It’s been clear for some time that YouTube is playing a significant role in the continued growth in the popularity of K-Pop outside South Korea. It’s also something we’ll be digging into at the NY:LON Connect conference in January, where YouTube Music’s head of music content partnerships and subscriptions for Korea and Greater China, Sun Lee, will be keynoting.
If you’re interested in the topic, though, the latest instalment in The Verge journalist Dani Deahl’s series on ‘The Future of Music’ is well worth a read. Initially focusing on the collaboration between Steve Aoki and K-Pop band Monsta X, it also has some data from YouTube’s head of culture and trends Kevin Allocca.
“If you look at the top 25 most-watched K-pop groups over the past year, 90 percent of the views are coming from outside of South Korea,” being one of them. “Half of the biggest 24-hour debuts on YouTube are all K-pop groups,” being another. And given the intense fandom around these groups, this is more about organic fan-power, rather than (to cite an ongoing controversy) splashing money on TrueView ads to inflate view counts.
Allocca also says that the top K-pop songs get almost twice as many likes and five times as many comments as top songs from other genres, and points to the fact that the keenest K-Pop fans create reaction videos, dance-cover videos, lyric translations and other content that sits around their favourite bands’ videos on YouTube. Deahl notes that the likes of Monsta X deliberately sprinkle easter eggs in their videos now, to fuel the fan community’s desire to pick over every detail of their work.
It’s no wonder that YouTube is putting some of its commissioning budget behind K-Pop groups. The latest example being a travel documentary featuring TVXQ! and Super Junior focusing on six members of those bands backpacking in Indonesia. “A rare personal vacation,” as the press release optimistically puts it, given that being followed around by a camera crew filming a 12-part documentary for the biggest video platform on the planet isn’t exactly a holiday.
The documentary’s first episode drops on 9 October as a free, ad-supported video on the SMTOWN channel, with subsequent episodes released on a weekly basis for free – although YouTube Premium subscribers will get them all on day one. That’s interesting, by the way: YouTube recently announced that its ‘originals’ would all be free and ad-supported now, but it seems that the ability to binge-view them will remain behind its paywall. That may be an effective incentive to upgrade, given the fervour of K-Pop fandoms.