Thursday, February 05, 2009

K-Propping Up K-Pop

Big news from the Korean government about plans to support the music industry -- the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Sports has announced a $95 million plan to improve Korea's K-pop industry, both at home and around the world. That money will be spent over the next five years "to expand the music market to 1.7 trillion won by 2013 from last year’s 844 billion won, advancing it to the world’s top 10.”


First of all, I have no idea how they came up with the figure of 844 billion won ($610 million). CD sales in 2007 were just 75 billion won retail. Maybe you could come up with that figure if you added CD sales, digital downloads (around 300 billion won) and Karaoke sales. Maybe. Regardless, whenever I see the government set mindless targets -- world's top X -- that have no real meaning, I get depressed.

Secondly, do we really need yet another music awards show? Korea already has plenty of such shows. But until Korea develops actual music artists (meaning the kind of people who write their own songs, perform them for real using instruments and everything), I do not see how award shows signify anything terribly important.

Much more interesting and potentially useful, imho, is the attempt to create a credible music chart for Korea. Certainly one of the most useful things the Korea government did for the movie industry was forcing it to keep track of nationwide movie admissions. In general, transparency and accountability are a key foundation for any industry. When I was writing for Billboard, I found it ludicrous that Malaysia's music industry could put together a music chart for Billboard but Korea could not.

On the other hand, what would such a chart track these days? CD sales are pretty irrelevant in Korea now -- down to just 75 billion won ($55 million) in 2007 down from around 400 billion won around 2000. Are they going to make some sort of chart that tracks digital downloads and streaming? That could be really useful and interesting.

You know the telecoms would scream bloody murder before they fork over that information. But the movie theaters in Korea put up the some resistance to divulging their sales information to the government, and ultimately, making that information public was invaluable for improving Korea's film industry. So if the government does manage to make sales information reliable and public, that would be great for the industry.


James said...

Could the government have taken revenues from live shows in to account in their 844 billion won number? I imagine that if they did, given the other issues in reporting which seem to exist in the industry, any number they would be using would be speculative at best.

BTW, I am a long time reader and I love the blog! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Well, I do think that Korea DOES have a good number of kpop singers that are talented, write their own music, play instruments, etc... but I don't know why they are puting more money into that industry. I know kpop is one of the things in Korea that gets international attention and money from abroad but the government should leave the state of kpop to the people in their music industry. I guess they could use some money from the government....I don't know. I think something else can be done to help kpop but I'm not sure about this method.

Mark Russell said...

To James:

Yes, I supposed the government could be including live event revenues... Although I would have no idea how they could measure such a number.

But thank you for the nice words.

To Anonymous:

Okay, maybe I should have been more diplomatic, and phrased my criticism in terms of genre. Whatever one thinks of Korea's teen pop music scene, it is already quite developed (although I would argue that very little K-pop can measure up to the best of international pop music). You are definitely right, what Korea really needs is a diversity of genres.