The Company Behind K-Pop Phenom BTS Is Launching a Blockchain Biz in LA. Fans Are Skeptical.

Kristin Snyder

Kristin Snyder is dot.LA's 2022/23 Editorial Fellow. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

The Company Behind K-Pop Phenom BTS Is Launching a Blockchain Biz in LA. Fans Are Skeptical.

Entertainment company HYBE—the corporation behind international phenomenon BTS—partnered with blockchain technology company Dunamu to launch Levvels Inc. Based out of Los Angeles, the company intends to connect fans with artists through Web3 and NFTs. Its upcoming project is Momentica, an online blockchain platform that will offer collectible assets related to K-pop groups Seventeen, fromis_9, Tomorrow X Together, Enhypen and Le Sserafim. Its first collection, TAKE, will feature photos, videos, voice recordings and autographs.


HYBE’s latest launch, however, comes at a time when K-pop fans have turned against NFTs. In 2021, the notoriously passionate fanbase criticized HYBE’s partnership with Dunamu's last NFT-based business venture over environmental concerns, propelling #ARMYsAgainstNFT to trend on Twitter.

Despite claiming to have a fan-first ethos, HYBE has seemingly ignored fans’ criticisms with the launch of Levvels. Their latest announcement has fosteredsimilarconcerns, though not to the same degree. Perhaps because Momentica, Levvels’ first project, uses a cloud-based blockchain service platform that claims to use 30 million times less electricity than Ethereum.

Still, the introduction of a new NFT platform joins a crowdedLos AngelesNFTspace even as the crypto markets remain rocky. As such, appealing to a specific fanbase may help give Levvels an edge. But K-pop fans' previous disdain toward NFTs could squash those dreams.

More generally, the continued push for Web3 content reflects K-pop’s general turn towards an increasing number of tech investments: HYBE, considered one of the big four South Korean entertainment agencies, recently acquired Supertone, an AI company that can clone voices. Last year, Supertone’s tech was featured on the Korean reality show, “Competition of the Century: AI vs Human.” The company used AI to recreate the voice of deceased singer Kim Kwang-seok. In addition to Supertone, HYBE has also invested in a number of international, entertainment-based tech companies.

To that end, South Korean entertainment company CJ ENM recently invested in Los Angeles-based AmazeVR, which will produce virtual concerts for its talent roster. CJ ENM’s other investments include HYPERREAL, a metaverse studio, and AFUN Interactive, the 3D graphics company behind virtual musician Apoki.

The metaverse has also been bolstered by K-pop companies. SM Entertainment formed Aespa, a group combining both virtual and physical singers, and its founder views the metaverse as “the future of K-pop.”

Of course, K-pop corporations have long run their musical acts like businesses: BTS—HYBE’s most successful boy band—was formed through auditions, and the group has gone on to make millions through merchandise and sponsorships. But that success comes as K-pop corporations face pushback for heavily controlling their talent to bring in more money. After going public two years ago, HYBE’s interest in tech is more than likely just another way to support its music groups. And NFTs offer an easy method to engage fervent fans through content that would otherwise go unmonetized.

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Hosts Who Rent From “Airbnb-Friendly” LA Apartments May Not Make a Profit

Amrita Khalid
Amrita Khalid is a tech journalist based in Los Angeles, and has written for Quartz, The Daily Dot, Engadget, Inc. Magazine and number of other publications. She got her start in Washington, D.C., covering Congress for CQ-Roll Call. You can send tips or pitches to amrita@dot.la or reach out to her on Twitter at @askhalid.
LA house

L.A.’s lax enforcement of Airbnbs has led to an surge of illegal short-term rentals — even four years after the city passed a regulation to crack down on such practices. But what if hosts lived in a building that welcomed Airbnb guests and short-term rentals?

That’s the idea behind Airbnb’s new push to expand short-term rental offerings. The company is partnering with a number of corporate landlords that agreed to offer “Airbnb-friendly” apartment buildings, reported The Wall Street Journal last week. According to the report, the new service will feature more than 175 buildings managed by Equity Residential, Greystar Real Estate Partners LLC and 10 other companies that have agreed to clear more than 175 properties nationwide for short-term rentals.

But prospective hosts in Los Angeles who decide to rent apartments from Airbnb’s list of more than a dozen “friendly” buildings in the city likely won’t earn enough to break even due to a combination of high rents, taxes and city restrictions on short-term rentals. Rents on one-bedroom apartments in most of the partnered buildings listed soared well over $3,000 a month. Only a few studios were available under the $2,000 price range. If a host were to rent a one bedroom apartment with a monthly rent of $2,635 (which amounts to $31,656 annually), they would have to charge well over the $194 average price per night for Los Angeles (which amounts to $23,280 per year) according to analytics platform AllTheRooms.

Either way, residents who rent one of these Airbnb friendly apartments still have to apply for a permit through the City of Los Angeles in order to host on Airbnb.

“[..Airbnb-friendly buildings] seems like a good initiative. However, from a quick look, it seems that given the rent, Airbnb revenue wouldn’t be enough to cover all expenses if the host follows the city’s policy,” says Davide Proserpio, assistant professor of marketing at the USC Marshall School of Business.

In addition, since L.A.’s 120-day cap on short-term rentals still applies to the buildings on Airbnb’s listing platform, that greatly limits the number of longer-term guests a resident can host. Not to mention, some of the buildings that Airbnb lists have even shorter limits – The Milano Lofts in DTLA for example only allows residents to host 90 nights a year.

Airbnb’s calculations of host earnings may be greatly misleading as well, given that the estimate doesn’t include host expenses, taxes, cleaning fees or individual building restrictions. For example, Airbnb estimates that a resident of a $3,699 one bedroom apartment at the Vinz in Hollywood that hosts 7 nights a month can expect $1,108 a month in revenue if they host year-round. But the Vinz only allows hosts to rent 90 days a year, which greatly limits the potential for subletters and a consistent income stream.

Keep in mind too that since the apartment will have to serve as the host’s “primary residence”, hosts will have to live there six months out of the year. All of which is to say, it’s unclear how renting an apartment in an “Airbnb-friendly” building makes hosting easier — especially in a city where illegal short-term rentals already seem to be the norm.

https://twitter.com/askhalid

The Streamy Awards Prove that Online Creators and Traditional Media Are Still Disconnected

Kristin Snyder

Kristin Snyder is dot.LA's 2022/23 Editorial Fellow. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

tiktok influencers around a trophy ​
Andria Moore /Charli D'Amelio/Addison Rae/JiDion

Every year, the Streamy Awards, which is considered the top award show within the creator economy, reveals which creators are capturing the largest audiences. This past Sunday, the event, held at The Beverly Hilton, highlighted some of the biggest names in the influencer game, chief among them Mr. Beast and Charli D’Amelio. It had all the trappings of a traditional award show—extravagant gowns, quippy acceptance speeches and musical interludes. But, as TikTok creator Adam Rose told The Washington Post, the Streamys still lacks the legitimacy of traditional award shows.

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Slingshot Aerospace Is Expanding Its Network of Telescopes To Make Tracking Data Even More Accurate

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

Slingshot Aerospace Is Expanding Its Network of Telescopes To Make Tracking Data Even More Accurate
Photo: Slingshot Aerospace

Slingshot Aerospace, the El Segundo-based startup developing software for managing objects in space’s orbit, raised $40.9 million to build out its global network of sensors and recruit new customers both private and public.

The round was a follow-on to Slingshot’s $25 million Series A-1 raise in March.

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