Then in January this year, a representatives for K-Pop megastars BTS, arguably the biggest band on the planet right now, reached out to Apte to turn his hand to music for the group.
“That was the first time I’d ever heard of them,” he said.
“To this day I’m not sure how they got my contact. It was almost like a ‘right place, right time’ thing.”
Apte ended up as a writer on the track Home on BTS’ album Map of the Soul: Persona. It debuted at number on on the American Billboard 200 charts.
Now, he will lead an Australian contingent of songwriters to Seoul this week, to take up a residency where they will pitch K-Pop tunes to music executives as part of a joint venture between Australasian music rights management organisation APRA AMCOS, and the Korea Music Copyright Association.
Apte will be joined by Wright, as well Nat Dunn, who has worked with Charlie XCX, Hailey Collier who has collaborated with Selena Gomez and David Guetta, and Will Sims who has previously created music for Aloe Blacc.
They will be joined Melbourne songwriter Demi Louise, London-based songwriter and artist Hopium, K-Pop and J-Pop collaborator Tim Tan, Sydney electronic producer Mookhi, rising electro-pop artist Muki, and LA-based songwriter Tiaan.
“I knew of Alex Wright’s success, and I knew of a couple of other Australians that had K-Pop singles,” APRA Director of Member Relations Milly Petriella said.
“My stepdaughter had a couple of K-Pop releases a few years ago and I could see there was a need for Aussies to start writing in that area. They were literally out looking for writers, and it’s a specific kind of writer that can write for K-Pop.
“I could tell that it was growing.”
Apte said that K-Pop is the ultimate commercial product of music.
“It’s like candy,” He said.
“It can be four or five different styles of music in one track. It’s very bright, the mixes are extremely clean and pristine – it’s a whole different style of production.”
The digestibility of K-Pop has seen it spike in popularity in the last couple of years, and Australia is no exception.
“It’s getting more popular all the time, said Sojeong Park, the director of Sydney’s Korean Cultural Centre.
“There’s more than 20 K-Pop fanclubs across Australia, the biggest one has 30,000 members.”
She estimates half of the K-Pop fans have Asian heritage but said the interest from other cultures had grown too. She said that centre holds annual vocal and dance cover competitions, and that this year’s winner was Anglo-Australian.
A bi-weekly K-Pop dance class at the centre fills up most classes, with between 30 and 40 youngsters coming in to learn Korean dance moves. Their cultural education program, ‘Ride the Korean Wave!’ travels to schools around the country.
Ms Park cited one recent trip to a Gold Coast school as an eye-opener to the popularity of Korean music.
“None of the students there (are of) Asian heritage, but I was so surprised when I asked them if any of them had heard of K-Pop or BTS, there wasn’t a single student who hadn’t.”
Matt Bungard is a journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald.