I Collected Over 10 Years of Gaon Monthly Physical Sales Data into a Spreadsheet, so Let's Take a Look at the Supposed Growth in the Physical Market

  • Like I have said multiple times here, kpop sales were very steady from 2011-16 (mainly thanks to Exo)

    I was actually a bit surprised that sales were so steady from 2011 to 2016. I was expecting to see a noticeable bump up in sales after EXO's debut.

    I expect kpop sales to either decrease or be stagnant as soon as touring starts.

    Yes, I'm very curious as well to see how sales will hold up once we get past the pandemic!

    It would have been better if you had included 2010 data as well since that is when GAON was found so we could have had full GAON data.

    Ah, so although Gaon started in 2010, their web site actually doesn't provide physical sales data until January 2011. ;-)

  • I was actually a bit surprised that sales were so steady from 2011 to 2016. I was expecting to see a noticeable bump up in sales after EXO's debut.

    Exo's impact helped Exo mostly. More than kpop as a whole. But they helped kpop total sales to not go down. I mean they're the reason why kpop physicals did not plummet like they did after H.O.T & g.o.d. Physical sales had started taking downwards stroll in Japan since 2012 and US 2008 (I mean you can say they have been going down in the US since forever but 2008 was a big change). Exo kept kpop physicals steady otherwise kpop also had gone down the same road.


    Yes, I'm very curious as well to see how sales will hold up once we get past the pandemic!

    I don't think companies will stop doing online fanmeetings or cheaper versions even after the pandemic as they're bringing in more numbers. That's why I think there is a bigger possibility of sales to go stagnant rather than decrease.

  • The rise in 2016 also happens to coincide with the hallyu ban in china (no more concerts etc), so wouldnt suprise me if that also contributed to chinese fandoms increasing their numbers in physicals when they no longer could spend money on concerts (as we can see the same rise in 2020 with covid, but this time globally)

    Ah good point about the 2016 hallyu ban in China. Now do you foresee a significant decrease in physical sales due to the restrictions imposed by the Chinese government this year?

  • Good stuff - personally it's something I think will work in a table rather than a graph.


    When you see which groups are in the top 10 for each year you'll see the transition periods and the power of the groups releasing in the year which will impact this to a large extent.

    Ok, I went ahead and determined the top 10 best selling artists for each year based on combined Gaon monthly sales. Here are the results in tabular format; yearly sales figures are included for all artists, as well as the percentage of total annual sales (second column) their sales represent:


    GaonYearlyTop10.png


    We definitely a stark transition in 2013 with the ascendancy of EXO, and the group continued to reign supreme for 4 years. However, BTS almost caught up in 2016, handily beat them in 2017, and have been dominating ever since.


    In addition, Seventeen has been steadily rising ever since their debut in 2015, while NCT, TXT, and Stray Kids appear to have achieved some level of preeminence in the past couple of years. In fact, the top 10 list for 2021 has no female representation at all for the very first time, though Twice (currently at 669,364) has a decent shot of making the top 10 since it looks like the group will be releasing another album this year. It appears that the pandemic-induced rise in sales has disproportionately benefited males.

  • I was tempted to look at some numbers recently regarding album sales but don't have time. I'm not saying you should do this (genuinely) but I've become curious about what other metrics correlate with sales for a release so was tempted to do a scatter plot (album sales versus spotify streams for the release, youtube views for the title, Korean digitals for the release etc).


    Ateez selling 800k+ yet I've never seen any other metric to show that they've got this kind of reach. Their number got me curious.

    Oh yeah, I've also thought about putting together scatter plots in order to see the correlation between two sets of metrics and also to identify any outliers. The problem is that I need some reliable, comprehensive data sources for things like YouTube views.


    And yes, I was quite surprised with the sales of Ateez's new release too!

  • Sort of what I imagined. More top heavy in the 3rd gen due to EXO and then BTS. I've mentioned before that 2nd gen physicals suffer from what happened to TVXQ. They were selling 500k in a era no-one else was but then had their split straight after that release. They would have comfortably dominated physically if they were still together and I don't think the jump to EXO would have been as high as a result.


    You factor in that in 2011-2016: The 2nd gen were old, the best selling group split, the 3rd gen were still too young (outside of EXO) and the fact that the big 2nd gen groups did not release as consistently as the 3rd gen do. As it was a very Korean-centric gen you had a lot of solos and tv/variety/acting work going on. You can see in the early period there'd be years where the big groups are missing from the top 10. But 2016 onwards you have consistent BTS, EXO, Seventeen, Twice and now the NCT's/Stray Kidz.


    The male aspect I've also bought up before and doesn't surprise me. Girl groups selling loads in this day and age is a very Asian thing. Whilst GG's have probably benefitted more in terms of streams/youtube views as that's where casual listeners come in more and they nearly always prefer girl groups, actually having a fandom to buy albums is still a very "boyband" thing in the west.


    Ateez will sell near a million yet their most popular song is about to only reach 60m streams on Spotify, they don't chart well in SK, they don't sell well in Japan looking at Oricon, I've never heard of them having a big Chinese fanbase. I can't see any metric that shows the consumption of their music/content is at a level where they've cultivated a fandom to sell near a million yet that's where they are at.

  • Ah good point about the 2016 hallyu ban in China. Now do you foresee a significant decrease in physical sales due to the restrictions imposed by the Chinese government this year?

    No clue, my knowledge on china is limitited to what the news reports say, but if they are to believed i think there will be a noticeable drop from chinese fanbases, but maybe that will offset by the general increase in other regions?

  • you can be an anti and admit you probably wouldnt even be stanning your faves now if BTS hadnt brought kpop to the global scale to the extent that they did.

    Perhaps I'm in the minority, but I'll say that I first got interested in the Korean music scene during the First Generation. ;-) But your point overall is well taken.

  • Exo's impact helped Exo mostly. More than kpop as a whole. But they helped kpop total sales to not go down. I mean they're the reason why kpop physicals did not plummet like they did after H.O.T & g.o.d. Physical sales had started taking downwards stroll in Japan since 2012 and US 2008 (I mean you can say they have been going down in the US since forever but 2008 was a big change). Exo kept kpop physicals steady otherwise kpop also had gone down the same road.

    Ah, so it sounds like the common refrain of "EXO revived the physical sales market" should be more like "EXO sustained the physical sales market".

  • I've mentioned before that 2nd gen physicals suffer from what happened to TVXQ. They were selling 500k in a era no-one else was but then had their split straight after that release. They would have comfortably dominated physically if they were still together and I don't think the jump to EXO would have been as high as a result.

    Good point, as I'd forgotten about TVXQ's split in 2010. Perhaps it was their decline that allowed EXO to become dominant a few years later.

    As it was a very Korean-centric gen you had a lot of solos and tv/variety/acting work going on. You can see in the early period there'd be years where the big groups are missing from the top 10. But 2016 onwards you have consistent BTS, EXO, Seventeen, Twice and now the NCT's/Stray Kidz.

    Yes, 2016 and onward has a different "feel". I quickly took a look at the concentration of physical sales between the top 3 artists each year, and it's gone from around 20% in 2011 to peaking at over 40% in 2018.

    actually having a fandom to buy albums is still a very "boyband" thing in the west.

    Ah yes, we touched upon this phenomenon recently in my last thread.

    I can't see any metric that shows the consumption of their music/content is at a level where they've cultivated a fandom to sell near a million yet that's where they are at.

    Yeah, Ateez sort of "came out of nowhere". Now they did participate in Kingdom: Legendary War, so perhaps their appearance on the show had more of an impact than we thought.

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