K-pop album exports hit a record US$132.93 million in the first half of 2023 as global expansion continues

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K pop album exports hit a record US13293 million in the | Richmcculley

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Seoul, South Korea. Photo credit: Ciaran O’Brien

As artists like Blackpink and EXO continue to make commercial waves on the global stage, K-pop album exports have reportedly hit a record $132.93 million in the first half of 2023.

This latest K-pop sales data point has only recently been brought to light in reports from regional media such as the Korea Times and the Korea Customs Service database. The aforementioned $132.93 million represents a 17.1 percent improvement over the first and second quarters of 2022, according to the Times.

By country, Japan (home of the world’s second largest music market) is said to have topped the list of album imports with its US$48.52 million worth of K-pop releases consumed in the first half of the year. According to the figures, the US ranked second with imports worth US$25.51 million, edging out China (US$22.64 million) from the second spot the country had claimed for all of 2022.

Meanwhile, countries including Germany, the UK and Hong Kong, among others, are said to have followed with relatively sizable shares of the remaining roughly $36.26 million in K-pop album exports.

Of course, the record-breaking half-year export total has come under the media spotlight amid double-digit industry growth in South Korea in 2022. Additionally, the first seven months of 2023 have delivered a number of notable consumption stats and partnerships in the rapidly evolving K-pop space.

However, just last month, girl group (G)I-DLE topped the NetEase Cloud Music chart by selling 300,000 copies of a mini-album to fans in China — the country is now the fifth-biggest music industry in the world, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.

Also in June, boy band Stray Kids broke records by securing more than five million album pre-sales (and two million units sold on day one). 5 Stars – one of many planned releases as part of a collaboration between Universal Music/Republic and JYP Entertainment, also signed in June.

Additionally, SM partner Kakao Entertainment partnered with Sony Music’s Columbia Records in early 2023, and BTS agency Hybe (which is reportedly preparing for a nearly $400 million global acquisition) inked a new distribution deal with Tencent Music in May.

After hitting a billion Spotify streams in less time than any K-pop act to date, NewJeans’ debut solo single from BTS’ Jungkook racked up a staggering 15 million streams on Spotify on day one.

At the time of writing, the Latto collaboration in question, “Seven,” had amassed a staggering 68.28 million plays on the platform, despite seemingly representing a marked lyrical departure from BTS projects, which are self-evidently commercially successful.