It's fall, which is apparently the time when Korean groups release music (whereas an American artist might release an album with 20-odd songs once every two years, Korean groups tend to release smaller "mini-albums" more frequently).
Anyway, at this point I'm familiar with a lot of these groups and have favorites, which means that I'm coping once again with the frustration of having music released--complete with videos and all kinds of expensive marketing--that I cannot buy, even though I want to.
Why not? Well, digital music is really big in the United States, but it's less big (or regarded simpy as a form of piracy) in Asia. In addition, Korea really exists in an alternate universe when it comes to the Internet--I assume because the market is small and wasn't really a priority for the big Silicon Valley firms, different companies have established themselves in Korea as the default Web sites. Koreans don't Google things, they Naver them. They don't socialize on Facebook, they socialize on CyWorld. Making things even more insular, in some cases you can't access entire Facebook-like categories of sites unless you register with your...Korean Social Security number! Which of course you have, because there are no non-Koreans anywhere on the planet!
So, yeah, you can rock marketing and selling to a Korean audience and be completely pathetic at marketing and selling to everyone else. You know, kind of like authors can rock at reaching other writers and suck at reaching readers--it's those "affinity group" blinders.
In addition, there's what looks an awful lot like "windowing" going on--the practice of not selling music (or books) in all formats right away on the theory that doing so will cannibalize sales.
Bullshit. Like I said before, if it ain't digital, I don't listen to it. I'm certainly not going to buy it, especially not at the prices they charge for import CDs.
As a result, there's been album releases that I really wanted to buy the moment they came out. (coughcoughZionT'sRedLightcoughcough) I'm sure other people did, too, and that might have led to some nice chart-topping visibility of the kind Jay Park recently experienced.
But nooooo. I had to wait months to buy Red Light, and of course I didn't know when it came out digitally, so I bought it when I found it (and it's lucky that I remembered to buy it at all). There goes your surge of buyers and your bestseller-list visibility.
And I'm sure this is a self-reinforcing thing. Zion T's label (the musically very fine Amoeba Culture) is going to look at his digital sales and say, "Well, that's not worth pursuing." And they'll never realize that the problem is that they're not doing it right.
Who is doing it right? You can imagine how much it pleases me to say that not only is Block B back, but they're doing it right! (Whoo!)
What are they doing? Well, they've pre-released a song off their upcoming mini-album, and they did it like this:
1. They offered it as a sponsored free download.
2. It's on sale at iTunes.
3. It will be on iTunes again, I'm sure, once the mini-album is released.
So if someone grabs the free download and then buys the mini-album, or they buy the single now and the mini-album later (since there's usually a discount on an entire album), Block B gets paid twice for the same song.
Do you think they read Joe Konrath's blog? Because this looks familiar. And the added bonus is that they're maximizing revenue in a way that does not make fans feel like they're getting ripped off--it's a free song! What's not to like?