The changes implemented by Mnet to their music show M Countdown is a step in the right direction. However, it is just one temporary solution for the underlying trouble with data aggregation and chart manipulation that plagues all music shows.
On April 25, Mnet announced that they would be revamping the format of their music show. In essence with the new unexpected, international fans of K-pop will have more weight in a song’s ranking through votes and social media engagement. Mnet will then combine that information with data based on views on their (Korean) Facebook page and karaoke charts that reflect the music trending in Korea.
The move is forward thinking and works to acknowledge the mass of international fans that K-pop now has. For years, international fans have complained about not being able to support their favorite artists through traditional applications, like streaming on specific music sites. As a result, many felt disenfranchised and voiceless when it came to securing the success of favored groups. Given that, it is surprising to see a segment of international fans who are against the change.
Of this particular segment, some have expressed that this almost unilaterally gives groups with large fan bases an upper hand. However, even without this change large fan bases have the resources and people to stream songs and videos on different digital platforms, pool money to buy albums, and vote en mass for their artist. As such, this is an issue that music shows and charts already have.
An additional concern raised by some in the international community veered in a different direction: legitimacy. Now that M Countdown has a system that better represents the K-pop fans worldwide, there is a concern that it can no longer accurately reflect the actual musical trends and tastes in South Korea.
As mentioned earlier, music charts have already been manipulated through fan-organized campaigns to stream, buy, and vote. As a result, there is no way to determine if the success of an artist is solely domestic or occurred in conjunction with substantial support from citizens in different countries. Further, while unsubstantial, using traffic to the Mnet Facebook page and pulling data from karaoke helps to combat chart manipulation caused by international influences.
Nevertheless, the change that Mnet is implementing is simply a “patch” on some of the wider issues that plague the Korean music charts. The foreign consumption of K-pop should be an entirely different division, a global category.
“More, it can potentially decrease chart manipulation. This is because the unique streams from individual listeners will accurately be relegated to and kept within the global category.”
For many other entities that aggregate music consumption into charts, such as Billboard and Spotify, this has been standard practice for years. On both sites, the charts can be broken down by country, thereby drawing a picture of the musical trends and tastes therein.
However, Mnet and major music site Melon both lack this feature. Why they do not have this feature is currently unknown. However, it can be speculated that they have not been prepared or have not built the infrastructure and algorithms needed for such a breakdown. Further, this may also have to do with accessibility to the music streaming applications offered by these companies, such as the Melon Music Player that requires a domestic phone number and native payment system to utilize.
If the Melon Music Player were as accessible as Spotify, they would have the data and userbase necessary to implement such a change. More, it can potentially decrease chart manipulation. This is because the unique streams from individual listeners will accurately be relegated to and kept within the global category. As such, there would be a substantially higher chance that Korea’s domestic charts will remain unadulterated.
“…a music management company will scout trainees, train them, debut singers or groups, manage their marketing, communication, music production, make-up, styling, transportation, and more.”
With all of that said, Mnet’s change is a long time coming for the simple reason that Korean pop music is an export and consumed globally. It is a commodity designed for mass appeal, and therefore profit.
This can be seen through the vertical integration of many entertainment and broadcast companies who control the majority — if not all of the means — of production. For example, a music management company will scout trainees, train them, debut singers or groups, manage their marketing, communication, music production, make-up, styling, transportation, and more.
In particular, the purposeful integration of international members, the presence of company bases in different countries, and the wondrous use of English into song lyrics all point to producers and executives casting a broad net to increase consumption. With these intentions there needs to be an infrastructure or system that accounts for these consumers.
Until now, there have few accommodations that reflected the reality of this situation. However, it now seems that at least one of the major music shows and charts in Korea is working to rectify this shortcoming. And that is a good thing; it is a step in the right direction.
Disclaimer: The opinions or views contained in this article may not represent the opinions or views of Kpoplove, The Korea Daily, its employees, agents or affiliates.