In this ever-evolving K-pop industry, music of various styles such as EDM and hip-hop are released every day by up and coming groups. While the industry is expanding and becoming more globalized, there is a genre of music that is getting left behind. Korean folk music, an integral part of Korea’s traditional culture and heritage, is rarely found among K-pop releases nowadays. There is a company however, that is fully dedicated to producing soothing Korean music, folk and ballads included. Meet Madeleine Music and its CEO Dongsoo Lee, a man passionate about spreading the gift of music to the weary souls in the society. While it may still be a small and relatively unheard of start-up, artists like YouTuber Soyoungyi and Ian Jo are currently signed to their roster. We caught up with Lee and talked about how he ended up in the music industry along with his plans for the future.
Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Can you please introduce yourself and your company to the readers who may be hearing of you for the first time?
Hello everyone. My name is Dongsoo Lee and I’m a composer, chief producer, and CEO of Madeleine Music. Madeleine Music is a record label based in South Korea and our company was established in August, 2013. We are dedicated to making a better world with softer and sweeter music for everyone based on our philosophy of lyricism. The name of ‘Madeleine Music’ is derived from the well known ‘Madeleine’ which is a soft and sweet French cookie. We are working hard to make our music to satisfy everyone’s tastes just like the ‘Madeleine.’
What inspired you to set up Madeleine Music?
This might sound very weird but, honestly, I’ve never studied music. I majored in accounting and business and minored in economics in New York. Since I studied in the U.S. for almost 7 years, I felt lonely and homesick occasionally. Whenever I was in that mood I tried to make songs and record them. I think it was just like keeping a diary to me.
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After I came back to Korea, I worked for a few companies and mostly dealt with numbers all day long, sometimes even during the weekends. One day, I realized that the job I chose couldn’t make me happy for the rest of my life, and I also noticed that there are so many people who are worn out trying to maintain their jobs and lives.
I was reminded that music had helped me a lot when I was down so I just wanted to do music for the rest of my life, to comfort myself and people who were worn out. Finally, I quit my job and started Madeleine Music. I also found some great artists who can help me to achieve my goal.
What is the music production process like in Madeleine Music?
Actually, it is a very typical process similar to that of other labels work but each one of our artists has to make their own songs. They send me their demos and I discuss how to arrange the song, when to record, when to release it, etc. As a music producer, I spend my time and energy to communicate with our artists, instrument session players, sound engineers, and designers. And as a CEO, I spend my time and energy to communicate with other companies or people who can help us in the Korean music industry. This explains why these days I have no time left to work on my own music [laughs].
Korean Folk is a very interesting genre of music to be producing, especially in our current society. Is there a special reason why your company mainly releases these types of songs? What is your inspiration for your music?
I prefer acoustic instruments to digital instruments. Since the most important values of Madeleine Music are lyricism and simplicity, I think Korean Folk is a great genre for us to put these values in music. I love songs with beautiful lyrics and I am usually inspired by them. I always aspire to make songs that are like a poem or an impressive short novel. That is why I try to finish the lyrics of a song before composing its melody. I hope international fans of Korean Folk will try to understand and appreciate the meaning of the song lyrics along with the melody. The story of a song really matters to me, and once you understand it better it will totally change your musical impression of a song.
What are some challenges that you’ve faced while running this company?
Even though I started the company in 2013, Madeleine Music is still a newborn company. I spent almost two years learning and understanding how the music industry works because I’ve never been exposed to this area before. Since we are still a new player, we have the same problems and needs that any other start-ups can have. Everyone knows there are some independent record labels doing well in Korea, but I can’t deny that the expectancy of profitability of many other companies is not as decent since this industry has become more stream service based.
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Madeleine Music recently became part of the Record Label Industry Association of Korea (LIAK). How has this impacted/helped your company so far?
There are hundreds of active record labels in Korea, but only 20+ companies are in LIAK. They are all industry leaders with great career and name value, so I’m proud to be a member alongside them. It makes me feel that we are accepted as a good partner of Korean music industry and that is very meaningful to me. There is also a lot of information and benefits to share between members too.
Could you tell us more about the plans that you have for your company in the future?
I don’t want Madeleine Music to be just a small record company in Korea. I want Madeleine Music to become a comprehensive culture company or a name. I wish this company could be a rest place for those who are worn out and that it could also be a playground for musicians who have great talent, inspiration, and an attractive personality.
What do you think of Dongsoo Lee, Madeleine Music, and the state of Korean folk music? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter,Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.