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KPop by numbers




KPop by numbers

Often times I talk about the "Big 3" companies (referring to SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment and JYP Entertainment), but what does that really mean in terms of numbers? Sure Korean media regards them as the "Big 3", even building an American Idol style show around the idea that each company would provide a judge, training and prizes. That should be good enough for us, but just in case it isn't, let's look at the numbers:

Total Album Sales 2012 by Company

28% - SM Entertainment

15% - YG Entertainment

6% - Woolim Entertainment

5% - Cube Entertainment

5% - FNC Entertainment


3% - JYP Entertainment

3% - Core Contents Media


SM Entertainment certainly proves their dominance here and YG Entertainment secures its spot in the "Big 3". What might be surprising, though, is that YG Entertainment isn't at the top of the list. After all, PSY is one of their artists and Gangnam Style took the world by storm, becoming one of the highest selling singles last year. SM Entertainment, however, has some of the most consistently top performing groups in KPop, but we'll talk more about them later. JYP Entertainment's lackluster showing should come as a huge surprise, but looking back at 2012, the company was fairly quiet and really only has a few active groups promoting. Woolim's third place performance is mostly driven by the huge success of INFINITE, a very popular boy group that debuted relatively recently.

SM Entertainment Album Sales 2012 by Artist

34% - Super Junior

22% - TVXQ

13% - SHINee

9% - EXO

9% - Girls' Generation TTS

6% - Girls' Generation

5% - f(x)

2% - BoA

Super Junior has proven itself to be quite possibly the most popular boy group in Korea, with 34% of SM's Album sales, they managed to sell 10% of all albums KPop albums sold in Korea in 2012. TVXQ and SHINee come in second and third, not surprising for the still very popular groups. What's most surprising in this list is Girls' Generation's performance. The popular girl group didn't hold any Korean promotions in 2012 nor did they release any Korean albums, yet they still managed to grab 6% of sales while their subunit TTS took 9% of sales on its own.

YG Entertainment Album Sales 2012 by Artist

50% - Big Bang

26% - G-Dragon

12% - PSY

4% - 2NE1

3% - Epik High

2% - GD & TOP

2% - SE7EN

It is clear that Big Bang is YG Entertainment's most popular group, selling half of the companies albums on its own. Add to this the fact that G-Dragon and GD & TOP are really subunits of Big Bang, and you start to see why the company seems to focus on this boy group: Almost 80% of its albums sold are from Big Bang. Psy's record setting success is not very apparent from the domestic sales numbers, only selling 12% of YG Entertainment's albums. An interesting figure to look at is that Psy sold barely more albums than Girls' Generation did, but less than the subunit TTS.

JYP Entertainment Album Sales 2012 by Artist

36% - Wooyoung

19% - MissA

17% - Wonder Girls

11% - Jo Kwon

9% - 2PM

7% - JJ Project

1% - JYP

Notice that this list doesn't include the other half of One Day, 2AM. JYP groups were fairly inactive in 2012. Wonder Girls's leader got married and moved to Canada. 2PM and 2AM focused on solo activities (as evidenced by Wooyoung and Jo Kwon's appearances). One continual criticism of JYP Entertainment is that JYP himself is still active and always promoting himself. Fans sometimes feel this distracts him from properly promoting his artists.


So, ok, all these statistics are for Korea. What about overseas promotions? Girls' Generation was really active in Japan last year, as were several other groups. Unfortunately, there is no good/easy way to get data about worldwide popularity. We do, however, have an interesting statistic courtesy of Psy's Gentleman MV. The video passed 24 million views just 24 hours after release and here is where the viewers from that first day were from:

15.7% - USA

14.8% - South Korea

5.84% - Brazil

4.15% - Mexico

4.01% - Canada

3.14% - France

3.00% - United Kingdom

2.81% - Taiwan

2.73% - Vietnam

2.43% - Malaysia


That's all well and good, but are sales and views the only ways to measure popularity? Not in the least and especially not in poll addicted South Korea. Earlier this year the research firm Leespiar asked 1332 men and women between 13 and 69 years old who the most popular celebrities in Korean were.

Lee Seung Gi topped the male chart with 9.2%, Psy followed closely with 8.5%. The rest of the list consisted of: Big Bang, Lee Seung Chul, SHINee, Kim Bum Soo, INFINITE, Suing Shi Kyung, Huh Gak and K.Will. While Super Junior may have sold the most albums, they didn't appear on this list even though rival Big Bang did.

As for the female list, Girls' Generation made it to the top with 20.6%. Baek Ji Young, IU, SISTAR, Jang Yoon Jung, Lee Hyori, BoA, Park Jung Hyun, Ailee and Lee Hi finished out the chart.

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