December 12, 2023 11:50
Sales of physical K-pop albums are booming as many fans buy multiple copies to get their hands on merchandise that comes with the record.
According to the Korea Consumer Agency, K-pop album sales surpassed 77 million copies last year, up 35 percent compared to 2021.
But only an estimated 5.7 percent of fans bought the albums to listen to the music. In a straw poll of 402 fans over 13, 52.7 percent said they bought the albums to get their hands on promotional giveaways and 25.4 percent for the sake of being eligible for events like fan meets. Each fan bought an average of 4.7 albums.
Out of the 50 best-selling albums, 7.8 contained souvenirs like photos of the stars. Some bands shuffle the collections so that their hardiest admirers have to buy a dozen copies of the album if they want a complete set.
Lee Eun-hee at Inha University said, "K-pop album buyers are usually teenagers, and luring them into buying albums with collectibles can trigger excessive spending. Teens should be taught not to fall for these ruses."
It also produces growing amounts of garbage as fans throw away the albums and only keep the collectibles, which they eventually discard as well when they grow up or fashion changes.
One egregious example is photo cards, which are shuffled at random, so some obsessive fans keep buying albums till they get the last missing card. Any duplicates go straight in the bin unless they can be traded online.
Then there are invites to autograph events, and fans buy multiple copies of the album to increase their chances of attending one, with the same wasteful results.
According to the Environment Ministry, the plastic waste generated by albums and their paraphernalia has increased from 55.8 tons in 2017 to 801.5 tons last year, or a staggering 14 times. Much of it is not, or cannot be, recycled.
Pressed about the problem, an industry insider said, "We will work on solutions, such as using more environmentally friendly materials in album production."
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