Industry Insiders Talk About Tactics Used In Chart Manipulation

People in the industry shared their thoughts on the latest controversy surrounding allegations of sajaegi, the manipulation of music charts and sales/streaming numbers by an artist’s agency.

In November, Block B’s Park Kyung accused several artists of sajaegi in a tweet and all of the artists named by the idol have since announced legal action against him. Following this, artists including Kim Gan Ji and Lee Seung Hwan have revealed they received offers to use sajaegi for their music.

Kim Na Young and Yang Da Il also recently faced sajaegi accusations for their duet “Goodbye List” after the song topped charts, beating out competition including IU’s “Blueming” and Girls’ Generation’s Taeyeon’s soundtrack for “Frozen 2.” In response, Yang Da Il said, “It’s difficult to talk about it in detail because the agency carried out promotional marketing for a part of it,” and he announced legal action against malicious comments.

On the December 3 broadcast of SBS’s “Night of Real Entertainment,” the entertainment news show reported on the topic with interviews from industry insiders.

One insider said, “People discuss a price of around 80 million won (approximately $67,196). The monthly profit for the song is around 100 million won (approximately $83,994) if you enter the top 10 rankings, so it’s not a losing business. I heard that they get internet cafes in a rural area, give out 20 IDs for each person, and make it go up at dawn.”

Another source said, “It cost around 100 million won (approximately $84,009) in the past, but it costs about 100 million to 200 million won (approximately $168,018) now. Then, getting in the top 10 rankings on the charts is guaranteed.”

The use of viral marketing has been described as a possible explanation for certain songs suddenly rising on the charts, and the source described this as an excuse. They said, “They create reasons for why it rose on the charts, so they make an excuse by promoting on social media.”

An industry insider said, “The companies that are the biggest topics are ‘A’ and ‘B.’ They’re famous for being good at viral marketing on social media.” In response, a source from company “A” stated, “If you’re looking at it from a frame of sajaegi, we can only tell you that we definitely did not do it. We don’t know how to show proof when we didn’t do it. What did the National Assembly member say last year? They said that we are the ‘Druking’ for people in their 20s. We feel uncomfortable being treated as if we’re criminals.” Druking is the alias of a blogger who’s known for manipulating the “likes” and “dislikes” on online comments about politics to influence public opinion.

Explaining the difficulty of uncovering the truth behind sajaegi accusations, one expert said, “If [a song] doesn’t rise on the charts, the public forgets about it. Because of that, everything is put on the line to enter the charts. After the contract is signed, they reveal their tactics and work space. They only share this once you become an accomplice, so we have no choice but to wait for the emergence of a whistle-blower.”

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