Take the Plunge With Dive Studios

In the first episode of Dive Studios’ first-ever podcast, “The K-pop Daebak Show,” renowned Korean American singer, TV host and interviewer Eric Nam hunches over a microphone at his kitchen table. “Oh man, I’m so nervous,” he says. His jitters only increase as the songwriter realizes he has no introduction song ready, and instead throws it over to his youngest brother (and brains behind the show), Brian, who scrambles to riff an awkward jingle. 

Three years since that episode premiered, the Nam brothers (Eric, Brian and Eddie) find themselves at the head of a trailblazing audio empire that has kick-started a new, authentic medium of connection for K-pop artists and fans. Far from the days of recording in Eric’s kitchen, Dive Studios’ podcasts now feature well-decorated sets, professional intros and a growing list of famous guests. The company is now home to both English and Korean language podcasts, featuring K-pop stars like KARD’s BM, Ladies’ Code member Ashley Choi, CIX, CLC and many more. And in 2021, the brothers created an innovative mental health app, Mindset, that provides audio collections from various musicians, like K-pop idols Jay B and Soyeon, and even American artists like Aminé and Maggie Lindemann.

In hindsight, creating a podcast company centered around Korean idols and pop culture seems like a shoo-in for success. But the brothers had no big expectations for their studio when they first started. And while Eric had become an established name in South Korea due to his career as a musician and television personality, the podcast medium was still overwhelmingly unknown to Korean entertainment companies in 2019. 

“The K-pop Daebak Show With Eric Nam” was a gamble, to say the least. But the brothers, Brian especially, felt that podcasting was an untapped opportunity to reach the international K-pop fandom. “The K-pop Daebak Show” initially saw Eric deep-diving into the latest releases from the Korean music industry, followed by later episodes with occasional guests. The podcast was met with a positive audience response and soon reached the No. 1 and No. 2 spots on Apple Podcasts across multiple countries. 

“We didn’t expect [Dive Studios] to become what it is today. We just started one podcast with Eric that happened to do extremely well,” says Brian. He and Eddie are on a Zoom call from two different locations, sharing the studio’s history and occasionally pausing to banter with one another. “That’s where we had that aha moment: K-pop fans don’t need just a visual concept, they’re also willing to engage in audio-only content, which at that time was not the most attractive because everything is so visually focused.” 

Even with the positive audience reception, the Nam brothers still faced obstacles in expanding the studio beyond the initial podcast with Eric. They may have gotten attention from the international K-pop fanbase, but when it came to adding more shows with different idols, they continued to meet roadblocks. Getting Korean entertainment companies on board with a new-ish medium from a fledging brand was met with further hesitation—even with Eric as a founder.

“It required a rigorous education,” Eddie says. “[We were] like, ‘No, this isn’t radio, this is pre-recorded.’ It took working with artists from the ground up, proving it, showing traction on the internet. Then, little by little, it was less about outbounding and being like, ‘Come on our podcast,’ and more people being like, ‘Can we come on your podcast?’” 

Despite the industry’s wariness during Dive’s beginnings, the studio only continued to evolve, with a number of Korean artists creating their own podcast series. Most notably, “The Tablo Podcast,” hosted by Epik High member Tablo, premiered in 2019, and throughout the years other international fan-favorites like Eaj (formerly known as Jae of Day6), soloist AleXa, Peniel of BtoB and many more have joined the company with their own unique shows. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the brothers launched the “Commit or Quit” podcast, where Eric, Eddie and Brian review different movies and TV shows alongside celebrity guests. 

The brothers credit much of their success to their ability to listen to and learn from their audience and fanbase. Currently, Dive’s official Discord server has almost 54,000 members, and Brian holds weekly town halls with the user base to hear ideas and suggestions from viewers. He believes that having constant feedback from listeners is critical to ensure that the company continues to develop. 

“Maybe nine months into starting Dive, we really talked to our listeners through Discord,” Brian says. “I would actually schedule Zoom calls with all these different kinds of fans of ours, just to get a pulse of what they’re interested in and why Dive Studios was growing. We were creating content, but it was tough for us to know exactly what was making Dive special.” 

This continuous, open line of communication has led to Dive spreading far past its original ideas. The Nams launched the Mindset app partially due to Dive listeners saying they valued the authenticity of the idols on the studio’s platforms. Fans appreciated that their favorite musicians could speak frankly about mental health issues like depression, stress and anxiety on these podcasts, making audiences feel less alone. 

“We were like, ‘OK, we know that’s a key value driver,’” Brian says, “‘How do we provide this different experience that really focuses on just that aspect alone?’ That’s where we came up with the idea for Mindset, this entire brand that hones in on helping fans feel less alone by getting their favorite idols to talk about very real human experiences.” 

Mindset is still very much in its infancy, and the brothers are constantly looking for ways to improve the app for users. In its current state, the app features paid and free audio stories from 20 different celebrities, but the Nams have bigger plans. One of the more recent updates has implemented a self-care aspect, so users can now write reflections and conduct daily mental health checks. Brian continues to hold town halls on Twitch to gain advice on how the service can be improved. 

Beyond fan responses, the brothers say that confiding and relying on one another is one of the leading causes behind the growth of Dive and Mindset. The family bond and trust between the trio leads to a unique work dynamic that allows them to be fully honest as business owners. “It’s almost like a superpower in some regards,” says Eddie. “If there are issues, you can be very blunt; you don’t need to tiptoe around.” 

With the development rate of Dive Studios and the addition of Mindset, the Nam brothers have definitely had their hands full. But creating a company is never easy. The Nams are only three years in (according to Eddie, it feels a lot more like 30 years), and tough challenges may still appear before the three siblings. With support from one another, though, they’re more than ready to face whatever venture comes next. 

This article appeared in Character Media’s Annual 2022 Issue.
Read our full e-magazine here.