Every year I receive a thorough overview from one of my Christian music distributors in (South) Korea on the current state of the Korean music marketplace. Here are some highlights from that report I thought would be interesting to share with you...
Mainstream music sales have grown from nearly US$400 Million (about 416 Billion Korean Won) in sales in 2004 to just under US$500 Million in 2007.
Digital music sales have almost doubled to $393 Million in sales vs. $90 Million in physical CD sales. That means about 20% of sales in 2007 came from physical CD sales. Compare that with physical sales being about 50% of the total market in 2004.
Total Christian music sales in Korea in 2004 were at about $11.5 Million. Digital music sales comprised of less than 5% of sales then. In 2007, Korea saw total Christian music sales decline to $9.1 Million. Of that amount, about 42% of sales revenues came from digital.
While the loss of sales in the physical moved to the digital sales in the mainstream, the Christian digital music sales have not increased to compensate for the loss of the Christian physical CD sales. The Christian music market in general has actually declined by 21% between 2004 and 2007 year end.
Sales by Christian music genre breaks down this way:
61% Worship & Hymns (Church music)
17% Adult Contemporary/Pop
According to the report, Korea has seen an significant decrease in sales of AC/Pop sales compared with 2006 - about a 5% decline from 22% to 17% of the market. The rest of the genres of increased slightly from 2006.
Domestic Christian music sales dominate the marketplace. In 2007, over 70% of the music sales came from domestic/Korean language music product. The remaining 30% came from import and international licensing of Christian music.
Korea has seen an increase in Christian crossover artists selling their music in the mainstream and Christian marketplaces. Artists such as Heritage, Danny Jung, July and Lena Park have all done crossover albums and sold them in the mainstream. This is something the US experienced with artists like Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith in the early 1990's.
Here are some performance links I found on YouTube that you might find interesting...
Korean Gospel Music Group - Heritage YouTube Live Performance
Instrumentalist - Danny Jung YouTube Amazing Grace Performance
Lena Park - Lena Park YouTube Live Performance
Lena Park - Link to YesAsia (Buy Site)
The popularity of music purchased digitally is due mainly to the popularization of high speed internet, improved mobile phone networks and the popularity of cheap mp3 players in the market. (I found a great article on the history of the sales of mp3 players in Korea from JoongAng Daily -Korea's leading daily English language newspaper online.)
These popular websites service most of the Christian digital content in Korea: melon.com, ccmlove.com and godpeople.com. Christian music sites like ilikeccm.com, for example, are getting 900 unique vistors per day currently! Another website that is open to carrying more Christian music and digital content is interpark.com - Koreas leading online mall (seems to me to be just like Amazon.com).
According to the report from my distributor, the DRM-free market is stabilizing and more and more consumers are purchasing digital music from legal sources.
Obviously, with trends in the mainstream showing the looming death of physical CD sales in Korea and the rise of digital music sales, the Christian music market needs to go that way as well. Domestic/Korean language Christian music digital sales account for the major majority of sales digitally. An interesting point - I could not find English language Christian music sold digitally on any of these sites. I found it difficult, because of the language barrier, to distinguish CDs from mp3s, but it seemed only physical CDs of the most popular music (Hillsong, Michael W. Smith, Delirious?, etc.) is available on these Christian websites in Korea. I assume iTunes Korea has them (via the US connections), but I did not check those.
I have 2 questions for the industry.
1. Is American/English language Christian music available for download on these highly targeted digital sales sites?
2. If not, what is keeping this from happening?
It seems, looking at the research, that there is great potential in Korea for English Language music as well. Many of the popular Korean artists sing songs in English too.
I draw several conclusions from my research today. Music sales are stronger than ever in Korea. Faith-based music in Korea is alive and well, but the lack of availability of English-language content digitally has fallen behind which has accounted for the drop in overall Christian music sales in the market. The purchasing power of Korean consumers is strong; between 26 - 46% of Korean consumers consider themselves to be Christian. The church and Christian artists in Korea are producing quality music with top production value. They are delivering it via many Christian and mainstream online and digital outlets available in the highly developed Korean society. I would expect English-language content to be more available in 2008 as more English-language content becomes available and digital sales to grow in 2008. We'll see - more on this this time next year!
Other Notable Articles, Associations, Blogs and Commentaries on Korea and Music:
Wikipedia - K-pop
Korea Music Copyright Association
Largest Church in the World
Christianity in Korea