At an August 12th concert in Korea, PSY (also known as Park Jae-sang) entertained 30,000 fans for nearly 4 hours — and his popularity doesn’t stop at Korea’s borders either. PSY’s video for “Gangnam Style” where he rides his imaginary horse around a posh area of Seoul went viral worldwide (53,000,000 YouTube views as of this morning according to CTV NEWS). Korean pop (K-pop) is now one of the biggest export successes in music, and is becoming a major trend that’s catching on not only with Western fans, but also with record executives and superstars in Hollywood as well.
As DUMMY wrote in a fascinating article published July 13th: “GRIMES releasing the K-pop influenced track ‘Phone Sex‘ with pal Blood Diamonds, and Kanye West, Snoop Dogg and Will.i.am all reportedly lining up to work with K-pop artists such as 2NE1. It is also one of the most radical and popular digital artforms in the world … Fun and imaginative, K-pop echoes some of what is missing in western pop music today. It’s sometimes robotic but has a cool and energetic edge, with its upbeat electro timbre and American R&B tints. The English lyrics somewhat lack in creativity, with its repetitive stance, but it’s simple, produces a very catchy hook and is redeemed through with its perfect packaging.”
Korean pop stars are now capable of selling out North American stadium venues with their new found appeal. But the outlook for these artists in their native Korea is a different story. In the rest of the world, digital sales are increasingly very strong with music-lovers still paying for downloads, through the likes of Apple’s iTunes shop (i.e. for a typical 99 cent track, roughly 70% goes to the music label and the artist). In the Korean market, however, subscription rental services are enormously popular. For one month chunks, users pay $8 for access to 150 tracks. Of this, less than 3 cents goes to the label and artist (that’s less than 1/3 of a percent).
Korea’s biggest music label, SM Entertainment, makes very little cash as a result, and thereby has their artists hawk everything from the latest cell phone to going on every single TV variety show they can find. However, only a handful of the bigger artists ever see a penny of this money. To learn more about the K-pop industry in Korea be sure to visit The Economist. And to read DUMMY’s incredible K-pop article you can visit DUMMYmag.com.