Late last month, a report came out that basically was a gift to conspiracy theorists, as it stated that companies were manipulating music chart rankings so that their groups would appear more popular than they actually were.
The issue surrounding the method of ‘album hoarding’, used by middlemen to fabricate music charts rankings, was investigated on the most recent episode of SBS‘ ‘One Night of TV Entertainment‘.
One broker revealed, “This has been done many times. There is no risk, and the business is located in China.” He continued, “It can raise an album’s position on music charts. If that is the goal then the cost will begin at around 100,000,000 KRW (~$87,000 USD), which is why only big companies do this. Even reaching the first place spot is possible. If you want to snatch the #1 spot as soon as the song/album is released, you’re looking to invest an amount that exceeds $87,000. However, it must be done subtly or you will get caught.”
The middlemen create fake IDs to buy the albums in bulk, which in turn raises the albums’ ranks on music charts. In the case of new artists, they slowly increase their rank from 50th, 30th, 20th, and eventually to 1st over a long-term period as it’s a process that is carefully thought out.
Shouldn’t be that surprising that stuff like this might happen, right? I mean, people are prone to liking things because other people like them, and reputation is a big part of the entertainment industry, so the cost/benefit aspect of it for companies would seem to make sense.
Besides, it’s not like this is the first time a buyback issue has come to light.
Another specialist revealed that he helped an anonymous girl group get to the #1 spot on SBS‘ ‘Inkigayo‘ by using this method. He expressed, “It costs around 150 million Won ($130,000 USD) to get a group to retain a position around 7th through 15th place for a month,” while also revealing that since entertainment agencies can collect funding to pay the brokers through the album sales, they use this approach.
Notably, another professional middleman revealed that even real-time search keyword fabrication was possible. The broker stated, “Raising the position of a real-time keyword is expensive. It’s around [$4,300 USD] per hour. For peak time periods, it is around [$7,000 USD] per hour.”
The speculation regarding the identity of the groups is nothing short of amusing. What a mess.
Everybody from Super Junior to SISTAR to f(x) to A Pink is being thrown under the bus, but it’s probably a lot more extensive than just one isolated incident.
SISTAR though, has drawn particular attention.
However, in response to the situation, one music site representative spoke up saying, “This is impossible. The website has a name authorization system, a purchase limit for each ID, and even an expenditure limit. Buyers are also constrained from buying the same album with the same ID. I’m curious as to how this can be possible.”
Boy, that’s not much of a defense, is it? The multiple fake IDs is part of the scam, broseph. Come on, now.
Anyway, I see people accusing the major companies of doing this for their marquee groups, but I see no reason why SNSD/Super Junior/Big Bang/2NE1/Wonder Girls and the likes would need artificial boosting. I think there’s a possibility that newer groups like EXO might be involved, but other than that, I doubt major companies would waste their time spending money to pump up groups that are already market leaders. If anything, it would make sense for big companies to be spending money to hype their product in foreign markets, including Japan and America.
Small companies though? I can completely see why they would take the risk of spending money to gain exposure. Brave Brothers has developed quite a reputation for this, and while the article states that the cost is prohibitive, I disagree. Big companies get attention regardless of what they do, it’s the smaller companies that figure to take on more risk in exchange for the exposure/reputation payoff.