By Cathy Rose A. Garcia
South Korea's top groups, TVXQ, top, and SG Wannabe, bottom, try various new marketing strategies to boost their CD sales in the face of a general decline.
Even though popular Korean boy band TVXQ topped the music sales charts in 2006, selling more than 340,000 copies of their third album "O-Chong.Ban.Hap", the figures represent a sharp decline for offline music sales, forcing many in the industry to rethink their marketing approach.
According to the Music Industry Association of Korea, the last few years have been difficult for sales of the once popular compact disc, while online music sales have surged.
Pop sensations SG Wannabe saw sales of their latest album "Third Masterpiece", which sold approximately 310,000 copies this year, fall short of the more than 410,000 of their 2005 release.
Other artists are also seeing sales of their CDs plummet. Shinhwa's "State of the Art" sold 215,000 copies, while Lee Soo-young
's "Grace" and Fly to the Sky's "Transition" sold 210,000 and 128,000 copies, respectively, far below industry expectations.
The increase in online music sales has forced the music industry to get creative and to try to entice fans to buy CDs instead of downloading the latest hits on music sites such as Melon or Bugs.
A common complaint among music fans is that the price of CDs, which range from 11,000 won to 15,000 won is too high, especially when compared to the cost of downloading songs.
Some record labels have started to listen to the frustrations of their customers and have begun adding bells and whistles to the disc, such as music videos, bonus tracks and even free badges or cell phone charms.
For instance, in September TVXQ released two versions of their new album, one with a photo booklet and another with a DVD. A month later, two more versions were released, one with a movie about the band and another with a collection of their music videos.
To make sure die-hard fans would continue buying all the versions of their album, special events were organized to increase enthusiasm, including meet-and-greets with the band. One event last Dec. 9 required fans to bring all four versions of the album just to be able to get a ticket _ a ticket would allow a fan the opportunity to receive a pre-printed photo card personally handed out by a member of TVXQ.
The overall music industry, however, still continues to see a decline in offline music sales. Digital music sales have been outpacing sales of CDs since 2004.
Offline music sales started to decline in 2002, at roughly the same time that online music sales started to gain steam. Online music stores such as Melon, Soribada, Bugs and Dosirak have been successful in attracting customers who want to get their music fast and easy.
Based on data from the Korea Culture and Content Agency, online music sales hit 262 billion won in 2005, while offline music sales stood at 108 billion won.
This is a sharp reversal from only four years before when in 2001 offline music sales were 373 billion won while online music sales were only 91 billion won.
This trend is expected to continue this year, unless the music industry can think of new ideas to boost offline music sales.