K-Pop in Indonesia and the Pandemic: Popularity and Consumption Changes

May 30, 2022 9:48 pm || By

It’s no surprise that K-Pop has become one of the major music genres in Indonesia with large dedicated fan bases and casual listeners. K-Pop artists are now dominating advertisements of Indonesian brands across online and offline platforms. The pandemic is also seeing people’s activities tied to their homes and allowing them to find new hobbies and indulge in their existing ones, including listening to music. Have you ever wondered if the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting K-Pop’s popularity in Indonesia?

This article aims to analyze how K-Pop’s popularity has changed in Indonesia, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The primary source of data is Spotify, where the Top 200 Weekly Chart from 2019 to 2021 is analyzed to see the number of K-Pop songs in the chart and the total number of streams accumulated weekly. Subsequently, the Top 20 songs with the most number of weeks in the chart will be analyzed to see the release date and whether they were released during the pandemic. Other distinctive patterns will also be discussed and analyzed based on the data.

Data of the Top 200 Weekly Chart from 2019 to 2021 is sourced from the official Spotify Charts site. K-Pop songs are filtered manually before the total number of K-Pop songs and the combined total number of streams are calculated.

The graph above shows a generally slow upward trend from the year 2019 to 2020 and 2021 in terms of the number of K-Pop songs in the Top 200 Weekly Chart. Most observable is the downward trend in the number of K-Pop songs on the chart from the end of July 2019 to early February 2020. The number slowly picked up itself again around May 2020, two months into the quarantine period announced by the Indonesian government. The subsequent period sees a sustained number of K-Pop songs on the weekly chart, ranging from 15 to 30 songs throughout May 2020 until November 2021 with several spikes in particular dates. While this is generally a similar pattern with the first half of 2019, the decreasing number of K-Pop songs on the chart in the first half of 2019 and its increase in the middle of 2020 towards a sustained pattern can become an indication of K-Pop’s rising popularity during the early period of the pandemic.

In terms of the accumulated number of streams of the songs on the chart, there is an irregular pattern with several spikes in particular dates and a generally slow upward trend. Steep patterns of spikes are more observable in 2020, where the number of streams increases drastically in particular weeks compared to the previous or coming weeks. In weeks without spikes, the number of streams during the period after the pandemic or March 2020 onwards is generally higher than the number of streams before said month. This also indicates that K-Pop songs are being streamed more by Spotify users in Indonesia.

To explain the phenomenon of spikes in this graph, it is important to look at the fandom culture embedded within the K-Pop industry. Fadhila (2021) has previously written on K-Pop streaming culture in amplifying the recognition and reputation of a K-Pop artist. While previously international numbers were not considered as important as local statistics, the globalization of K-Pop has made global platforms a new avenue for K-Pop artists to boost their popularity. Additionally, important entitlements bestowed upon K-Pop artists through Korean local music shows and award ceremonies are also beginning to consider the influence of international fandom by incorporating YouTube views into its awarding criteria. Thus, streaming culture, including on Spotify, is an important aspect through which K-Pop music statistics should be analyzed.

Five most observable weeks of spikes for the number of streams are identified, two from before the start of the pandemic in Indonesia and three after. These are April 12-19, 2019, February 21-28, October 2-9, November 20-27, 2020, and May 7-14, 2021. Research results show that during those respective periods, the K-Pop boy group BTS released an album on April 12, 2019, February 21, and November 20, 2020. Meanwhile, the K-Pop girl group BLACKPINK released an album on October 2, 2020, and another boy group, NCT DREAM, released an album on May 10, 2021. It is not surprising that these 3 groups are also the top 3 most discussed K-Pop artists on Twitter between July 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021.

