K-Pop Entertainment Companies Thrive Abroad, Generating More Revenue Than at Home Through CDs and Photo Cards
Amid K-Pop’s global popularity, major South Korean music companies are experiencing greater profits from overseas than domestically.
Leading the industry, HYBE has surged its overseas sales to account for around 60% of its revenue, while JYP Entertainment marked the first half of this year with overseas sales surpassing domestic. YG Entertainment also witnessed a rise in overseas sales, nearly matching its domestic figures. The transformation of music companies into export businesses has been significantly boosted by the sales of CDs and photo cards.
This trend is most evident in companies like HYBE, which houses renowned K-Pop stars like BTS, Seventeen, NU’EST, and Enhypen.
According to a semi-annual financial report from the Financial Supervisory Service on the 21st, HYBE garnered 63.3% of its 1.316 trillion KRW first-half revenue from overseas, totaling 652.6 billion KRW. This amounts to two-thirds of the company’s revenue coming from outside the country.
Domestic sales accounted for 378.7 billion KRW, representing 36.7% of the total revenue.
Analyzing overseas sales by region, Asia took the lead with 317 billion KRW (30.7%), followed by North America at 287.2 billion KRW (27.8%). Other countries contributed 48.5 billion KRW, making up 4.7% of the total.
HYBE’s reliance on overseas sales can be attributed to the global success of BTS, with the company’s overseas sales ratio recording around 66.5% last year and 63.3% in the first half of this year.
Another major music company, JYP Entertainment, which houses groups like TWICE and Stray Kids, also saw its overseas sales account for 52.2% during the same period, surpassing domestic sales for the first time. YG Entertainment, home to BLACKPINK, recorded its highest-ever overseas sales ratio of 48.6%.
Korean music companies have evolved into robust export businesses thanks to the Korean Wave of K-Pop.
Encouraged by this atmosphere, the first half of this year witnessed K-Pop album exports reaching an all-time high of $132.934 million (approximately 178.3 billion KRW) based on customs data. However, this number does not account for amounts spent by overseas fans directly purchasing albums in Korea or through platforms like group orders, indicating that the actual scale of album exports is likely much larger.
The export powerhouses for music companies are undoubtedly CDs (albums) and their supporting product, photo cards.
Among HYBE’s first-half revenue, album (physical and digital) sales accounted for 41.7%. The share of albums in the total revenue has been steadily rising, from 30.0% in 2021 to 31.1% last year. During the same period, JYP’s album sales share was 51.3%.
In the music industry, HYBE is estimated to have sold albums worth over 200 billion KRW overseas in the first half of this year.
Photo cards have also emerged as valuable merchandise, not only in the idol music market but also in famous sports leagues like the NBA, MLB, NFL, and NHL, as well as popular Japanese manga series like “Pokémon” and “Yu-Gi-Oh!”
A music industry insider noted, “In the digital age, where music can be easily accessed anywhere, companies that produce intellectual property are shifting their business direction toward combining related merchandise to increase revenue.” They added, “This is a time to contemplate ways to protect publicity rights while enhancing the IP value of K-Pop stars.