Shaun's Agency Denies Accusations of Digital Chart Manipulation

Singer Shaun has been swept up by accusations of chart manipulation with his track “Way Back Home.”

Shaun’s “Way Back Home” rose to first place on the music streaming sites Genie, Oleh Music, and Bugs on July 16 at 7 a.m. KST. On Melon and Mnet, the song ranked high as well, taking 3rd and 5th place respectively.

Due to Shaun’s surprising ranking on the streaming sites, there were suspicions of chart manipulation. Shaun is currently in the same situation as Nilo, who received similar claims of chart manipulation for rising to first place during the night time when idol fandoms usually dominate. Shaun was against girl groups with sturdy fandoms and popularity with the general public, such as TWICE, BLACKPINK, Apink, and MAMAMOO.

Shaun’s current predicament is similar Nilo’s. Unlike other chart toppers like Yoon Jong Shin, MeloMance, or Han Dong Geun, Nilo’s rise to first place was met with suspicion because of how different his case was. This is because the streaming count for Nilo’s song increased during the time when idol fans are active in streaming – late night time. Usually, tracks like these increase their streaming count beginning from when people are going home from work to the evening.

Shaun’s “Way Back Home” has moved through the music streaming charts in a similar way to Nilo’s, as their chart graphs look alike as well. When looking at the change in progress for “Way Back Home,” the streaming count began to increase around 10 p.m. on July 16. Eventually, the track swept the charts to become first place, beating out TWICE and MAMAMOO.

Although Melon and other music streaming sites made changes by removing the real-time charts from 1 a.m. to 7 a.m. to block attempts at manipulation of the charts, many music fans criticized this move as it did not solve the fundamental problems of chart manipulation.

On July 17, Shaun’s agency DCTOM Entertainment said, “It is definitely not chart manipulation. We will deliver more specific information through a press release.” In response to a question asking if the company had used “viral marketing,” they responded, “That’s correct. We did use viral marketing but we will reveal which parts it was in use later.”

When Nilo was embroiled in this scandal, a source from Major7 Company, which is in charge of promotional activities for Nilo’s agency Limez Entertainment, commented in April, “There were no illegal actions taken on the digital charts. The claims of chart manipulation are not true.” Melon also denied that improper streaming had taken place.

Instead, similarly to Shaun, both agencies said “viral marketing” was used.

A member of the band The KOXX, Shaun is currently active as a DJ and producer. He released “Way Back Home” as a track on his EP album “Take” on June 27, but it was unable to garner great attention.

“Way Back Home” did gain gradual popularity as it was played at cafes, restaurants, and as the background music of several broadcasting shows. Celebrities such as the actor Lee Yoo Bi and singers Younha and Tablo also promoted the song on their social media sites.

An EDM DJ, Shaun is known for being a hitmaker that has helped produce songs for EXO, BTS, Epik High, f(x), and other K-pop stars. He also collaborated with EXO for their performance at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games.

In response to this scandal, Shaun said, “This is not chart manipulation. As a musician, I just worked hard to produce music, but I am not trying to analyze how this track became number one on the music streaming charts. The company will probably release an official response, but I just know that it was an effect of Facebook marketing.”

He continued to say, “I wanted to say why it wasn’t, why it was unfair in a longer message, but I don’t think that’s the right way either. But, I just wanted to say that as I’ve produced music, I have pride for never having done something as embarrassing as manipulating the charts.”

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