And Finally

Time to disband

Why iQiyi’s popular boy band broke up after barely a year together


The band that hardly met

When British boy band One Direction announced that it would go on an indefinite hiatus, die-hard fans were heartbroken, even when the four members insisted that they weren’t breaking up.

“Literally retching at the fact 1D are splitting up, have never been this upset in all of my absolute life man. Never,” one gutted fan wrote on Twitter.

Last week, millions of fans in China shared that same sentiment when Nine Percent, the hugely popular boy band that was formed only 18 months ago, announced that its members were parting ways.

The group first rose to fame in 2018 on the hit TV singing competition Idol Producer (One Direction were discovered on The X Factor). Fans reportedly spent Rmb20 million ($2.82 million) to boost support for their idols on the competition. Cai Xukun, the most popular member of the group, has also become one of the biggest internet influencers in the country (for more, see our Top 30 Celebrity KOL list on our website).

To bid farewell to fans, the teen pop group hosted a concert in Guangzhou over the weekend. Demand for tickets was so strong that on second-hand platforms, a ticket with a face value of Rmb1,899 fetched Rmb4,500.

News about the split has left a lot of fans crushed. “I think I will never be able to follow an idol group like Nine Percent again. I feel so grateful for the happiness you have given me,” one netizen wrote. “Today is the first day after your dissolution. Yesterday I was crying so much it was like rainfall,” another wept.

The break-up wasn’t all that surprising.

After all, the group’s members were apart way more than they were actually together. Even with scheduled commercial appearances, fan events and variety shows, it was virtually impossible to get all nine members to show up simultaneously.

In fact, back in August, some fans even suggested on the weibo account of the Guinness World Records that the group should be given the record of “the most difficult band to come together”.

Some have compared the group with its predecessor TFBOYS: while that group never officially split up, its members have all gone on to focus on solo endeavours.

Nine Percent’s most recent album – also its second – was a telling sign that they were heading towards a break-up, reckoned TMT Post. The album was merely a compilation of each member’s solo tracks. A long-talked-about concert tour was also postponed time and time again.

Small wonder then, some fans wrote, “Is there any difference between Nine Percent before and after the break-up?”

“Don’t call them Nine Percent, just call them the Top Nine from Idol Producer,” another mocked.

The reason the band struggled to congregate, says, is that the premise of Idol Producer was to have talent agencies nominate their best trainees to compete on the show. As a result, prior to going on, all nine members had existing contracts with their own management companies. After they won their places in the competition – nine slots were on offer – the band itself was given a separate management contract with iQiyi, the platform that owns Idol Producer.

The result was that the individuals faced a conflict – with their own management companies insisting they do solo gigs, even when iQiyi had planned a Nine Percent event for the same date. Too often they did what their original talent agency ordered and ditched the Nine Percent gathering.

“All Nine Percent members have two contracts: one with their own management company and another with iQiyi. But since this is the first time a show like this has appeared in China, iQiyi did not have the experience to rigorously enforce the contracts, which led to the talent agents behind the pop idols seizing the loopholes,” said TMT Post.

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