Further analysis is done on the specific weeks mentioned to see how these groups are present in the chart. On the weeks where BTS released an album, namely April 12, 2019, February 21, and November 20, 2020 respectively, their songs comprised approximately 32.25%, 80%, and 34.3% of the total number of K-Pop songs on the chart. 37% of the K-Pop songs on the chart during the week BLACKPINK released an album on October 2, 2020 belong to them, while NCT DREAM’s songs comprise 35% of the total number of K-Pop songs on the chart during the release of their album. Such statistics signify that songs from popular groups tend to influence the increase in the number of K-Pop groups on the chart, particularly on the first week of an album release, reflecting the streaming culture pervasive in K-Pop fandoms.

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The above graph shows the Top 20 K-Pop songs with the most number of weeks on the Top 200 Weekly Chart in Indonesia. Out of 20 songs, 1 was released in 2017, 4 in 2018, 5 in 2019, 8 in 2020, and 2 in 2021. After identifying the specific release date of each song, 9 songs were released in the early period or after the pandemic, while the rest were released before the pandemic. Considering that older songs had a longer period after their release, this graph can be seen as balanced popularity between songs released before the pandemic and after the pandemic.

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Thus, to further investigate whether consumption of K-Pop itself has increased, the above graph showing the Top 20 K-Pop songs with the most number of streams on the Top 200 Weekly Chart in Indonesia is used. While weeks may show the longevity of a particular song, it does not necessarily mean the consumption is high. Observing the number of streams of K-Pop songs may show the pattern of consumption and whether consumption has increased amidst the pandemic. Out of 20 songs, 1 was released in 2018, 4 in 2019, 8 in 2020, and 7 in 2021. Notably, 6 songs were released before the pandemic, while the other 14 were released in the early period or after the pandemic. Comparison between the two periods (before and after the pandemic) reflects how songs released after the pandemic tend to have a generally higher number of streams compared to those released before the pandemic despite having a shorter period to accumulate streams due to later release dates. This indicates that there is a sign of an increase in K-Pop music consumption in Indonesia during the pandemic.

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Additionally, the above graph shows the number of K-Pop artists who were able to make it to the Top 200 Weekly Chart every year. As shown, there is a gradual increase from 37 artists in 2019 to 44 in 2020 and 53 in 2021. It is to be noted that there is a chance for more artists to enter the Top 200 Weekly Chart in 2021 since the year has not ended yet. While this is a very short reference period, there is an indication that more artists are able to make it into the Top 200 Weekly Chart during the pandemic. Notably, rookie artists who made their debut after the pandemic such as STAYC, Weeekly, aespa, and TREASURE also contribute to this increase. It can be too early to claim that the pandemic has seen more artists receiving the opportunity to enter the Top 200 Weekly Chart, but there are notable indications.

To conclude, K-Pop music consumption and popularity in Indonesia have generally increased during the pandemic. Songs are being streamed more, particularly those released after the pandemic, and more varieties of artists are being listened to. Streaming culture in K-Pop fandoms also contributes to the high number of streams and domination of popular groups in the charts during the release of their albums, such as the case with BTS, BLACKPINK, and NCT DREAM. Further research can look into the specific weekly and daily trends in the charts and inspect the changes and dynamics of K-Pop music consumption in more detail. Additionally, combining streams from different platforms can also provide a more comprehensive look on how K-Pop is being consumed by its fans.

REFERENCES

Fadhila, Z., 2021. K-Pop Streaming Culture and How Social Media Helps To Organize it. [online] Center for Digital Society (CfDS). Available at: <https://cfds.fisipol.ugm.ac.id/2021/10/26/k-pop-streaming-culture-and-how-social-media-helps-to-organize-it/> [Accessed 17 December 2021].

Kim, Y., 2021. K-pop sets another record on Twitter with 7.5 billion Tweets in a year. [online] Twitter Blog. Available at: <https://blog.twitter.com/en_us/topics/insights/2021/kpop-sets-another-record-on-twitter-with-7-billion-tweets-in-a-year> [Accessed 17 December 2021].

Author & Data Collection: Safira Tafani Cholisi

Editor: Josia Paska Darmawan

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