According to the latest data from the Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA), the total sales of the South Korean music industry reached 2.87 trillion Won in the first half of last year primarily because of the rise of K-pop. This figure is up by 9.2 percent from a year earlier.
Led by the recent global popularity of BTS, K-pop’s reach has expanded far and wide. A rising number of fans are devotedly spending their time and money collecting even the smallest souvenirs that remind them of their favorite pop stars.
This includes mugs, notebooks, pens, bags, T-shirts, tumblers and slippers with photos of BTS, EXO, Blackpink, Twice and the like all stir K-pop fans’ desire to be closer to the performers they like the most.
Loyalty towards K-pop results in meteoric rise in merch sales
K-pop merchandise sales of 150-billion-Won last year alone includes privately created items and pirated goods.
According to Yonhap, a fan had spent more than 1 million won ($881) buying BTS merchandise last year.
“Fans with huge loyalty to their singers buy albums and goods together. Many of them create unofficial goods too,” said Sung Mi-kyoung, a senior researcher at the KOCCA. “The idol culture started to explode in the latter half of 2017 on the back of the rising global popularity of BTS. Estimates of 150 billion won in sales are not groundless.”
She said the three leading music labels SM Entertainment, JYP Entertainment Corp. and YG Entertainment Inc. have already acknowledged the potential of the goods market and started to rack up revenues there.
According to their regulatory filings, the three listed companies’ combined sales of albums and digital music content reached 76.69 billion won in the first half of 2018 and they posted a combined 105.44 trillion won in sales from K-pop merchandise, royalties and other fees over the cited period.
YG alone earned 76.91 billion won in royalties and brand-related sales. The company runs fashion and cosmetics subsidiaries using artist brands like Big Bang, iKon and Blackpink.
“People do not only consume music to listen to but also enjoy such entertainment in other forms. The music industry now comes with concerts, merchandise and intellectual property,” the KOCCA expert said. “I hope the public sector will fine-tune the legal issues involving intellectual rights to level the playing field and foster the content industry further.”
She said 50 percent of South Korean teenagers have bought a K-pop item at least once.
“It has been a minor culture among young fans of K-pop,” said Sung. “But from now on, its huge potential will attract the entire entertainment industry to focus on this market.”
The K-pop market is turning into a comprehensive content industry linked with performance, fashion, food, tourism and even manufacturing.