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All the K-pop fans, where do they all come from?
During last year's T-ara War I was often wondering who all these people were, the commenters, the battlers. I made guesses (that most were in their teens or twenties, most were female) that I can't confirm; also wondered what countries they were posting from. I was watching the ones who posted in English, which I knew was an international language among Asians in East Asia, as well as among Europeans and North Americans, for communication across borders or — in places like the Philippines and Singapore — across ethnicities and language groupings. Usefully, hyotheleader, one of T-ara's staunchest and effective defenders last August (she* did the hard work of going through faked and out-of-context videos and photos and detailing exactly how they were bogus), has a flag counter appended to her Tumblr (lower right corner), which you can click to get much greater detail. Of course, that's just one person's Tumblr, it's skewed towards T-ara fans, obviously, since it's mostly devoted to reblogs of Hyomin pictures and gifs, and it'll skew towards followers from where Tumblr is most prominent and towards whatever reader trends accumulate on the basis of who started following her early and whom she started following early. Also, not everyone in a country is from that country.** Here are the numbers from a few days ago:

United States 14.9%
Thailand 13.7%
Malaysia 11.1%
Singapore 8.6%
Indonesia 7.9%
Vietnam 5.4%
South Korea 5.1%
Philippines 4.1%
Taiwan 3.0%
Canada 2.7%
Australia 2.1%
China 1.7%
Hong Kong 1.5%
United Kingdom 1.5%
Others 16.5%

Surprised that Japan is relegated to "Others"; T-ara's fanbase is probably strong enough in Japan that the fans don't have to worry about communicating in some language other than Japanese. Also surprised that Vietnam is so low, since if I went by what language provides the most subtitles to K-pop vids, Vietnamese seems second only to English (I say "seems" because I've never actually counted; but my impression is that no other language comes close to those two). Of course, this might indicate not just the strength of Vietnamese interest in K-pop, but a relative lack of English speakers in Vietnam compared to other Asian nations experiencing the Korean Wave.

Delving into "Others" is pretty interesting. The site's gotten over 300 unique visitors each from Japan, France, Saudi Arabia, Belgium, Germany, Mexico, Peru, Turkey, Spain, Chile, Netherlands, Sweden, Russia, Poland, Brunei, Kuwait, Mongolia, Romania. Countries with one visitor each are Namibia, Virgin Islands, Jersey, Botswana, Haiti, Gabon, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Nigeria, Aland Islands, Burkina Faso, Saint Lucia, Isle Of Man, Iran, Barbados, Tanzania, Fiji, Ethiopia.

[Wikipedia: "The Åland Islands or Åland (Swedish: Åland, Swedish pronunciation: [ˈoːland]; Finnish: Ahvenanmaa) is an autonomous, demilitarised, monolingually Swedish-speaking region of Finland that consists of an archipelago lying at the entrance to the Gulf of Bothnia in the Baltic Sea. Collectively, the islands in the archipelago form the smallest region of Finland, constituting 0.49% of its land area and 0.50% of its population."]

*I have to use a pronoun so I'm going with my guess that hyotheleader is a she, based on my feeling about her tone of voice. But I've no actual evidence of her gender.

Of course it's a stereotype to assume that her flavor of anguish last August and the fact that she's such an active fan makes her female. I suppose that there are probabilities associated with those stereotypes, but a probability isn't a certainty, and I'm going on the basis of Anglo-American stereotypes anyway. (Only actual number I've seen is from when I did a little work for the Australian Smash Hits circa 1990: I remember that, in one of their business pitches, Smash Hits listed demographic info about readership, including that it was something like 80 percent female. But a percentage for Kylie Minogue fans in 1990 in Australia doesn't necessarily give us a percentage for T-ara fans in 2012 in Asia or of Asian descent (a lot of them) or generally internationally.) I've just noticed that hyotheleader's got an "ask me anything" link (I keep forgetting that Tumblr provides that service), so I can ask her who she is, if she's a she, where she's from, etc. Btw, going by fan chants, if that's any indication, T-ara's fanbase, while mostly female, has more males than most other K-pop girl groups do.

