SEOUL, Sept. 23 (Korea Bizwire) - With suspicious IDs turning up in large quantities on music sites, industry watchers are expressing concern that sales charts are being manipulated.
Questions over entertainment companies purchasing songs in bulk have been stirring since 2012. But after thousands of IDs with serial numbers of a similar pattern were found on melon.com, a popular music site, all attention is on the IDs and who “intentionally” made them. It could be fans of a certain singer, working together to boost sales of the songs their idol released. Or, it could be an entertainment company that outsourced the dirty work to companies that specialize in these types of bulk purchases.
In the 90s, when album sales were the yardstick of popularity, there were suspicions that CDs were being hoarded. Now, with music being distributed digitally, music charts are determined by mp3 sales. Ever since, music chart rankings influenced everything from making appearances on TV music program to winning annual music awards.
Naturally, rumors started that music was being purchased in order for certain songs or groups to enter the upper echelons of the music charts. Rumors abound that there is a professional broker who buys music, and there is a business in China where they charge you 500 won for every ID they create to buy music, among others.
Some music business officials even insinuated that instead of brokers, singers’ managers are making the purchases under the name of ‘marketing’. “It is said to cost about 70 million won for three days of work, 120 million won for a week, and 200 million for two weeks. These illicit purchases were usually done during the night, but recently, such purchases have been considered ‘suspicious’ and are not reported. So, they say they are extra careful when they buy music, trying to make it look natural.”
Realistically, even if one “invests” 200 million won to hoard music, it is difficult to recoup the money through increased sales. Even so, industry officials say it is tempting as competition is fierce on the Melon music chart. The higher a singer ranks on the chart, the more likely it is that singers will be seen as having “made it in the business”. So the expenditures are considered as marketing costs.
Site users tend to listen to the songs at the top of the charts. As such, getting exposure in that area is crucial, as it influences rankings for music programs on TV.
However, taking measures to stop these attempts to game the system is not easy. Only an email address is needed to join a music site, making it possible to have multiple IDs.
The self-policing of the music industry might be one way to solve the problem fundamentally, but officials say that as a platform ‘Melon’ should also make efforts to stop the hoarding of music. Suspicious IDs and purchases should be monitored and filtered, and the chart rankings should be fair. Also, since the importance of the charts has grown during the years, the industry and government should take continuous action together.
Industry officials state their hopes to make music chart manipulation disappear. “It has become a world where people get suspicious if you rank #1 on the music charts or if your song makes a comeback and gains popularity again. We hope these types of illicit purchases and related suspicion will disappear.”
By Francine Jung (firstname.lastname@example.org)