Okay-Pop’s Dominance in Merch Gross sales

Okay-Pop’s Dominance in Merch Gross sales

For anybody concerned within the music enterprise business, it’s unimaginable to not have seen the large affect Okay-pop has made on the worldwide leisure scene in such a comparatively quick time period. Because of this, the final decade has seen an unprecedented growth within the reputation of Okay-pop and all issues Korean, contributing to an astounding rise in South Korea’s nationwide GDP. The plain proof may be seen within the success of BTS, a single Okay-pop group at present chargeable for round half a % of the nation’s whole financial system, bringing in an estimated $5 billion a 12 months.[i] Much more fascinating is that Okay-pop garners the majority of all its income by the gross sales of bodily albums and different associated merchandise, a side of the South Korean music craze that appears solely at odds with what’s typical of pop artist income streams within the West.

A Comparability of Two Main File Labels

When conversing concerning the results of Okay-pop, the primary entity that involves thoughts is the worldwide phenomenon referred to as BTS and the large company behind them: HYBE Labels. Because it is without doubt one of the most outstanding Okay-pop labels within the World, HYBE will probably be used as some extent of reference for evaluating gross sales and revenues to a different equally famend music company: Common Music Group.

Boasting one of the vital spectacular statistics within the business, HYBE has skilled a big improve in bodily gross sales because the pandemic hit.[ii] Their whole annual income in 2020 got here out to $673.24 million, of which $276.06 million got here from albums alone (which accounts for 41% of gross income), $219.03 million from merchandise, and $27.86 million from fan-club and different platform-specific merchandise. This brings HYBE to a complete of $522.95 million in income from general bodily albums and merchandise.[iii]

In direct comparability, Common Music Group’s whole annual income for 2020 was $8.9 billion.[iv] Solely $217 million was from merchandise (2% of gross income), a direct hit to their merchandise gross sales when pulled up alongside UMG’s earlier 2019 earnings of $381 million.[v] This was anticipated, as the vast majority of UMG’s bodily merch gross sales depend on their dwell music occasions, which have turn out to be an impossibility because the introduction of the pandemic. Sadly, this complication has turn out to be the norm since most music labels have been rendered incapable of internet hosting dwell occasions contemplating pandemic precautions, thus resulting in a drop in bodily album and merchandise gross sales.

So why has this not proved to be a problem for Okay-pop? What drives Okay-pop followers to flock after each new album launch and buy new merch? Some would possibly say it’s merely infatuation, however a big a part of the key lies with savvy firm advertising and model packaging.[vi] Let’s take a better take a look at what makes Okay-pop merch so irresistible and, in the identical vein, such a profitable income.

World Group or Not, Okay-pop Albums Promote Nicely

Unsurprisingly, BTS has been main the cost in bodily gross sales. Their final album, Map of the Soul: 7, offered over 4.6 million copies—to say nothing of their earlier 4 albums, all of which have achieved over 3 million copies offered.[vii]

Even newer teams like YG Leisure’s TREASURE—a boy group that debuted in August of 2020— offered over 1,000,000 albums in beneath 5 months. To not be outdone, HYBE’s newest monster undertaking of a rookie group ENHYPEN—which has solely been energetic for fifteen months—offered half 1,000,000 copies of their latest full-length album, Dimension: Dilemma, on the very first day of its launch and are coming in at round 2.9 million whole albums offered in beneath a 12 months.[viii]

What’s driving the large consumption of Okay-pop’s merchandise and bodily album gross sales?

Bodily Album Content material

Western albums come within the ordinary CD instances or vinyl sleeves — typically included are booklets with liner notes and art work folded neatly behind discs — however that’s about all most prospects will get. After all, there are exceptions to the rule, like Taylor Swift’s studio album Lover, which highlighted the inclusion of 4 totally different booklets containing precise diary entries, snippets of her psyche plucked from her teenage-to-adult years.

However Okay-pop makes it a mission to create a complete ‘album expertise’ for the followers. So most of the time, albums function modern graphic and packaging designs, normally in-line with the group’s established idea (see WayV’s Awaken the World – Quantity 1 album design).[ix] However what units Okay-pop aside is the sheer quantity of bodily content-packed away inside every product.

