Category Archives: I used to be a business reporter

You guys know this is normal, right?

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So, yeah, “Don’t Leave” isn’t topping out on the charts, either, after “Shall We Dance” didn’t. Which means BLOCK B IS DOOMED!!! DOOOOOOOOOOMED!!!!!!

You know, just as they have been since Day 1. Dooooooooooooooooooooooooomed. (Because cursed!)

Or maybe ups and downs are a normal thing in a music career? Hence the value of persistence?

It’s honestly kind of funny to me to see the black-and-white thinking kick into gear. Block B has two stadium shows in Korea at the end of this month, and six concerts in Japan after that. “Artist” is still–still–on Gaon (passed 1 million downloads!). I think funeral rites are a tad premature.

And it’s not like other artists don’t deal with this. Taeyang‘s “Eyes Nose Lips” sold 2.3 million downloads; his next single, “Darling,” sold a little more than a tenth of that.

This is what happens. It’s not because the public gives a fuck about some fandom drama or because the exact same company that was in charge when the hits were released suddenly ran out of mojo.

It is normal for this industry. Hits are very unpredictable (I know some musicians who had a song become a hit entirely by accident). Whenever people ask, “Why isn’t this a hit?” I wonder just how many hit songs they themselves have produced–it’s kind of like asking why someone hasn’t been struck by lightning, or thinking that people can win the lottery just by, you know, wanting to.

Needless to say, the unpredictability of hits is and always has been a serious challenge to everyone in the industry. Music labels diversify in order to even out that revenue flow. That’s why, even though Block B has got a comeback and a concert going on, B-Bomb’s doing a play, Park Kyung is plugging away on Problematic Men, and U-Kwon’s doing a Japanese/Korean TV show.

Because Block B is more diversified, that actually takes the pressure off for each and every music release to be some monster hit. They’re established now–it’s not like when they released “Nalina” or even “Very Good.” And while I realize that it’s not uncommon for K-Pop groups to get neglected by their label if things slow down, turning a lull into a career-killer, that’s just very unlikely to happen to Block B–especially now.

In other words–I don’t think this is worth getting weepy about. Just enjoy the music–it’s good, and it’s going to keep on happening.

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Tally-ho!

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“Artist” recently hit the 900K mark in downloads (yes, it’s still on the chart, and while it’s been bouncing up and down, this week it was at #57), and with one thing and another, I decided that I might as well generate a list of Zico’s download sales.

I only counted sales from 2013 onward, because if you look at the annual Gaon charts before that year, there was obviously some big change in the digital download market between 2012 and 2013 (I’m guessing the same change that made it possible to actually make money off downloads), so the numbers aren’t really comparable. I counted songs that Zico wrote, even if they were for other artists, and I stuck with songs that sold more than 100,000 downloads, just for my own convenience.

1,786,878 “Boys and Girls”

1,573,331 “I Am You, You Are Me”

1,535,923 “Her”

1,251,908 “Fear”

1,179,652 “Eureka”

976,110 “Flower Way”

959,948 “I Luv It”

917,576 “Artist”

913,927 “Toy”

827,623 “It Was Love” (Luna version)

762,975 “Okey Dokey”

717,231 “Bermuda Triangle”

699,580 “Turtle Ship”

681,537 “Jackpot”

637,697 “Zero For Conduct”

622,063 “She’s a Baby”

557,273 “Yozm Gang”

535,031 “Very Good”

529,850 “A Few Years Later”

437,354 “Fanxy Child”

404,462 “Red Sun”

391,358  “Say Yes or No”

348,049 “moneyflow”

339,779 “Unordinary Girl”

295,986 “Be the Light”

293,617 “Tough Cookie”

265,774 “Where U At”

258,544 “By My Side”

254,153 “It Was Love” (Taeil version)

240,175 “Search”

203,942 “Anti”

202,995 “Day”

191,850 “Pride and Prejudice”

165,891 “Well Done”

150,647 “Shall We Dance”

137,393 “Veni Vidi Vici”

135,551 “Turtle Ship (Remix)”

A rough total gets approximately 22 million downloads of Zico songs in Korea in the past four years, which is quite something considering that the country has a total population of about 50 million people!

