Billboard, the renowned American music chart, has made a surprising move by excluding official artist websites that are widely used by local K-pop fans from its main singles chart, the “Hot 100.”
In response, some industry insiders have raised the question of whether Billboard is raising the bar for K-pop artists.
According to sources in the music industry on the 11th, Billboard recently announced that it would exclude direct-to-consumer (D2C) sites from its chart calculations through an official website chart preview article.
D2C sites refer to official online stores where specific artists, such as “BTS Official” (www.bts-official.us) or “Taylor Swift Official Store” (store.taylorswift.com), sell their own albums and music. These sites are often referred to as official websites.
The “Hot 100” chart aggregates data from streaming, official (music) video streams, radio airplay, physical and digital single sales.
These official websites have occasionally played a role as a pathway to target the “Hot 100” chart by offering digital singles at a lower price, releasing new versions with different jacket images, or selling remix versions, thereby increasing digital single download sales.
Apart from BTS, many successful K-pop acts on Billboard, including BLACKPINK, TOMORROW X TOGETHER, Stray Kids, Seventeen, and NCT, have their own official websites.
K-pop fans have shown significant support through downloads from official websites, focusing on the sales aspect rather than streaming or radio airplay, which tend to be relatively weaker for K-pop.
For example, looking at the recent case of Jimin’s “Like Crazy,” which topped the “Hot 100,” the song recorded sales of 254,000 during the ranking period from March 24 to 30, combining downloads and CD singles.
In comparison, Olivia Rodrigo’s “Vampire,” which topped the “Hot 100” this week, only recorded sales of 26,000. This shows the strength of K-pop in the download and CD market.
Therefore, Billboard’s sudden decision to exclude official websites, the main channel for digital downloads, from its chart calculations starting this month can be seen as raising the bar for K-pop artists.
Furthermore, Billboard’s continuous strengthening of download-related regulations in recent years adds weight to this interpretation.
Last year, Billboard drastically reduced the count of downloads per person for a specific song from four to one, excluding duplicate downloads from its calculations.
An official from a major entertainment agency stated, “Fans will find other ways to adapt to this change.”
Of course, it should be noted that fandom downloads through official websites are also utilized by local pop stars like Nicki Minaj, making it difficult to attribute this solely to “K-pop restriction.”