“Topping charts makes you the best?”
Oricon. It’s a familiar word. With idol groups pouring into Japan, articles related to the Oricon Charts have been flooding Korea. Recently, we’ve seen more than a handful of articles without the title ‘So-and-So Tops Oricon’s OO Charts’. It’s all thanks to the exclusive contracts signed with Japanese agencies and their strategic debuts.
On the 29th of September, three Korean idol groups topped the various categories of the Oricon charts. T-ara, TVXQ and 2NE1 beat Japanese singers to come out on top in the daily single charts, the daily album charts and the weekly album charts respectively.
But we mustn’t just accept a ‘No. 1′ on the Oricon Charts for its outward appearance. This is because though it may be the same ‘No. 1′, the internal stability is totally different. One representative of the K-Pop industry stated, “Every idol group that has entered the Japanese market is using an Oricon marketing strategy,” and “The Oricon charts represent album sales.What matters is the actual number of copies sold, not the rankings.“
In fact, the ‘No.1′ spots by the three groups appeared to look the same, but were completely different when looked into. The actual amount of albums sold, as well as the difference in albums sold with the second highest album on the charts, made a clear distinction between these achievements. We’ve delved into the truth that lies between the number ’1′ on the Oricon Charts and we were able to compare the actual popularity of these idol groups in Japan.
◆”The ‘No.1′s are all the same? The nutritional value is different”
Last month, TVXQ, T-ara and 2NE1 dominated the Oricon charts as they topped the daily album charts, the daily single charts and the weekly album charts respectively. But the evaluation they received was completely different. While one topped the charts with soaring album sales that were above everyone else, another topped the charts thanks to a successful fence-sitting strategy.
The team with the highest nutritional value in their achievement was TVXQ. They sold 105,486 copies of their new album ‘TONE’ on the first day. This is the first time since their debut in Japan that they have sold over 100,000 copies of an album on its release date. And the difference in album sales between TVXQ and second place was immense. They sold almost nine times more than ‘Sakanaction’, who sold 17,957 copies of their album. TVXQ’s first day album sales can easily put on the same level as that of Japan’s top singers such as Ayumi Hamasaki and V6.
T-ara’s achievements were quite surprising. They ranked high on the daily and weekly charts of their debut single ‘Bo Beep Bo Beep’. Selling 20,068 copies on their debut date, these figures are similar to the average number of singles Japanese singers sell when they top the Oricon single charts. What’s equally surprising is the fact that T-ara beat SID, who have been named the hottest artistes of the year in Japan. On the day of T-ara’s debut, SID sold 16,851 copies of their single and came in at second place.
2NE1′s ‘No.1′ came out of sheer luck. ‘Nolza’ topped the weekly charts (19th~25th) with 26,334 copies sold, barely beating the modern rock group ‘Every Little Thing’ with a 5,149 copies difference. But 2NE1′s weekly album sales are similar to what T-ara sold in a single day (21st). It would be meaningless to even attempt to compare them with TVXQ. 2NE1 was able to top the charts thanks to the fact that luckily, there wasn’t much competition against them.
◆”Comparing their future value with all Hallyu-dols”
All the records set by Hallyu-dols till now can become a standard to compare the true value of these top spots on the charts. No other idol can be compared to TVXQ and their activities. T-ara’s debut achievements are similar to that of Girls’ Generation and KARA. Though 2NE1 ranked high on the album charts with their debut album, there’s no substance in their win.
First of all, TVXQ are the undisputed top dogs and boast an absolute advantage in album sales. They are constantly breaking their own records. For example, this is the first time they’ve sold over 100,000 copies on their first day. This shows that JYJ leaving the group didn’t hinder TVXQ’s Japanese activities and regardless of the long hiatus they took, they are still powerful in the industry.
T-ara, who sold 20,000 copies of their single on the first day, came out on top ahead of their competition of Rainbow (10,141 copies) and After School (9,060 copies) who debuted around the same time. T-ara’s achievements can be compared to that of Girls’ Generation or KARA’s weekly results. The two groups sold around 40,000 copies of their debut singles and T-ara sold a total of 49,712 copies of their single in their first week.
Though 2NE1 topped the charts with their debut album that sold 26,334 copies, they’ve mostly been met by criticism of ‘sneak thieving’. There’s no substance in their win as their weekly album sales are only one fifth to one tenth of the album sales of KARA and Girls’ Generation’s weekly album sales. KARA sold 107,403 copies of ‘Girls’ Talk’ while Girls’ Generation sold 232,000 copies of ‘Girls’ Generation’
◆”Oricon Marketing, What matters more than the rankings is internal stability”
Oricon boasts the most powerful influence in the J-Pop market. That may be why K-Pop agencies are focusing their efforts on Oricon marketing. It is being used as a mere tool to show off idol groups’ achievement. But we must not be fooled by the mere outward appearance of a ‘No.1′ spot as the ranking may be the same, but the actual worth of the win is completely different.
An expert in the J-Pop industry stated, “You have to look into when and from whom the ‘No.1′ spot was taken. There’s a big difference in releasing an album at the same time as ‘SMAP’ and at the same time as a rookie group,” and criticized the bubble surrounding the No.1 title as he pointed out, “It would be a mistake for one to use only a ‘No.1′ spot on the Oricon Charts to gauge a group’s popularity in Japan.“
Of course, there’s no reason to devalue the worth of the charts’ rankings. No matter whether the competition was fierce or not, a ‘No.1′ spot on the Oricon charts is a meaningful achievement. The problem is the exaggerated reports made on such achievements. We must not distort the essence of the charts in order to make an image of a Hallyu star. What’s more important than rankings is internal stability, and this can only be achieved through high album sales.
A representative of the K-Pop industry stated, “The gauge for a group’s popularity lies in their album sales. The numbers that change every day and every week are nothing but a mirage. A bubble that can burst at any minute,” and “Instead of obsessing over numbers, idol groups should focus on honing their skills. What’s most important is to gain a competitive edge if one wants to survive in the Japanese market for a long period of time.“