Justin Bieber has been the most popular music artist on YouTube by the metric of channel subscriptions for a while, but now he has been knocked off his perch by K-Pop group Blackpink. Their channel has 66.3 million subscribers at the time of writing, nudging ahead of Bieber’s 65.1 million to take top spot in the artist rankings.
Note the word ‘artist’ though. The most subscribed-to music channel on YouTube is still the flagship property of Indian company T-Series, with its 192 million (!) subscribers. Zee Music’s main channel, with 76.6 million subscribers, is also ahead of Blackpink in the overall rankings.
Still, it’s a noteworthy moment for K-Pop’s continued global expansion, for which YouTube has been the most important platform. BTS are part of this too, of course, although their videos are split between two channels: their own BangtanTV (57.8 million subscribers) and the one belonging to the company they’re signed to, Hybe (61.2 million).
A glance at YouTube’s public data on Blackpink quantifies their growth on the platform. In the last year, their music has generated more than 10bn plays on YouTube, and South Korea is only the tenth top country for those streams. South-East Asia is a key stomping ground: 909m views in Indonesia in the last year, 755m in the Philippines and 704m in Thailand.
But note too Blackpink’s 693m views in India in the last year, plus 601m in Brazil and 548m in Mexico. As an industry, we tend to judge K-Pop’s ‘global’ success by the impact of BTS and Blackpink in the US. The latter’s music has generated 478m views there in the last year, but K-Pop’s growth in Latin America and India is the bigger trend we should be talking about.
YouTube isn’t the only global streaming platform helping K-Pop to spread to the world, of course. In separate news, Spotify celebrated the seventh birthday of its flagship ‘K-Pop Daebak’ playlist with some stats. It has generated 1.7bn streams and nearly 5.3bn minutes of listening, and grown to more than 3.1 million subscribers in that time.
In the list of the playlist’s top 10 countries by streams in that first seven years – South Korea is absent due to Spotify only launching there this year – the US tops the list, with Asia again looming large: Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and more. Brazil, meanwhile, takes ninth spot.