Yesterday, it was revealed that the major Korean music sites have banded together and effectively banned midnight releases.
According to various industry insiders, the major Korean music sites — Melon, Bugs, Genie, Mnet, Soribada, Naver Music, Monkey3 — will be undergoing a reform in how their charts are managed. Namely, songs released at midnight will not enter charts until the following afternoon at 1 p.m. Only performance of songs released between 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. will immediately be reflected in real-time charts. Performance of any songs released outside of this window will show in music charts the following afternoon. This will hold true for both weekdays and weekends.
But why, right? Well, the reasoning seems to be valid at least on the surface.
Midnight is a target release time for many artists. Because of the late hour, there are fewer users online, so when fans gather for a release, it’s comparatively easier for artists to hit No. 1 on the charts, achieve an all-kill, or even line up their songs on a single chart. This issue surrounding midnight releases has been consistently brought up within the industry for some time. With these new changes, music sites aim to maintain fair rankings and prevent sudden waves of changes in the charts, as well as prevent alleged “sajaegi” (when companies buy their artists’ albums to chart high).
If this seems targeted at fandoms, it should. Basically this is aimed at creating a chart that better reflects the music that the general public listens to, and a part of that is trying to put obstacles in the way for fandoms to “unfairly” influence the charts.
Unsurprisingly then, the fans … they are mad.
Following this announcement, the hashtag “#MusicChart_ReformProtest” started trending in Korea.
“Who consumes music more legally than idol fans, who buy streaming rights every month and download music [from Korean music sites]? [Music sites] made the five-minute charts and graphs and such, and now they’re taking action against idol fans. Why don’t you place the blame with everyone who doesn’t stream music late at night [after midnight]?”
Industry insiders also doubt the changes, though for different reasons.
Some industry insiders have also expressed skepticism at the change. One source said, “Just getting rid of charts for new songs [released at midnight] because idols with a lot of fans always top charts.. it’s unclear how effective that will be.”
Offering an alternative, one industry source said, “If they want to make music charts fair, they first need to propose transparent criteria for the charts. They’d be better off getting rid of all real-time charts and leave just a daily and weekly chart, or an overall chart.”
I’m 100% for anything that helps the digital music charts better reflect the opinion of the general public rather than fandom power, as the former is generally what it’s useful for determining anyway.
So I don’t disagree with this in theory, but I do sort of agree with the industry insiders quoted, at least in the sense that I’m skeptical how effective this will be against the larger fandoms anyway, that transparency is needed, and that getting rid of the real-time bait would probably have a more significant impact.
It’ll be something to monitor going forward for sure, but more than preventing the fandoms of marquee idol groups from influencing the charts, it sure seems more likely this will just end up preventing the fandoms of nugu idol groups from helping them chart at all.