Want to Sell CDs? Take a Lesson from Kpop Superstars TWICE

TWICE and Japan Teach Musicians How To Sell CDs Again

Peter Rowlands (CC by 2.0)

If CDs are dead, apparently Kpop bands like TWICE and even Ari Herstand haven’t heard the news.

You’ve seen the financial results. After the end of each financial quarter, music labels post disappointing news about physical-format sales. CDs, along with digital downloads, are no longer hot items in the market. In fact, Midia warned that thanks to streaming,

“…The impending CD collapses in Germany and Japan all mean that it would be unwise to expect recorded music revenues to register uninterrupted growth over the next 3 to 5 years.”

Apparently, no one told Kpop nor Jpop groups about impending CD collapses.  Kpop girl group TWICE led the way, recently topping music charts once again with their new mini-album, ‘TWICEcoaster: Lane 2.’  The lead track Knock Knock claimed No. 1 across eight local music charts in South Korea.

Melting secured the second spot on Soribada, Mnet, and Olleh music. On Naver Music, Genie, and Bugs, Melting ranked within the top five.

Other Kpop artists are also doing well with their CD sales.

So, why are CD sales declining across the United States and Europe, yet doing so well in Asia? One just has to take a look at how Asian music labels are packaging CDs.

Collectible Cards: A New Way to Package Boring, Old CDs

According to The Spinoff’s Gareth Shute, CD sales continue to soar in Japan.  CD sales charts are dominated mostly by Jpop acts. To generate more sales, Jpop artists often release collectible, limited-edition singles and CDs. Shute confirms what a Japanese music executive recently told DMN.

Music executives often tie CD and single purchases with exclusive artist meet-and-greets. Buy the CD, and you can meet a Jpop artist or group member for 10 minutes and have your CD signed.  If you don’t buy the CD, you can’t meet the artist.

This isn’t only limited to Japan. Over in South Korea, instead of just packaging boring, old CDs with a disc and a cover picture, the new TWICE album apparently comes with a J.Y. Park photocard, according to a social media fan posting. The album included Dahyun and Tzuyu bookmarks, a Tzuyu photocard, and a J.Y. Park photocard.

While allkpop dismissed the J.Y. Park shot as a probable hoax, over on boards.net, user levelgrind posted information on Twice’s albums. They include collectible photocards for fans.

[THE FIRST MINI ALBUM – THE STORY BEGINS]

Album comes with a CD, garland and 32-page photobook.

Comes with 3 cards (1 unit card out of 3; 1 red card out of 9; 1 pink card out of 18)

RED CARDS ( NAYEON – JUNGYEON – MOMO – SANA – JIHYO – MINA – DAHYUN – CHAEYOUNG – TZUYU )

PINK CARDS ( NAYEON 1, 2 – JUNGYEON 1, 2 – MOMO 1, 2 – SANA 1, 2 – JIHYO 1, 2 – MINA 1, 2 – DAHYUN 1, 2 – CHAEYOUNG 1, 2 – TZUYU 1, 2 )

UNIT CARDS ( A (NAYEON, SANA, TZUYU) B (MINA, DAHYUN, JUNGYEON) C (JIHYO, MOMO, CHAEYOUNG) )

(Taiwanese press comes with two random cards out of 12; one red card and a group card. These have square corners.)

[THE SECOND MINI ALBUM – PAGE TWO]

Album comes with a CD and in two editions, pink and mint; each have a different  garland and 72-page photobook.

Comes with 4 cards (1 unit card out of 3; 1 selfie card out of 9; 1 flower card out of 9; one lenticular card out of 9)

SELFIE CARDS ( NAYEON – JUNGYEON – MOMO – SANA – JIHYO – MINA – DAHYUN – CHAEYOUNG – TZUYU )

FLOWER CARDS ( NAYEON – JUNGYEON – MOMO – SANA – JIHYO – MINA – DAHYUN – CHAEYOUNG – TZUYU )

UNIT CARDS ( A (MINA, CHAEYOUNG, TZUYU) B (SANA, DAHYUN, JIHYO) C (MOMO, NAYEON, JUNGYEON) )

LENTICULAR CARDS ( NAYEON – JUNGYEON – MOMO – SANA – JIHYO – MINA – DAHYUN – CHAEYOUNG – TZUYU )

[THE THIRD MINI ALBUM – TWICECOASTER LANE 1]

Album comes with 1 of 9 CD plates and in two editions, apricot and neon magenta; each have a different photobook, sticker and a set of photos.

The pre-order edition comes with a set of 9 cards and limited edition poster.

Some albums randomly have a 1/1000 Super Card.

Comes with 2 cards (1 Selfie Card, 1 Hologram Card)

SELFIE CARDS ( NAYEON – JUNGYEON – MOMO – SANA – JIHYO – MINA – DAHYUN – CHAEYOUNG – TZUYU )

HOLOGRAM CARDS ( NAYEON – JUNGYEON – MOMO – SANA – JIHYO – MINA – DAHYUN – CHAEYOUNG – TZUYU )”

On board.net, Kpop fans went on to write about the collectible cards. Some griped about the overwhelming quantity of cards. Others had yet to figure out how they would collect all the cards.

At a recent book signing, Ari Herstand, a regular writer at DMN, said that many people still buy CDs at shows. Though the CD sales come from die-hard fans, they still provide smaller-time artists with modest revenue generators. Although streaming now paves the way for different revenue streams, some fans want to support indie artists through CD sales. Serious die-hard fans will buy vinyl.

Alternative Yet Controversial? Forms of Making Money in the Music Industry.

Shute also explains how young bands in Japan have come up with new ideas to generate even more money. Some leverage personal relationships with fans by selling single Polaroid shots of themselves. Others receive mitsu (slang for money) from fans. Japanese fans often send letters accompanied with mitsu.

Band members may even ask fans for clothing and instruments they need via social media. Going further, fans can also attend uchiage, or drinking parties. The sponsors as well as the bands receive a percentage of drink sales.

Business practices don’t stop there. If things go further, according to Shute, a “lucky” fan may become a mitsukano (derived from kanojo, which means girlfriend). The mitsukano may provide regular payments for dates.

Yet, these “business tactics” are not without controversy. Music executives as well as Jpop artists have faced accusations of manipulating fans through mitsu and other demands. Some top bands follow the rule of tsunigari, which disallow relationships between fans and bands. However, in the western music industry, marketing to obsessive fans is a common thing. Shute cites VIP tickets as a classic example. He writes,

“Having a social connection with an artist that you admire is one thing that can’t be digitally copied…After all, musicians have to feed themselves somehow.”

Shute’s article goes on to discuss the future of music in Japan, which may include robots. Yet, as South Korean bands as well as Japanese bands find success through collectibles, will the West find new ways to sell CDs? Or here in the States and in Europe, are CDs just as good as dead?

4 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    There are some good ideas here. Though if labels really want to make physical CDs and permanent downloads relevant again, I still think they should window their new releases in these formats for a few months before making them available to the streaming subscription services. They shouldn’t let pirates and Google dictate their distribution strategy.

    • doktor audio

      your 2nd and 3rd sentence are contradictional. the cd and the digital download are the world’s all-time easiest and quickest music formats to pirate and put on google.

  2. Louise

    what makes kpop fan buy albums is also the photobook and photocard , along with other bonuses when they preorder ( such as postcards or stickers ) . Most of the times , an album will have multiple “versions” , wich means two or three different packagings and photobook for 1 album . It sounds maybe dumb , but if i have to spend $15 on an album , i’d prefer having goodies and special photos instead of a jewel case …