By Han Sang-hee
Popular K-pop songs will now be listed on a local music chart resembling the United States' Billboard Charts, enabling both fans and artists to further enjoy, protect and spread K-pop music.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Korea Music Content Industry Association launched the ``Gaon'' Charts at a hotel in Seoul, Tuesday, with hopes that it will create a more systemized and reliable music industry.
The word ``gaon'' means ``middle'' or ``center'' in Korean, and it was chosen to represent fairness and reliability.
Compared to U.S.'s Billboard Charts, which was launched in 1940, and Japan's 42-year Oricon, the local chart may be a bit late on the international music scene, but experts are expecting it will work as a well-balanced and an upgraded version of music charts.
The Gaon Chart is based on both online and offline data of album and music sales. It has ruled out radio airings, which play an important part in the Billboard Charts, and decided to focus on the transaction between music and buyers.
``It was only last year when we started this project. We have done many things to protect the rights of our musicians and their works, and I believe this chart will help as well. Music charts work as a bridge that introduces, spreads and exchanges musical contents to the world, and I believe this will be a chance to nurture the music industry,'' said Culture Minister Yu In-chon.
The local chart is divided into five categories: the Gaon Chart, Digital Chart, Online Chart, Mobile Chart and Album Chart.
The Album Chart sums up album sales by six major album distributing firms such as LOEN Entertainment, SM Entertainment, Sony Music Korea, Warner Music Korea, Universal Music and Mnet Media ―while the Mobile Chart will estimate the best selling ringtones and caller ring tunes each week. The Online Chart will calculate music source sales, online album sales and streaming services. Finally, the Digital Chart will sum up Online and Mobile Charts, while the Gaon Chart will present the final list that accumulates all of the top results. The Gaon Chart will be released once every six months, while the other four will be released offline and online on a weekly basis.
Online results will be made by calculating data given by top music Web sites such as Melon (www.melon.co.kr), Dosirak (www.dosirak.co.kr), Mnet (www.mnet.com) and Cyworld (www.cyworld.com). According to the association, the offline and online data will be those based on the results made by approximately 97 percent of Internet users who purchase music online.
Meanwhile, popular girl band Girls' Generation and boy group Super Junior took first place in the digital and album sales categories last year, respectively. According to the association, Girls' Generation's ``Gee'' was the most popular song, while Super Junior's ``Sorry Sorry'' sold the most albums throughout Korea in 2009.
Steve Choi, the director of the Korea Music Content Industry Association, explained that the online estimates needed more polishing, as they have not yet come up with a definite strategy on how to calculate online data.
``The Gaon Charts you see today is not the final product. It's the beginning of Korea's official chart and we need to polish it up for the time being,'' he said.
Indeed, the Gaon Charts is in its infancy. It is yet to be released in other languages other than Korean and still has a long way to go to be acknowledged by fellow countries. While major charts such as the Billboard Charts and the Oricon Charts categorize their system depending on the music genre, radio airings and type of albums, respectively, it has categorized its charts based on online and offline sales. This had made it a leading charting system in the digital age of music purchasing, but whether it will successfully be embedded in the music industry remains in question.
``We have never had an official music chart, despite the popularity of K-pop around the world. The music industry has changed drastically thanks to the Internet, and the Gaon Charts will be in the forefront of such changes in both technology and music distribution,'' said Bang Geuk-gyun, the head of the Korea Music Content Industry Association.
Internet users can find the Gaon Charts by visiting its Web site at www.gaonchart.co.kr.