  • CDs – In addition to coming with wonderful graphic designs and the occasional holographic print, the CDs themselves are maybe the least thrilling side of Okay-pop albums.
  • Photobooks – These make up the majority of Okay-pop albums in weight. Because the identify suggests, they include printed photographs of the group(s) from their concept-specific photoshoots. These can vary anyplace from 10 to 50 pages relying on how giant the group is.
  • Posters – The usual is one poster per album. They arrive in quite a lot of sizes however normally run giant.
  • Photocards – Each album will embody a small collection of palm-sized, laminated photograph playing cards starring selfies of particular person group members. The photographs themselves have totally different variations, and every member offers a handful of selfies per album, themes ranging anyplace from informal to completely costumed. Due to the solely randomized nature of photocard distribution, followers will open albums with bated breath in hopes of getting a photograph card of their favourite member: the Okay-pop equal of enjoying the lottery. Over time, followers have created one of the vital zealous amassing subcultures round these limited-edition playing cards. Some have even gone so far as to liken this phenomenon to Pokémon or Yu-Gi-Oh! buying and selling playing cards, each having turn out to be plain monoliths within the collector-sphere. The rise within the worth of older or rarer playing cards, particularly limited-edition variations, is much like brand-name objects.
  • Stickers – Precisely what you’d anticipate: stylized stickers depicting group members and customised graphic designs for followers to slap onto their telephones, textbooks, or different private results which will come to thoughts.
  • Lyric Books – Whereas this may occasionally appear pointless to individuals accustomed to western artists, lyric books are a standard part of Okay-pop albums for one obvious cause: they include each the Korean and formally translated English lyrics for all tracks. The engaging presentation and insightful tune descriptions are bonuses.

Naturally, there may be some variation in content material for each group. For instance, some albums supply easy tracklists as a substitute of full lyric books. Others function subunit photobooks to accommodate bigger teams, particularly Pledis’ Seventeen and SM’s NCT, consisting of 13 and 23 members. Supplementary miscellaneous objects could embody miniature stand-up figures, postcards, particular version holographic playing cards, particular ‘thanks’ notes from particular person members, and lore-driven content material such because the conceptual “slave contract” from VIXX’s album Chained Up or the “golden ticket” from Gugudan’s album Chococo.

Album Variations

Okay-pop firms take full benefit of the truth that followers have made a behavior of amassing merchandise — as illustrated by the aforementioned fan tradition surrounding photocards, a simulation of the exact same apply however on a smaller scale. [x]

Many teams supply a number of variations of every album as nicely. One prime instance is the preliminary launch of BTS’s “Love Your self: Her” album. It was provided in 4 totally different variations, with 4 totally different photoshoot ideas for the photobooks and posters. The catch? Followers would don’t know which one they had been getting from the album cowl alone, inciting playing mania.

After all, after the pre-orders and first-week gross sales, followers normally work out which album provides them what, however this technique stays one in every of Okay-pop’s most wonderful new-release advertising ways—and the followers themselves appear to adore the joys of it.

Woman’s Technology’s (also called SNSD) album “I Obtained a Boy” boasted ten totally different variations, one for every of the 9 members and the tenth for the group. Their label, SM Leisure, was clear about which album would function which member. Nonetheless, this separation of members nonetheless inspired many followers to purchase multiple model, if solely to own the merch of their second and third favourite women, or “biases.”

Frequent Comebacks and Rebranding

Okay-pop takes its album releases and comebacks very critically. Whereas the discharge charge of western artists varies broadly, starting from a brand new tune each few months to a single full album over a number of years, Okay-pop pumps out music like time is working out.

Most Okay-pop teams common out at round two to a few comebacks a 12 months. Rotating by totally different aesthetic ideas, musical genres, and promotional ways is without doubt one of the most tried-and-tested strategies for teams to achieve traction and entice new followers. Older and extra profitable teams finally decelerate as soon as they’ve gathered a fanbase loyal sufficient to attend for yearly releases. Different teams by no means decelerate in any respect. [xi]

Dubbed Korea’s nationwide sweethearts, TWICE of JYP Leisure are a well-established woman group and widely known as one of many hardest working Okay-pop teams within the business. They proceed to be one of many highest-grossing, hottest Okay-pop teams in South Korea. In 2018 alone, they topped Korean charts with seven comebacks and a belt stuffed with Japanese singles.

Okay-Pop Particular Media Platforms and Video games

Social media platforms made explicitly to facilitate elevated Okay-pop artist and fan interactions are additionally substantial sources of earnings. They encourage followers to develop stronger emotional bonds with their idols and embody the fixed peripheral presence of Okay-pop merchandise and digital merchandise.

Naver’s V-live, a dwell video-streaming service not not like Twitch, basically hosts all Okay-pop artists on its platform. Whereas there are literally thousands of hours of free content material accessible in Okay-pop celebrities broadcasting their travels, dance practices, and every day life, V-live additionally provides subscription providers for company-endorsed occasions and professionally-produced recreation reveals that permit many teams to take part.