Let’s quant this out

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I wanted to take a moment to, as much as I can, attempt to quantify the impact of Block B’s various promotions on traffic to BlockB.com–while not a perfect measure by any means, hopefully traffic there is a semi-decent proxy of interest in Block B from English speakers.

Here’s the graph, starting from November 6 (the day before “Shall We Dance” was released) through yesterday:

Obviously, the day of release was a big peak, with 322 visitors. The next day came news reports of the upcoming Seoul concerts, plus the V App stuff got translated into English.

Here’s Block B’s music-show schedule for this comeback:

M Countdown, November 9
Music Bank, November 10
Inkigayo, November 12
Music Bank, November 17
Inkigayo, November 19

So, you are seeing some peaking on an overall downward slope (232 visitors on the 11th; 200 on the 18th) just after Music Bank and just “before” Inkigayo (which airs earlier in the day, and with the time change, I think we can’t really take the given dates at face value). That’s pretty much normal for a comeback.

But what happened on the 23rd? (243 visitors.) The English translation of Block B’s Weekly Idol episode came out. Yup–having things available in English in a timely way makes a big difference.

Why a second bump on the 25th? (208 visitors.) My theory is that it happened because the 23rd was Thanksgiving, which is a major holiday in the United States, so Americans didn’t get around to catching up on Weekly Idol until they finally got home from Aunt Edna’s house and had a few moments to decompress. That’s all I can think of, unless that Jeff Benjamin Tweet had some kind of outsized impact.

This happened too late to count (ETA: but, hey, traffic the next day was 207!), but I think it’s cool, so I’m throwing it in. Good job, kids!

KQ + Sony Music!

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KQ Entertainment has reportedly signed a deal with Sony Music–here are some Korean versions of the story and here’s a version that basically has just been shoved through Google Translate, hopefully a better translation will show up soon. [ETA: Billboard covered it!] In any case, it looks like Sony Music Taiwan KPOP already has Block B featured on their Facebook page. (Taiwan loves Block B!)

From what I can gather by, yes, shoving stuff through Google Translate, Sony Music has an equity investment in KQ (which typically means they now own a minority stake in the company), and in return they will help promote the label’s artists (i.e. not just Block B) in Asia and beyond. (Although…presumably not Japan? There’s nothing on Block B’s Japanese Web site to suggest it, and since they’re coming out with the Japanese version of Montage next month, the timing would be peculiar.) A Sony Music subsidiary distributes BTS in the United States, so hopefully Western markets won’t be completely neglected.

Anyway, that’s interesting. And you know, once again while certain fans remain convinced that this whole thing should be about themKim Kyu Wook is doing his fucking job, keeping the company liquid as it expands, and making sure everyone makes money.

ETA: A couple of additional observations, in Q&A form because I’m pedantic.

Q. How will KQ promote abroad?

A. They won’t, just like they don’t in Japan. Sony Music will handle it—that’s the point of this deal.

Q. What if Block B doesn’t renew their contracts?

A. That would sure suck for Sony Music, right? KQ’s biggest, most international asset taking a hike a year after this deal was signed?

Which is why they’ve already renewed. Large companies don’t sign deals like this without guarantees.

Q. People are saying that I shouldn’t get excited about this because Sony Music is just a distributor and doesn’t do any promotion. What do you think?

A. Some people define “promotion” as “appearing on a lot of music shows.” If that’s your thinking, then definitely don’t get your hopes up, now or ever. Music shows are a time-consuming and cost-ineffective method of promotion, so Block B does them as little as possible. This deal isn’t going to change that.

If instead you define “promotion” as “selling music to people”–well, folks, distributors actually do promote. That’s a big part of the job, especially these days when it’s so easy for musicians to do basic distribution on their own. KQ wouldn’t be giving away equity if all Sony Music was offering in return was to upload some songs onto iTunes.

