Yim Jae-beom is a rock singer that suffered from a long slump before making a comeback through TV singer survival contest, “I Am a Singer,” which, by coincidence, has spurred music file sales to the point of upsetting a long-term dominance by young K-pop idols.
Television surivival contest stirs K-pop dominance by young, pretty idols
By Yoon Ja-young
Singer Yim Jae-beom, who made a comeback on the popular television show “I Am a Singer,” may have noticed how the market has changed since the 1980s when he performed as lead vocalist in the rock group Sinawe. The market now reacts immediately; songs he sang on the show soared to the top of online music sites on the same day, while it sometimes took months for a song to become a hit decades ago.
Online music services, which have been overtaking traditional CDs in the past few years, are rapidly expanding, thanks to survival programs such as “I Am a Singer” and the expanded use of smart devices.
Music market goes online
“After the success of ‘I Am a Singer,’ the number of paid subscribers at online music service Melon increased by over 300 percent,” said Choi Yoon-mi, a researcher at Mirae Asset Investment & Securities.
Online music services debuted here as early as the late 1990s, but they were slow to expand due to conflicts over copyright. As this issue has been resolved, online has become a keyword for the music industry, taking up to 80 percent of sales in the country as of 2010. While the offline music market has remained sluggish, the online side has been marking an annual double-digit growth.
Analysts cite smart devices as the major booster. The rapid penetration of smartphones made it possible for over 20 million people here to virtually carry an MP3 player with them all the time. “The local online music market will continue stable growth, especially upon the expansion of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets and the introduction of smart television,” Choi said, expecting the market to grow to 484.3 billion won this year.
Mobile carriers are thus bolstering online music services as their future income source. SK Telecom, the country’s biggest mobile carrier, is currently the biggest player in the online music market, with its “Melon” service accounting for nearly half.
KT, which has been lagging in fourth place in the online music services market, recently launched “Genie,” with the ambition to be the Korean version of iTunes. It plans to attract local entertainment companies by offering them 70 percent of the profits and letting them set prices, and has succeeded in getting support from the country’s top entertainment firms, including SM Entertainment, YG and JYP.
Currently, users can get 150 songs for only 9,000 won a month, which translates to only 60 won per song. The music industry, including composers, entertainment firms and singers, get only 30 won of this. “Even when the music is downloaded 1 million times, the profit is not even enough to shoot a music video,” complained Kim Young-min, CEO of SM Entertainment.
KT thus expects major companies to launch their new songs through Genie first, on top of offering other exclusive content. However, some doubt that this may only lead people to download songs from the black market, as the latest song could be as expensive as 600 won.
On top of smart devices, cloud computing and social networking services are expected to help the online music service grow further.
Social networking services such as Facebook offer music sharing services. This is so users spend more time at the sites, increasing their exposure to advertisements. Cloud music services where one can store music on the server and listen to it through streaming is also getting the spotlight. KT also chose this model for Genie, following global players Amazon, Google and Apple.