The Secret Behind K-Pop's High Album Sales

K-Pop album with photocards, stickers, and CD. Original photo by Isabella Da Silva Sodre The K-Pop industry is now well known to the Western public, and as most of us might have noticed - it is much different than what we are used to. K-Pop is not only popular music from South Korea, but it is an industry with many layers that often goes unnoticed to the international public. One of the main differences we can observe is the high amount of album sales K-Pop artists have. I am not referring to digital album sales, but physical ones. 


K-Pop thrives on physical album sales in an era where CD players are barely used. So, how do they do it? The answer is clear: albums are not solely composed of a CD and a cover. The industry creates a high demand for albums by stressing the importance of the album's design and the goods that come with them. For that reason, albums are not bought only for the music, but for the experience it provides fans with.


K-Pop posters hanging on the well. Original photo by Isabella Da Silva Sodre The main components of albums are a CD and a photobook, with the latter having exclusive photoshoots of the artists and often an explanation of each song's lyrics plus the lyrics themselves. It also has the presence of random photocards, which creates a feeling of surprise since fans are never aware of what photocard they will pull. If you don't pull your favorite member or favorite photocard, chances are you will buy another album.


K-Pop albums in a shelve along with other decorations. Lara Bianca Alves Furthermore, these albums often come in at least two versions with different concept photos and different goods. In fact, there is not even a rule regarding the number of album versions that can be made. The album EXODUS from the boy group EXO, for example, has 20 versions available in two languages, Korean and Chinese. While this example is a little on the extreme side, most albums will have a range of two to four versions each.

There is also not a set rule regarding what extra goods may come along with each copy. Certain albums may have posters, stickers, or both. Not only that, but album sales impact an artists' weekly position at South Korean music shows, where artists with the best numbers win a trophy for that specific week. That stimulates fans to buy as many albums as possible, so their favorite group(s) can reach the number one position.

BTS/K-Pop albums and lightstick on a shelve. Original photo by Isabella Da Silva Sodre

There are many other reasons why K-pop album sales thrive, including winning a fansign spot where you get to meet your favorite group. However, it is necessary to buy a high amount of albums in most cases for that to happen. No matter what the reason is, there is always a need to buy one more album.