Kpop By The Numbers

The numbers of Kpop. Data about sales is sparse and Youtube makes it difficult to see data across time (some services can do this but at a price too high for the author).  As we have learned about the sudden burst of Kpop onto the Asian music scene in the late 1990’s, and in other parts of the world over the past 2 years, this data has some interesting things to say. Here, a Kpop video is one that is produced in Korea by a Korean music company, with predominately Korean artists and Korean lyrics (there are some Chinese and other members of Kpop groups, and most Kpop songs feature some English, often the title). Yet it must also fit the specific musical genre of Kpop, which is catchy, repetitive, bubble gum lyrics that are geared towards tweens and teenagers, primarily females. They are often dramatic, sexy, silly, or playful in theme and presentation, but always earnest. Kpop takes itself fairly  seriously. Also they come from established Kpop groups that are popular in Korea and Asia and are part of the cross media model. Almost all Korean reality TV is about Korean ‘idols’, and many appear on TV shows, in commercials, and participate in other broadcasting forums.  This definition comes form my own intimate knowledge having watched these videos, TV shows, and followed the Hallyu Wave, what a fan considers Kpop to be and what it may mean to someone outside the fan base.

Click on the image for a more interactive chart.

Click on the image for a more interactive chart.

First is our Big Three companies of SM, YG, and JYP. Here, the gap in revenue between the 3 is clear. This data was gathered from Financial Times and follow these links: SM, JYP, and YG Entertainment. If you click on the image you can read the values and see that YG had the highest total revenue, and in 2011 all three had a total revenue of  158 billion Korean Won KRW (about $146 million).

Click the image for a more interactive chart.

Click the image for a more interactive chart.

Here we can see the dominance of YG and SM in Kpop music video views on Youtube. JYP groups are very popular, and have a number of videos with 20 and 10 million views, but they have yet to have a mega hit that creeps into American pop culture such as The Boys or Fantastic Baby. The data for most views was gathered from the Original, Official Music Video posted on Youtube, and the agency from my own knowledge of the artists as a not-so-secret fan.

Click the image for more interactive chart.

Click the image for more interactive chart.

Gangnam Style was omitted in this chart due to its outlier status (the chart would be useless), and for that fact that it has little to do with actual Kpop. Even when cute and silly, Kpop is always sincere and the self-deprecation and bizarreness of the video, and Psy being so much older and wilder than any Kpop star, makes Gangnam a bad fit for this chart. You’re Just My Style features a mega Kpop star Hyuna, and has a much more kitschy Kpop feel so it is truly a Kpop video. Other than Girls Generation’s ‘magnum opus’ Gee Kpop has fairly consistent viewership. Below Big Bang’s Blue at 31 million, there are a plethora of 20 million view videos from a variety of agencies. These videos alone tick off 1 billion views for Kpop music. This is the same data collected from Youtube.

Click the image for a more interactive chart.

Click the image for a more interactive chart.

Here we see where some of those views are coming from. Excluding the viral hits Gangnam and its residual effect on You’re My style (non Kpop fans viewing due to its association with Gangnam Style) which don’t have the regular audience of Kpop hits, we see that South East Asia dominates the Official Youtube MV views. They are also five diverse countries with different political systems and dominant religions. Yet all are developing economies and the growth of media and pop culture has made a place for Kpop.

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