**Since hyotheleader mostly posts pictures, she could well get visits from a lot of people who don't know English.

 photo Hyomin in red Roly-Poly perhaps.jpg

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A strong subbing effort isn't going to have a base of operations on Tumblr, due to all of the communication required. So they'll all be hanging out at the forum where the subbing is based.

And given how Japan's obsession with copyright extends to pictures, (which is why there's nearly no boyband online) and tumblr is aaaaalllll about uploaded media, the two aren't much of a fit. Online Jpop fan communities are necessarily half-underground now, with password protections for their sharing.

Of course, Tumblr has still gotten away with a good amount of Jpop because it's so hard to search for anything there. But that's just another indication of Japan's lack of interest in the site. They have 2ch.

Nonetheless, I think those stats are really interesting, that there's a pointer twoards Southeast Asia 1) having a strong English education program and 2) finding tumblr convenient enough to collaborate with instead of reinventing wheels making their own picboards. Also reminds me of an article that once said that Japan's video game industry has lagged behind US blockbusters because their games are continually wasting time building engines from scratch while US games all work on and off of the Unreal Engine.

I wonder how things are going to play out with Japan, given that (from what you and Mat have told me), there's still a strong market among music consumers for things, like CDs and DVDs, that you can actually carry in your arms and stuff. Now, I know that K-pop fandom also creates a market for things, special DVDs and collectibles; Mat was telling me that's how Super Junior keep the money coming in. But overall, if what I understand is correct, Korea is following the same basic model as the U.S.: downloads and streams, the business model for the streaming services being subscriptions and advertising, with the biz resigning itself to more royalties and fewer sales.* And the performers and agencies also do a lot of TV and ad work, with secondary rights being a big deal. In the short run the Japanese labels are doing well, with a domestic market that's helping them flourish. I don't know what happens in the long run. Korea is developing an international market, presumably based on high volume at low cost, while Japan relies on the domestic market. Can the Japanese music do that forever?

Another question, though, is what will happen to Korea when other countries start competing? Right now, there's no real competition for Hallyu, at least that I know of. But what about when other countries start producing music that sounds like K-pop? Korea seems to do a good job of patrolling its own borders, exporting music but not importing. (I assume that foreign acts like LMFAO and Carly Rae Jepsen and Maroon 5 and Michael Bublé do well under the radar, rarely getting higher than 40 or 50 on the Gaon chart, an occasional track getting as high as 25 or so for a week or two, but unlike K-pop tracks, hanging on for months and months.)

And what happens when Scandinavia and Germany and Disney start aiming acts at Southeast Asia? I don't know if back in the day Boney M and M2M were accidents, or if there was a serious marketing campaign aimed at Asia. Nor do I know what European acts are big in Asia right now. Haven't been following this.**

*Btw, my understanding or misunderstanding of what Google was doing over the past several years with YouTube was that they grabbed the market for visual streams without particularly trying to make money at it, the goal being to make sure that no one else got the market. Maybe kinda by accident K-pop is doing something loosely analogous in North America and Europe: not cornering a market, but creating a significant fanbase on YouTube etc., even while not getting much money from that fanbase, beyond live shows.

**I remember Michael Freedberg telling me that later Boney M material had a higher pitch sound to appeal more to the burgeoning Asian market, though I haven't really listened hard, comparatively, to see if this is right, if Boonoonoonoos and Ten Thousand Lightyears has a higher pitch or more brilliant sound than Love For Sale and Nightflight To Venus. My guess is, if this theory holds, the turning point would be "Hooray! Hooray! It's A Holi-Holiday." I think I'm just babbling now.

Edited at 2013-01-31 12:55 am (UTC)

Super Junior could probably keep the money coming on album sales alone, but other boybands somehow survive without really selling any music at all.

Youtube have changed the information available on who watches what a bit in the past year. For 'Gee' the "most important" places, whatever that means, are Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. The important groups are women 11-17 years old, women 18-24 and men 18-24.