Weverse, one of many newer apps launched by HYBE, locations a higher deal with artist-to-fan interplay by delivering a closed area for artists and followers to talk with one another. Often, this additionally requires a set membership payment. Outdoors of chat rooms, Weverse additionally incorporates a posting perform much like Fb’s, official bulletins supplied by HYBE, and, most related, fixed references to the accompanying app: Weverse Store, which is HYBE’s central hub for buying artist-related merchandise and merchandise.

Comparable platforms provided by different Okay-pop labels, like JYP Leisure’s Bubble and SM Leisure’s Lysn, function alongside the identical strains. For a month-to-month subscription payment, followers can ship direct messages to their favourite Okay-pop artists and obtain movies or messages in return. Some teams even promote separate subscription charges by member, providing bundle offers ought to followers need entry to the social circle of multiple member from the identical group.

Okay-pop video games have additionally turn out to be a wildly profitable enterprise enterprise. With an emphasis on rhythm video games that includes label-specific artists and music, apps like SuperStar SMTown, SuperStar JYPNation, Rhythm Hive, and BTS World have garnered substantial worldwide consideration. As well as, drawing followers into the behavior of spending their free time enjoying Okay-pop video games creates an setting for seamless product placement.

Implementing these Methods within the States

Okay-pop’s fandom tradition, which is centered round shopping for overwhelming quantities of merchandise to bolster their favourite artists’ reputation rankings, has lengthy been one thing different music labels have tried to emulate and foster of their goal demographics. These makes an attempt have been met with various ranges of success. Nonetheless, none have come near the fanaticism and single-minded devotion attribute of Okay-pop customers relating to buying energy.

Nonetheless, this may occasionally quickly change as Common Music Group is bringing the supply of all of it straight to its house base. Final 12 months, HYBE and UMG—arguably two of essentially the most outstanding powerhouses within the world music business as of 2022—introduced their intentions to collaborate in a three way partnership to type a various new woman group.[xii] Combining the sources and methods from two fully totally different, hyper-successful enterprise fashions. The upcoming HYBE X Geffen Woman Group will make for an unprecedented experimental pop group backed by these two business powerhouses’ capital, experience, and sources. We are able to solely wait to see how this historic new act will carry out within the income and revenue side.


[i] Smith, Stacey Vanek. “How BTS is Including an Estimated $5 Billion to the South Korean Economic system A 12 months.” NPR Economic system and Music. August 6, 2021.

[ii] Ingham, Tim. “BTS Helped Bighit’s Annual Revenues Soar 36% to $676M in 2020… Regardless of the Pandemic.” Music Enterprise Worldwide. February 23, 2021.

[iii] Large Hit Leisure 4Q FY 2020 Enterprise Outcomes. Digital Music Information. Seoul, Korea. February 23, 2021.

[iv] Common Q3 and 9M 2020 Revenues Ready Beneath IFRS. Vivendi. October 20, 2020.

[v] Ingham, Tim. “In Powerful 12 months for Merch Gross sales, Bravado CEO Exits Common Music Group.” Music Enterprise Worldwide. October 23, 2020.

[vi] Hye-min. “A Examine on the Capitalization of Fandom By means of The Commercialization of Idol Fan Merchandise.” Grasp’s Thesis, Seoul: Korea College Graduate College. Korea College Library. 2016.

[vii] Casco, Angela. “Million Sellers: 5 Okay-pop Teams Who Bought Bodily Albums in File-breaking Numbers.” Life-style Asia. July 29, 2021.

[viii] Herman, Tamar. “Thousands and thousands and Thousands and thousands: Bodily Okay-pop Album Gross sales Keep Sturdy in 2020.” Forbes: Hollywood and Leisure. October 12, 2020.

[ix]Assis, Tassia. “CD Gross sales are Booming within the Okay-pop World The place Album Design Takes Middle Stage.” Eye on Design. Design + Music. October 20, 2020.

[x] Hye-min. “A Examine on the Capitalization of Fandom By means of The Commercialization of Idol Fan Merchandise.” Grasp’s Thesis, Seoul: Korea College Graduate College. Korea College Library. 2016.

[xi] Lee, Hyo-Jung and Oh, Ingyu. “Okay-pop in Korea: How the Pop Music Business is Altering a Put up-developmental Society.” Cross-currents: East Asian Historical past and Tradition Evaluation Quantity 3, Number one. College of Hawai’i Press. Undertaking Muse. Might 2014.

[xii] Common Music Group. “HYBE and Common Music Group Announce First-Ever HYBE X Geffen World Woman Group Audition.” Common Information. November 2021.


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