K-Pop Industry Undergoing Slump
Super Junior, the wildly popular 13-member boy band, sold more than 100,000 copies of their album that was released last year.
By Cathy Rose A. Garcia
Korean pop music may be as popular as ever, but popularity does not translate into record sales. The K-pop music industry continues to struggle with the decline in album sales over the past seven years.
The year 2007 was no different. Based on the data of the Recording Industry Association of Korea, R&B group SG Wannabe’s fourth album “Arirang” was the best-selling album of 2007. However, it only sold a total of 190,998 copies, as compared to SG Wannabe’s previous hit albums in 2006 (341,642 albums sold) and 2005 (414,855 albums sold).
Even more distressing for the K-pop music industry, only albums by SG Wannabe, Super Junior and Epik High managed to surpass the 100,000 sales mark. Super Junior, a wildly popular idol group, sold 164,058 copies of its second album “Don’t Don,” while hip-hop stars Epik High sold 120,301 copies of its album “Remapping the Human Soul.”
Other best-selling artists include Shinhwa member Shin Hye-sung, Seeya, F.T. Island, M.C. The Max and Toy. Surprisingly, the Wonder Girls debut album, which includes their hit song “Tell Me,” only sold 47,927 copies (ranked 15th best selling album).
K-pop hit its peak in 2000, when hit albums from Jo Sung-mo, g.o.d. and Seo Taiji sold more than a million records each. Jo’s album, which topped the sales charts in 2000, sold 1.98 million copies.
In the following years, album sales have faltered, mainly due to the popularity of digital music. More people prefer purchasing and downloading digital music on to their computers or mobile phones, instead of buying the actual CD. The last time an album sold more than 1 million records was in 2001.
Foreign music album sales also experienced a decline in 2007. The best-selling foreign album is the soundtrack to the hit film “Once,” selling 36,725 copies. Other popular foreign acts include Paul Potts, Luciano Pavarotti, Richard Yongjae O’Neill and Maroon 5.
Sales of Japanese albums have barely made an impact, as only Japanese idol group Arashi and hip-hop duo M-flo ranked in the top 50 best-selling foreign albums in 2007.
This year, several high-profile K-pop stars making a comeback and releasing albums that would hopefully lift the K-pop industry from the doldrums.
Rocker Seo Taiji is making a comeback after a long break from the music scene. His album, released in 2000, sold 1.1 million copies, while another album released in 2004 sold 482,066 copies. Other male singers who will release albums are Tei and KCM.
Boy bands TVXQ, Shinhwa and SS501 are also expected to come out with new albums. Pop divas Boa, Lee Hyo-ri, Ivy and Bada are expected to release new albums later this year, as well as hip-hop acts like Epik High, Jinusean and DJ Doc.
K-pop Stars Go Overseas
As record sales continue to drop, it is no wonder why Korean pop stars are increasingly going overseas to find new markets for their music. Male pop stars Rain and Se7en, as well as female singers Lim Jeong-hee, Min, G-Soul and Yangpa are preparing to debut in the U.S. Super Junior and Fly to the Sky are holding overseas concerts, while Big Bang and SG Wannabe are making their debut in Japan this year.
Boa and TVXQ, known as Tohoshinki in Japan, have concentrated on activities in Japan last year. BoA is one of the most popular J-pop singers, while Tohoshinki is attracting many Japanese fans.
According to Japan’s Oricon charts 2007 year-end rankings, Boa’s album “Made in Twenty” ranked 31, selling 340,093 copies. Tohoshinki’s album “Five in the Black” sold 37,686 copies in Japan (ranked 294).
Both albums are also available in Korea. Tohoshinki’s album sold 28,484 copies in Korea, while Boa’s sold 17,482 copies. Because Tohoshiki’s album is considered a “foreign album,” it was the second best-selling foreign album in Korea in 2007.