Closing of the popular music industry in 2021
Physical album sales approach 60 million—export maximum.
This year, when the pandemic that covered the world has continued for the second year, K-pop groups led by BTS led the quantitative growth of the music industry through relentless overseas activities. However, as offline activities such as the suspension of concerts decreased, the domestic music market showed a contrasting appearance.
The K-pop fandom has also grown its ripple effect in the face of COVID-19. In November, BTS became the first Asian singer to win the ‘Career High’ at the ‘American Music Awards (AMAs), one of the top three American music awards. In addition, it is showing off its peak popularity by being nominated for two consecutive years at the 64th Grammy Awards to be held next year. On the Billboard Singles Chart’ Hot 100′, each song released, such as ‘Butter,’ also took the top spot for a total of 10 weeks.
As the global fandom expands, physical albums such as CDs are expected to reach 60 million copies. Compared to last year’s annual sales of about 42 million copies, it is an all-time high, up 42.9%. According to Gaon Chart, the top 400 sales volume recorded 55 million copies by November. The increase in canter sales due to ‘retributive consumption’ to the intense fandom impacted. As album sales increased, the number of million-sellers who sold more than 1 million copies this year also increased to 10, more than last year (6 copies). BTS had the highest cumulative album sales with 7.2 million copies, NCT 127 with 4.04 million copies, NCT Dream with 3.89 million copies, and Seventeen with 3.79 million copies.
7.2 million BTS album sales alone… Domestic market ‘shrinking.’
Exports also stood out. According to statistics from the Korea Customs Service this year, Korea’s record exports (January to October) reached an all-time high of $189.74 million (about 223.6 billion won). This achievement has already surpassed the annual record export of 136.2 million dollars last year. 4th-generation groups such as N-Hyphen, NCT 127, and ATEEZ also showed the power of K-pop by putting their names on the Billboard main album chart ‘Billboard 200’.
In the music charts, solo songs such as singers IU and Young-Woong Lim, who received wide love, and songs presented through broadcasts such as MSG Wannabe and Show Me the Money were promoted. According to Genie Music, the song that tops the charts the most this year was ‘Celebrity,’ a pre-released song from IU’s first full-length album in four years.
On the other hand, the amount of music released in Korea and music usage, which shows the overall usage trend, decreased compared to last year. According to Gaon Chart, the monthly average usage of the top 400 music sources from January to November decreased by 12% compared to last year and by 25% compared to 2019. It is believed that the contraction in the release of new songs and a decrease in performances were affected. An official from a domestic performance agency said, “It is a virtuous cycle of investing the profits in new songs and reopening performances when we do offline activities such as performances, but now this has been blocked.
“Investment will be concentrated in overseas-type groups next year.”
According to industries such as the Korea Popular Music Performance Industry Association, sales in the popular music performance industry have decreased by 90% since February last year. The outlook for the year-end and next year is not bright due to strengthening social distancing guidelines.
Kim Jin-woo, the senior researcher at Gaon Chart, said, “It is divided into whether or not a singer owns a fandom, and the environment in which singers with a fandom survive is getting stronger. It will be driven even more,” he analyzed.