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K-pop industry eyeing bigger opportunities in international market

SEOUL, Nov. 01 (Yonhap) — Major K-pop agencies saw their overseas revenue jump in the first half, financial data showed Monday, as the number and influence of fans based in abroad can now determine the ranking of local music charts.

According to data from the Financial Supervision Service (FSS) as of Monday, Hybe, which operates BTS, Seventeen and Enhypen, saw its domestic sales amount to just 24.96% of its 456.9 billion won ($390 million). dollars) of total sales in the first half of this year.

North America accounted for 19.83% of global sales, Asia 11.27% and other countries 2.31%. A share of 41.44% of sales came from the Internet, where it is difficult to specify the place of consumption. Hybe said a large portion of online sales come from overseas markets.

JYP Entertainment, which includes popular groups, such as Twice and Stray Kids, also saw overseas sales surpass domestic ones in the first half. In total, JYP recorded 72.9 billion won in sales, which breaks down into 39.5 billion won in exports and 33.3 billion won in domestic sales.

With the rapid increase in popularity of K-pop overseas, online distribution channels with K-pop fans around the world as target customers are also developing rapidly.

Ktown4u, which offers K-pop albums and merchandise, is not only available in Korean and English, but also in Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Indonesian for overseas fans.

Online store operator HM International saw annual sales jump 133.4 percent year-on-year to 177.3 billion won last year.

In this context, the intensity with which an album attracts foreign fans has become the key to its success. Since it’s hard to expect “big hits” from domestic sales alone, new bands that need exposure are more eager to secure fans overseas.

“Boy band album sales have increased a lot as a result of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, and it is true that overseas fans have a strong interest in album sales,” observed an official from a major K-pop production house on condition of anonymity.

An official from another agency also said that since “K-pop groups are doing well in the US and South American markets, sales of their old albums are also increasing significantly in addition to new ones.”

Overseas fans are also moving in an organized manner to support their favorite artists, the official added.

“If in-person concerts, which had been mostly canceled for the past two years due to Covid-19, resume, the international market will likely attract more attention,” he said.

It’s no exaggeration to say that YouTube, another major K-pop consumption channel, largely depends on the success of overseas K-pop fans.

According to YouTube, the first K-pop girl band Blackpink had 9.15 billion views on YouTube over the past year, 96% of which came from overseas. The remaining 4%, or 361 million views, were generated in South Korea.

By country, Indonesia had the most views with 758 million, followed by Thailand (736 million), India (679 million), the Philippines (638 million) and Mexico (514 million).

Cumulative views on YouTube are also very important for agencies, as these numbers are used to calculate ratings in national television music programs.

In this context, K-pop agencies now care not only about domestic fans but also about cultural characteristics of various countries to avoid various unnecessary controversies involving their artists, realizing that some issues may raise the anger of fans from other countries. even if they go unnoticed in South Korea.

In a recent case, Giselle, a member of girl band Aespa, had to post an apology on Twitter after simply singing SZA’s “Love Gallore.” She received strong protests from overseas fans because the lyrics included the word “niggas”, which denigrates black people.

“I would like to apologize for saying this wrong word in the lyrics of the song,” she wrote in English on the group’s Twitter account on October 25.

Iz*One, a now disbanded group, deleted one of its music videos in June last year when it was pointed out that the jewelry member Kwon Eun-bi wore in the center of her forehead was similar to Bindi, who has a religious meaning in Hindu culture.

Also last year, Blackpink sparked controversy for using the statue of the Hindu god Ganesh in the music video for ‘How You Like That’. The footage had to be changed in response to protests from Indian fans.

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