K-pop hits 100 mln copies in annual album sales milestone in 2023

December 18, 2023

The K-pop industry has achieved an unprecedented milestone this year as annual domestic sales of physical albums reached the 100 million mark.

Circle Chart, a leading tracker of local albums sales, reported Tuesday that the top 400 physical albums collectively sold 116 million copies in the first 11 months of 2023.

This represents a remarkable 144 percent increase from 80 million copies in the same period last year, setting a record of 100 million copies in annual sales even before factoring in December’s figures.

In fact, the cumulative sales for this year had already surpassed 106 percent of the entire 2022 annual total by September and crossed the 100 million mark the following month.

November alone saw a further surge, with 15.16 million copies added to the total. This represents a 217.2 percent increase from a year ago, breaking the monthly record set in the previous month.

“The number of months with sales exceeding 10 million copies was only one last year, but it has increased to six this year,” said Kim Jin-woo, head researcher of Circle Chart.

But he emphasized the need for continued monitoring due to sluggish exports to China and Southeast Asian countries. “Those are markets K-pop basically has to give weight for further growth,” he added.

The recent growth seems to be led by passionate fandoms of boy groups.

Stray Kids dominated the November sales ranking, accounting for 27.7 percent of the total. BTS vocalist Jungkook came in second, followed by Enhypen and Zerobaseone.

Notably, the top spots between July and October were also held by male groups or singers — NCT Dream, NCT, BTS’ V and Seventeen.

Digital downloads of the top 400 songs on Melon and four other major music services in South Korea have been steadily declining since May, however.

November experienced a 20.1 percent drop compared to the same month last year and a staggering 44.9 percent drop compared to the pre-pandemic November 2019.

Kim attributes this decline to several factors, including a lower number of business days in November compared to other months and a possible shift to foreign platforms like YouTube Music.