Although the global CD industry is facing a rapid decline, the sale of KPOP CDs in Korea is expected to surpass 50 million copies this year.
As all the offline activities, such as performances, have been canceled due to the spread of the pandemic, fans are leaning forward to purchasing products that can be kept, like albums and goods, as “fans’ activities”.
According to reports from the entertainment industry on September 17, the sale of Korea’s CDs in the first half of this year reached an all-time peak. According to Gaon Chart (run by the Korea Music Content Association), approximately 29.7 million Korean CDs were sold in Korea and around the world from January to June this year.
The artist who sold the most CDs in the first half of this year was SM Entertainment’s boygroup NCT Dream with 3.24 million copies. Another boygroup from this company, EXO, also sold 2.2 million copies even when some of the group members had joined the military. PLEDIS (HYBE Labels)’s boygroup, SEVENTEEN, sold 1.47 million copies. In addition, BTS sold 2.37 million copies without releasing any new album.
If this upward trend continues, the entertainment industry expects the sale of KPOP CDs will to reach 50 million copies this year. Following the first half of 2021, many artists are setting new highest sales records in the second half. In particular, Stray Kids, a boygroup under JYP Entertainment, recorded 1.1 million CDs for their 2nd full album on the 31st of last month, becoming the first million-seller artist in JYP’s history. In the case of YG Entertainment, BLACKPINK Lisa’s first solo album released this month gathered over 800,000 copies. Moreover, NCT 127 from SM Entertainment achieved a record-breaking number of 2.12 million pre-orders.
In fact, the sale of Korean CDs has nearly increased by 3 times during the latest decade. The sale recorded in 2011 and 2016 were 6.8 million and 10.8 million. However, it jumped to 41.7 million last year when the COVID-19 pandemic started to spread widely. On the other hand, the U.S, the world’s No.1 music market, saw an opposite trend. In 2011, the sale of CDs in the U.S recorded 224.8 million copies. However, after this market turned to focus on digital sales and reorganized, the number of physical album sales decreased to 122.9 million copies in 2015 and about 30 million copies last year.
Amid the shrinking of the American music market, KPOP achieved its remarkable developments. According to the U.S music record label MRC, BTS was the artist who sold the most CDs in the U.S in the first half of this year, from January 1 to July 1. In particular, BTS ranked No.1 on the album-selling chart with 573.000 CDs that were sold. The second place went to Taylor Swift with 414.000 copies. Apart from BTS, NCT also ranked 8th on the list with 106.000 copies of combined physical albums, including CDs, vinyl CDs (LP), and cassette tapes.
Analysts said that the reason that caused the sale of CDs to surge recently was that the concentration of fandom consumption had leaned forward to purchasing goods (planned products), such as albums. Last year, the number of Korean Wave fans, including KPOP fans, exceeded 100 million people for the first time in history. Therefore, their purchasing power has grown significantly. Kim Jinwoo, a senior researcher at Gaon Chart, explained, “Since the spread of the pandemic, fans have not been able to attend offline activities, such as concerts and fan meetings, so they have turned to purchase albums as a “replacement consumption”, and the sale of CDs soared remarkably. This global phenomenon does not exclude the British and American market.”
KPOP fans buy CDs not only to listen to the songs through them but to support their artists to rank high on charts. Various music charts place significant importance on the sale of CDs and other kinds of physical albums. The U.S Billboard chart also counts both the sales of real albums, such as CDs, and the number of digital music downloads and streams.