Sunday, May 18, 2008

Korean Christian Music Market 2007 Summary

Koreaflag 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. 

Southkoreamap 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
11% Instrumental
9% Kids
2% Misc.

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.

Danny_jung_hymns_cdDomestic 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)

BeulahThe 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:, and  Christian music sites like, for example, are getting 900 unique vistors per day currently!  Another website that is open to carrying more Christian music and digital Lena_parkcontent is - Koreas leading online mall (seems to me to be just like   

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 Koreanchristians 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. 

Koreaworship 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
Copycare Korea
GMA Korea
Largest Church in the World
Christianity in Korea


  1. This is a fascinating post. I like how comprehensive it is, especially in areas to follow up in. Well done.

  2. Interesting!
    And thank you for the good summary of our report. I hope we have a chance to share our opinions about overseas market through this blog.

  3. You are a global maniac! I believe the largest Christian church in the world is in Korea. Makes sense that there would be such a large percentage of consumers calling themselves Christians. I think that English language music overall is something that all countries love because it assists them in learning the English language. In my experience in Africa, they love singing songs in English with us. It helps them hear pronunciation, context, idioms, etc. Such a powerful tool for memorizing the language too!