According to industry insiders, the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism met with representative from various digital music distributors (e.g. Loen Entertainment, KT Music, CJ E&M, Bugs, and Soribada) in a policy conference this past November 20 to discuss solutions to sajaegi (the practice of buying in bulk, or, specifically in the K-pop industry context, the practice of a company bulk buying or repeatedly streaming its own music releases to increase sales numbers and manipulate music charts).
One of the solutions discussed was banning the releases of digital music at midnight. New music releases generally occur at two times during the day, noon and midnight. Industry experts claim that sajaegi occurs more frequently for midnight releases because, at midnight, there are fewer users and sajaegi is less noticeable. Also, if there is a technical issue at night, the online music stores are unable to fix it as quickly as when they occur during the day. Due to this, for some time, fewer companies requested midnight releases, but the number of requests have started to rise again.
Midnight releases are more popular among large companies because it is easier for their songs to top the charts and maintain their place until noon the following morning.
In response to the meeting, the Ministry has officially requested on December 11 that the various digital music distributors to look into possible measures to adjust music release times, improve real-time charts, and also get rid of the recommendation services for fairer charts. It is even considering legal measures.
A source from the music distributor industry commented, “Among the distributors, there is already an agreement on banning midnight releases. However, if a famous singer wants to release a song at midnight, it is hard for them to refuse.”