(The very act of distribution can be a form of promotion, by the way. Having BTS CDs available for sale in U.S. Target stores all by itself generates sales, and having those CDs appear on end rows or in special displays generates even more sales.)

EATA: If you’re wondering who the guy in the photos with Kim is, it’s Denis Handlin, who is pretty freaking high up in the Sony executive ranks.

How are things going?

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Obviously, I lovelovelove “Shall We Dance,” but now’s the time for me to get all cold and analytical. And the fact is that the song isn’t sweeping the charts in Korea or anything–it’s not doing horribly on the daily charts, but it’s not doing fantastic, either.

And that’s kind of how things are elsewhere. BlockB.com‘s traffic looks like this:

That’s 322 visitors–less than “Toy,” but more than “H.E.R.” (I didn’t actually write down the number of visitors for “Yesterday“–oops! ETA: It’s 406 views! Improved Web analytics FTW!) The international iTunes charts look OK, including their first appearance on the UK charts (where is Finland, though?), but not as high as “Toy.”

But of course “Shall We Dance” and “Toy” are completely different songs, and I think that’s pretty much the issue–when you switch up a sound, the people who liked your old sound may not like your new one, and the people who would like your new sound don’t yet know you exist. So it can take some time to find an audience.

There’s definitely some good news–Billboard gave a really nice write-up, and we’re at 1.7 million YouTube views a day-and-a-half in, which is quite good. Block B is going to do music shows, and while I obviously hate the whole trophy business with the fire of a thousand suns, appearing on the shows does have promotional value.

And of course they probably felt like they could take a risk with their lead single because they already made bank using “My Zone” for an LG endorsement. It’s also simply not that important these days that every Block B release be a huge hit, because they’re so much more diversified with all the solo activities and everything going on in Japan. They also reportedly have two concerts in Korea coming up that will be in an 11,000-seat stadium, and there’s always the old-school method of having a thousand fan signings to sell CDs, so, yeah–they have whole a lot of avenues through which they can drum up revenues. They’re not going to die if the Korean market never really warms to “Shall We Dance.”

This is…potentially interesting

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A few days ago, Asian Junkie posted about an interview with CLC’s Sorn in which she talks about how non-Korean musicians don’t necessarily get the royalties that Korean musicians do.

It was interesting for many reasons (and Sorn has a very healthy attitude toward the business end of things), but what I found odd was her apparent belief that artists get paid more the more their songs are played in public.

That struck me as weird because that’s not how it works in the United States: Retail businesses just pay a blanket licensing fee to performing rights organizations to play music; they don’t pay a particular artist more if they play their songs a lot. (ETA: WannaBlockB points out in the comments that things are a little more precise these days.)

But if you sift through the garbled Engrish at the FKMP Web site–well, it could be that Sorn is right. If they have to “[s]ecure distribution data such as usage statement,” that could suggest that they actually do keep track of what songs get played in public venues.

If that’s the case, and if it’s a significant amount of money (and I guess it probably is, because Sorn noticed it was missing and was sufficiently motivated to find out why)–well, that’s another income stream that I hadn’t even really thought of. I mean, I heard quite a bit of music from the Greater Block B Musical Complex playing from retailers when I was in Korea (including Killagramz’ “Where You At” the day I went home). I just thought it was nice, but I guess it could also mean that they’re making bank (and Kisum isn’t doing too badly, either).

Score!

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Project-1 is up on regular iTunes! Yay!

They’re releasing only the Red-Type edition digitally, but if you have to have the Blue-Type (the instrumental tracks are different), Amazon is carrying the CD, and it’s Prime eligible. Although they say it’s out of stock, and CD Japan is saying that the first press of the Blue-Type edition is already sold out…which is promising, don’t you think?

ETA: It seems that a lot of people are finding this post when trying to figure out how to buy Project-1–go to BlockB.com’s Albums & Singles page instead, I have links to many, many retail options there. BlockB.com! It’s kind of a lot of work for me, so please use it!