Here's How Idol Debuts Are Changing...

by Michelle Li

It is a fact that there are thousands of K-pop groups debuting every year. I just can’t imagine how many trainees right now are waiting for their moment to shine on stage. With the ever-changing K-pop industry, the way some K-pop trainees make their debut has changed too. 

One of which is through K-pop reality survival shows. You might not even know that some of these k-pop groups debuted through survival shows - Twice through Sixteen, Monsta X through No.Mercy and Treasure through YG Treasure Box. Though it was common to create reality survival shows through their labels, these survival shows developed into something more; where viewers really are the ones that make an impact! 


I think the first reality survival show that really caught the attention internationally was Produce 101 (2016). The concept of bringing 101 contestants from different Korean labels, and only 11 would debut was insane to us all! Not only was this concept new and fresh, the public could vote, and in the end 11 girls would promote in a K-pop group for a year. Some super talented performances came out of this show like this one. I can’t tell you just how many times I’ve watched it!. Produce 101 is how super successful girl group, I.O.I came about 🥇 


But it didn’t just end there - sequels were made in which Wanna One and IZONE debuted. Both have made lasting impressions in the K-pop world! Despite all three groups popularity, they parted ways after their contract was up. Fortunately, each member found success either as a solo artist, in another k-pop group, or even as an actor 👏🏻👏🏻


After the Produce 101 series blew up, in came a LOT more reality survival shows. The next show was Idol School (2017). Really keeping with the ‘school’ theme here, the trainees had to attend classes in not only singing and dancing, but everything to do with being in the K-pop industry. This meant learning about K-pop history, media training and appearances in public. Having a homeroom teacher, principal and all, after 11 weeks, the lineup of Fromis_9 was announced, decided by the viewers through online voting. Give a listen to my favourite song from fromis_9 here

As grande as Produce 101 was, it seems like Girls Planet 999 (2021) topped all these reality-survival shows. You may be asking why “planet”? Well, auditions took place internationally, gathering 33 Koreans; 33 Chinese, Taiwanese and Hong-Kongers; and 33 Japanese. I feel like this show was more rigorous, as up to 18 participants could be eliminated at once. But the final nine members are what we now know as Kep1er. Like many of the previously mentioned shows, Kep1er is a name chosen by viewers at the time. Soon after, it’s sequel Boy Planet (2023) aired and after four competitive months, the winning participants formed K-pop boy group, Zerobaseone.


But this particular reality survival show is different from the others, Queendom Puzzle (2023). Queendom has actually aired two seasons previously, but the third season offered something different - forming a global project girl group! This meant members from currently active girl groups and solo female artists would be competing, and as individual competitors not in teams, which is also different from the series’ prequels. This gave already-debuted girls who were drowned out by the industries’ competitiveness a chance to shine! Nine members got a chance to re-debut in ‘supergroup’, El7z Up.

These reality survival shows are an interesting approach to debuting new K-pop groups and have shown much success! After all, a lot of the decision-making is made by the viewers and K-pop fans alike. Have you watched any of these reality-survival shows? Let us know!!

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