreigners into the K-Pop industry while also introducing “global stars.” Over the years, K-Pop fans haven’t taken too kindly to foreigners within K-Pop like in the case of Chad Future or even the new project group EXP. How do you plan on changing the public’s negative perception of foreigners in K-Pop, especially since K-Pop is “Korean Pop”? It seems you may be eliminating the Korean aspect.
JR: First of all, our talent will be required to learn Korean as well as totally embrace Korean culture and tradition while also embracing other countries’ traditions and cultures. What makes us different is that we truly respect all things Korean.
Also, we aren’t strictly a K-Pop company. We are a global company, so with that said, we are looking to bridge the gap between Eastern and Western countries.
Ultimately, K-Pop is pop music sung in Korean. So if you can with confidence sing in Korean, then why can’t you do K-Pop? South Korea is known as a homogeneous country, but that is changing very rapidly and with that, Koreans are warming up to the idea of different nationalities appearing in their media world.
KC: What do you plan on doing differently from other companies that may help foreigners succeed in the industry?
JR: It’s not a matter of doing things differently; it’s a matter of adapting. Koreans do not want us to come and try to change things, but to adapt and show that we aren’t trying to take over. So what we would do to help foreigners succeed is work the Korean entertainment industry and show that we truly respect their business model and take it serious when it comes to becoming a part of this ever-growing Hallyu Wave.
KC: Some may be suspicious of your intentions of entering the Korean market or may feel you’re trying to ride on a trend; therefore, they may see IT Factor as something that will not last when and if the Hallyu trend fades. What can you tell potential participants or any followers of your company to indicate that your intentions are pure and not based on trying to ride a trend?
JR: What we want to say is that firstly, we aren’t strictly a K-Pop company. We are looking to branch into entertainment industries all over the world. We chose to start with South Korea because of reasons stated earlier. We are not interested in riding a trend. If anything, we want to be trend setters ourselves. So our followers do not need to worry that we are here for a moment and then leave. We want to help the Hallyu Wave spread even further then it has already, as well as embrace other industries around the world. Our intentions are pure and will always be. We believe music and other forms of performance art can truly bring the world together, and we want to do our share.
KC: What do you think IT Factor can do to improve the K-Pop industry?
JR: I think opening it up for other races is a huge step forward. We want to do much the same as other companies, and improve as we see fit for each and every artist that we sign under our banner to make our artists not just idols and role models in Korea, but for the whole world.
KC: There has been a lot of negative attention regarding the treatment of artists by K-Pop agencies. How will yours be different?
JR: Financially, we will be able to offer more right off the bat, because we want to make sure our artists are happy and will continue to grow and improve to then help us bring in the financial gains to keep the circle of life going.
Training will be tough, that’s a given, but we will make sure our talent is treated with respect by never using negative reinforcement to get what we want out of them – instead encouraging and supporting our artists to be the best artist they can be. Also we have other plans such as proper insurance, health screening/nutrition planning, etc. to show that their health matters, as that’s been a key factor in the issues before. Also, schedule management, since some artists are booked so tightly they have to speed outrageously to manage it and/or aren‘t given much time off or to rest properly, causing injuries, collapse from exhaustion, and traffic incidents.
We also will give our artists options to attend college, as well (all expenses paid).
KC: Many K-Pop companies have long contracts. Are you going to take a similar approach or will you be giving your artists more flexibility? Please explain.
JR: Our artist will have five-year contracts. If they are successful, they will have the option to renew their contracts or discuss other options as we want our artists to stay within the company even if they decide to take on different roles (i.e.: actor, model, solo singer, producer, writer or choreographer or work on the business side of things).
KC: You’re looking for people to fill spots for a five-member male group and a three-to-four member female group. Do you have any concepts in the works for these groups that potential trainees may be interested in, or will you be creating a concept based on the people you select? Furthermore, will you be following the typical formula many K-Pop groups have with members where you have a visual, rapper, vocalist, dance, and sub-rappers and vocals, or will you try to break the mold here?
JR: For concept, we will build the specifics based on talent, but we will work hard to make sure that we stay true to our mission and make sure that an actual effort is made to create something new and exciting.
As far as the type of groups we will be making, they all have to know how to sing (solo and in a group) and everyone will have to be strong dancers. Everyone will have their strengths; we won’t necessarily build the group based on the typical K-Pop formula. We aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel, but we do want to make it more efficient with a larger demographic.
KC: Finally, for those who may be opposed to the ideas IT Factor wants to bring forth, what would you like to say or prove to them now? With this in mind, where do you expect to be in five, ten, or even 15 years from now?
JR: Don’t jump to conclusions about what we will and won’t do. Just watch and enjoy/support the ride.
In five years, we expect to have several artists under our banner that are internationally acclaimed, as well as several charities. Also, we want to represent models, actors, and other forms of entertainers.
In ten years, we want to have offices all over the world – especially in Europe and India, with fully functional training facilities where we could train the future of the entertainment world not just in performing, but also in writing, producing, and directing, as well. Also in mind is a production company where we develop projects for our talent, and hopefully an online channel devoted to everything related to #IFE.
By year 15, we want to be one of the biggest international entertainment conglomerates in the world with a fully operational production company, technology company, and several other companies under our belt making us one of the companies leading the way for the future of entertainment.
KC: Thank you so much for your time, Jermaine! We look forward to seeing what IT Factor has planned in the future, and we look forward to seeing your artists somewhere down the road!
If you’re interested in IT Factor and what they’re trying to accomplish in the industry, you check them out on Facebook and on their website! If you ever wanted to make it in the music industry, perhaps this is your chance. Good luck!
On the Web: http://www.itfactor4eva.com/
—- Joelle Halon