Here's a new opinion piece on the state of the Japanese industry

I've been meaning to actually research this but so far haven't: I have a theory that no matter how popular a foreign song gets it will struggle to get to #1 because it's not available through as many channels as the Korean songs. For example I go to Melon and Taylor Swift's Red and see messages about the limited ways it's available to get, apparently only through download, and previews are limited.

Since I'm not a user at any Korean music portal I'm a bit clueless. But my theory is that in general Taylor Swift's music is more expensive to buy and less available on subscription services, thus less likely to get as high numbers on the charts as a Korean label's release.

Whether the changes to online pricing we've discussed affects this.. well I should probably get the facts straight before I speculate.

Edited at 2013-01-31 08:18 am (UTC)

Ah, I never thought to look for statistics on YouTube. It took me twenty minutes to figure out what to click on! For the Zombie version of "Lovey-Dovey," the "top locations" are Malaysia, South Korea, and Mongolia. They don't say how they compile this. Is it top locations over the life of the video, top locations in the last 15 minutes, or what? I don't believe Mongolia, I just don't. Not enough people. "Top demographics" are Female 13-17 years, Female 18-24 years, and Male 45-54 years! Hmmm. Fucking hmmm. Seeing as I'm older than that last group, I shouldn't make any ageist assumptions. But hmmm. Or "what's wrong with young men these days?" Also, how in the world does YouTube know the gender and age of the viewers? I don't believe I ever supplied that information to Google.

GLAM's "I like That" doesn't have top countries, but its top demographics are solidly XXO: Female 13-17 years, Female 18-24 years, and Female 25-34 years, in that order, I assume. 2NE1 "I Am The Best" Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Female 13-17 years, Female 18-24 years, Male 13-17 years. (All right, why am I endorsing cultural prejudices that work against me by being happier about the male 13-17 years for 2NE1 than the male 45-54 years for T-ara?) Primary "Question Mark" is location-free, demographics are Female 13-17 years, Female 18-24 years, Male 18-24 years. Epik High "Up" Female 13-17 years, Female 18-24 years, Female 25-34 years. Okay, it's about time, Mic Swagger ft. Huckleberry P (SOOLj's series) South Korea, Canada, United States, Male 25-34 years, Male 18-24 years, Male 45-54 years. Drunken Tiger "Convenience Store" South Korea, United States, Canada, Male 25-34 years, Male 18-24 years, Female 13-17 years. LPG "Doorbell Of Love" South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Male 45-54 years, Female 13-17 years, Male 35-44 years (okay, scratching my head at the female 13-17 years). Shinyoo "Hands Of The Clock" (currently 25 on Billboard's K-pop chart, which it will never leave, ever), a live version from 2008, South Korea, Japan, Northern Mariana Islands, Male 45-54 years, Male 55-64 years (hurrah! I finally made it!), Male 35-44 years.

Google guesses your age, gender and interests based on the websites you visit while logged into a Google service. You can actually see what you're classified - and give them more information about yourself - at

I remember the last time I did this, I was a 13-17 yo boy with an interest in fiction and technology. Right now I seem to be an ageless, genderless being with an interest in East Asian Music, har har.

As far as 2NE1 having a lot of 13-17 yo boy fans, based on my personal experience I'm going to guess that those are actually boyish girls.

Meanwhile, another Kpop video with a lot of "middle-aged male" viewers is Sistar's Alone. Maybe it's the music, maybe it's the sexy dancing, or maybe it's Brave Brothers somehow artificially inflating the view count, as he is rumored to have done on almost all Sistar's releases but especially on Alone. Or maybe it's all three.

Hah! They think I'm older than I am. This must be because I watch all those T-ara videos. (Or maybe because I read economics blogs.)

Age: 65+
Gender: Male
Language: English
Language: Korean
Language: Romanian
Language: Spanish

But this is CIRCULAR! Because I watch T-ara and Shinyoo videos, Google believes I am old, and because Google believes I am old, they think that old people watch T-ara and Shinyoo videos!

