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The Beatles and Shinhwa: Similarities, Differences and 15 Lessons Other Groups Can Learn from Them (Part 1)

Updated on September 29, 2019

Click here for Part 2 of this article.

Five years is the usual threshold of groups in Korea. Often, it’s because it is the length of their initial contract. After five years, when members have gained some experience and establish some contacts, they opt to go on their own or their management company drops some members and retain others.

It is no different in the Western world. N Sync, Backstreetboys, Eagles, and other groups go strong in the first several years only to disband at the height of their success. One group is the most prominent, The Beatles. John, Paul, George and Ringo revolutionized the international music industry. They were in their teens when they first came together but their age didn’t hinder them from reinventing music as we know it.

Unfortunately, they broke up after barely 10 years together, more than half of it were in the mainstream industry.

On the other hand, Shinhwa, the longest running boy band in Korea is not as big as The Beatles in the international scene but their success in Asia is undeniable.

If new groups want to stay together longer, these two groups offers some lessons they should learn.

1 Decide to stay together, no matter what

Shinhwa, like many groups in Korea, was put to test after their first contract with their first agency expired. SM Entertainment wanted to resign only three of the six members. The risks were big. SM is a huge company and it’s the company that invested on them heavily. They also retain certain rights over the group even if the group separates.

It was easy for the three members to stay and let the three go their way. After all, this is their career they are talking about. Shinhwa decided to stick it out as a group. Not only that, they decided to sue SM for the rights over the name “Shinhwa” and total freedom from their ties with SM. It was a decision that they would make several times over the course of their career.

Supreme Team, a hip hop duo didn’t quite make it. When E-Sens had to leave the company, Simon D decided to stay. They didn’t make the choice Shinhwa made.

Shinhwa in a 2003 interview following their short forced hiatus after leaving SM Entertainment. This is their first time to come together again after several months of not being able to perform together following a lawsuit against SM Entertainment.

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2 Share one goal and don’t stop until you achieve it

You need to know what you want to achieve as a group and you have to be specific. Being the “best boyband” or “best rock band” is not enough, know what you want specifically.

The Beatles was founded by John Lennon. His vision was clear from the beginning. He wanted to write and perform his own songs. When he recruited the other members, they shared his vision and that’s what made it work.

The problem is when other members started growing up and started having their own goals but clashed with John’s goal. George started writing his owns songs and wanted those in the album, too. Ringo wanted to sing and write but John was already sharing writing duties with Paul and was not excited to share it some more.

Shinhwa, on the other hand, set a goal and when they achieved it, they set new goals TOGETHER. After their first album, wanted to win awards and beat other contemporaries. They also wanted to produce and write their own albums. They knew what they were aiming for and they did everything they could to achieve it.

Original recording of The Beatles' Twist and Shout. This is the only song they covered, other songs in their first album were all written by The Beatles. They refused to sing songs written by others. They recorded for more than 10 hours. By the time Lennon had to sing Twist and Shout, his voice was gone. He had to literally "shout" to get through the song. He did three takes until he couldn't do it anymore. However, the "raspy" delivery became a trend.

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3 Know your role, the best way you can contribute to the group

A kingdom can never have 2 kings. Not everyone in the group can be the centrepiece. Members will have to accept the fact that someone will emerge the center but it doesn’t mean that he is the center in everything.

For Shinhwa, although Eric is the leader, Hyesung is the lead vocals and Minwoo is the choreographer. For The Beatles, John and Paul were the songwriters and guitarists and lead vocals, Ringo was the drummer and George was the lead guitarists.

Shinhwa members knew their place and accept it wholeheartedly. The Beatles members didn’t embrace their role and instead of growing in their role, like what Shinhwa members did, they wanted to take others’ roles.

More importantly, Shinhwa played their role in the best possible way because they knew that no matter how seemingly “small” their role is, it is necessary for the whole group to succeed.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney were the primary songwriters of The Beatles. When George Harrison started writing, it wasn't met with a warm welcome by the group. It was one of the reasons George wanted to leave.
John Lennon and Paul McCartney were the primary songwriters of The Beatles. When George Harrison started writing, it wasn't met with a warm welcome by the group. It was one of the reasons George wanted to leave.

4 Let everyone shine

Just because one person emerges to be the most popular, the rest will stay in the shadows. Each member should help each other shine. Through the years, Shinhwa has pretty much equalized the vocal responsibilities to different members. They have shied away from the usual “main vocal should always be the center” concept.

In choreography, vocals, photoshoot and other activities, they make sure that each one will shine. Now, each member of Shinhwa are just as popular as the other. They mastered the art of allowing everyone to speak during interviews, making sure each get equal amount of screentime and when one doesn’t, they make sure that person will in their next appearance.

John Lennon tried to stop the other members’ growth. When George was starting to write, he paid little attention to it. Instead of supporting each other, they stood in each other’s way.

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Shinhwa is one of the few bands where each member is just as popular as the other.
Shinhwa is one of the few bands where each member is just as popular as the other.

5 Grow… together

One of the biggest problems that The Beatles encountered is “growing up”. George Harrison was barely 14 when he joined The Beatles. He was still in his teens when they had their first US tour, when the whole world was screaming so loud, they couldn’t hear their own voice. By the time they were in their early 20s, they went through what all of us go through, grow up.

The Beatles did stick together long enough to evolve their music. They have produced several albums that featured major breakthrough in music, some of which are still being used today. However, they couldn’t “keep it growing together”. Eventually, their desire to grow as individuals overpowered their desire to grow as a group.

Shinhwa was able to grow individually and as a group. They evolved and continue to evolve their craft. Partly, it was the artists’ decision to isolate their individual careers from their career as a group. They went to the extent of coming up with a different screen name for their individual careers.

When you are together, everyone is just a piece of a puzzle, incomplete without the other

It is hard but each member will have to accept the fact that everyone is just a piece of a puzzle when they are together. No one is complete and can never do what they need to do if he is alone.

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6 Don’t forget to feed your ego

The Beatles were extremely successful and it came with puberty. Along with fame and success comes ego. They developed it early. The problem was that they were a group and no one knew for sure if they had the right to brag if they were on their own. Hence, the solo projects.

It was a natural course of action. People grow up, we all rebel. We all need to go out on our own and know what we are capable of. The problem was that they lost their home. Shinhwa did pursue individual careers and they did so early. After their broke away from SM Entertainment, there was a period they couldn’t perform together. They took that chance to pursue solo projects.

However, Shinhwa decided to come together again because they knew that what they create on their own is different from what they create with the group.

Click here for part 2.


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