Someone asked how Jackpot did in Japan, and then a bunch of other someones have gone poking around all the Block-B-in-Japan posts on this blog, so I’m guessing people are wanting to know how the Japanese release of Jackpot went. (Also I realized today that I forgot to link Jackpot to iTunes Japan on BlockB.com! Whoops! Sorry!)
The short answer is going to be: Everything looks fine. As always, though, the Japanese market is a little confounding to me because of the way they report (and don’t report!) music sales. So I’ll talk about what we know, what I wish we knew, and why I think things look fine anyway.
So, here’s what we can see: Like Very Good, Block B’s first release in Japan, Jackpot was number 5 on the weekly Oricon chart and number 7 on Billboard‘s Japanese chart. The overall sales numbers look lower, but that’s misleading: Jackpot came out in the last week of the month, so its first-week sales numbers = its monthly sales numbers, which wasn’t the case with either Very Good or H.E.R. (And this is Thing #1 we can’t see–presumably Jackpot will not sell well enough to chart on Oricon in March, so any sales after that first week will be invisible to us.)
What else can we see? Well, Block B recently finished a five-date tour in venues that sat about 3,000 people. And not two months later, they’ve scheduled another two concerts in a venue that seats 5,000 people. So, you know, they’re spending an awful lot of time in Japan if that market’s not working for them, and their venues keep getting bigger (last summer’s tour was in theaters that sat around 2,000 people).
What do I find somewhat confounding? The sales trend with the Japanese releases isn’t going upward, and the sales numbers aren’t that big. Block B is still not charting digitally in any meaningful way. And yet, they sure seem to be acting like the Japanese market is doing well.
Which brings us over to more of what we can’t see. Here’s a snapshot, taken today, of Block B’s Japanese iTunes page, which shows the group’s top 20 albums:
Notice something? The top six albums are Korean!
Yeah, just because you can’t buy stuff off iTunes Japan without jumping through a bunch of hoops doesn’t mean that Japanese buyers can’t easily buy non-Japanese titles there. And lo and behold, Japanese buyers are buying the Korean Block B albums, which have a lot more songs than the two found on each Japanese album. Of course, it’s hard to tell exactly how the Japanese albums are selling, because the different editions of the different albums are being treated as separate titles (and you’re never going to chart if you do that, Jesus).
Let’s look at Block B’s top 25 singles:
A bit more of a mix, but the Korean versions of songs seem to chart higher–I say seem to, because once again we’ve got that confounding situation where you can buy a single song from a bunch of different albums, which screws up the rankings something awful.
I’m just going to note that I often do take a peek at the iTunes Japan rankings after Block B has done a new release, and this is typically what I see–the new release may be the group’s top seller for a little while, but the mix pretty quickly reasserts itself.
Anyway, what I’m taking from this is that while releasing a two-song Japanese CD may not result in huge sales of that particular CD, it may well result in an increase in the sales of the rest of Block B’s catalogue.
We cannot know how substantial an increase. Import CDs are a completely invisible market in Japan (ETA: turns out that’s not quite true), and the way Block B is operating on iTunes Japan makes it so they are extremely unlikely to chart digitally. (Like, ever.)
But I think that’s where the action is–that and concert tickets (and musicals, especially if you’re U-Kwon). Block B is certainly not acting as if they’ll live or die by those CD sales–they could sell more by doing more fan events, and they don’t. Nonetheless, they keep booking stuff in Japan and they keep releasing CDs there, so I’m guessing things are going pretty well.