Arts & Entertainment - Entertainment Industry - Recording Industry - Record Labels
Computers & Electronics - Software - Business & Productivity Software - Word Processing Software
Games - Computer & Video Games - Casual Games [I don't think I've ever visited one, actually]
Internet & Telecom - Email & Messaging
News - Business News
News - Business News - Fiscal Policy News
People & Society - Social Sciences - Economics
Sports - Sport Scores & Statistics

Maybe Google believes you must be interested in casual games because you are old! And round and round we go.

Now I'm feeling cheated that East Asian Music is my only interest. I do other things on the internet.

If we lived in the same city we could use each other's computer. That would show them.

Looool. Actually, I am going to be in London (where you live?) tomorrow, and for a bit on Sunday. If you really do live in London we could meet for drinks or something.

(Can't sign in on my phone for some reason, but this is subdee. My email's onyabear at gmail.)

No, I'm in Denver, Colorado, USA. I grew up in Connecticut and spent most of my twenties in New York City and most of my thirties and a lot of my forties in SF.

I assume you are from New York City but I realize that that assumption is based entirely on your having said your mom is Jewish and that you went to a largely African American high school with Asians to bond with. So I flashed on NYC, when Houston or L.A. or Philadelphia or a number of other places could all be candidates too.

Language: Spanish

Qué carajo!?

Maybe it's because I visit Chilean sites like this one:

Or watch Spanish-language classics like this one:

(Or is Spanish what they surmise is your language?)

It's listed as one of mine.

The only thing I can think of are the telenova commercials Hulu forces on me every now and then.

Or maybe they generalize from where one lives.

(Does Google have access to a lot of people's Facebook info, which people voluntarily give it?)

Mongolia, no. The 53,833 inhabitants of the Northern Mariana Islands, however, are believable as Shinyoo fanatics. Maybe because they share a history of Japanese occupation.

Well Google were doing Youtube stats on gender and age before they tried to force a real identity and various connections on people as they do now. Some people probably register that on youtube, but I don't know what's made of those of us who don't.

Okay, let's do some more number gathering, just to check. T-ara "Roly-Poly": Mongolia, South Korea, Vietnam, Female 13-17 years, Female 18-24 years, Male 45-54 years. I STILL don't believe Mongolia. I think a whole bunch of people in Burma or North Korea or Louisiana are gaming the system, somehow are routing their clandestine views through Mongolia.

"[Vietsub] The Star Interview - Qri" (horrifying) [that last bit is my editorial comment] Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore, Female 13-17 years, Female 18-24 years, Male 13-17 years. Now that's more believable, and I have refound my youth! (except total views are only 4,944, so I doubt these statistics are reliable).

T-ara - "좋은 사람 - A Good Person" (original lineup) "Public statistics have been disabled." Damn, I need a ballad here.

Davichi & T-ara "We Were In Love," South Korea, Vietnam, Mongolia, Female 13-17 years, Female 18-24 years, Male 13-17 years.

T-ara & Supernova "TTL (Time To Love)," South Korea, Singapore, Mongolia, Female 13-17 years, Female 18-24 years, Male 13-17 years. At least I'm bringing down my own age.

T-ARA (티아라) - "너때문에미쳐" (I Go Crazy Because Of You) South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Female 13-17 years, Male 45-54 years, Female 18-24 years, well, Mongolia's on vacation, but men in their earning prime are still absent.

Bo Peep Bo Peep - T-ara - [Japanese Version] - Tokyo Flash Mob, was hoping this would reinvigorate my youth credentials, what with this new-fangled flashin' 'n' mobbin' 'n' stuff, but public statistics have been disabled.

SeeYa, Davichi, Ji Yeon (T-ara) "Women's Generation" (live), Vietnam, South Korea, Taiwan, Female 13-17 years, Male 45-54 years, Male 35-44 years. Finally, some earning power.

New York Dolls "Personality Crisis" (live on Don Kirshner's Rock Concert) United States, Japan, Finland, Male 45-54 years, Male 35-44 years, Male 55-64 years [bingo!]

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