Posted by : KPopRanter July 21, 2013
At least one time in our K-Pop-knowing lifetimes, we have heard and encountered people who've spoken about digital sales and physical sales, and have fought about which one is more important. Though it's usual to see people side with the ones their biases excel at, I feel that decoding both of them would be more utilizing and understandable, while explaining the positives and negatives of both sides and then finally jumping onto which boat is better to set afloat--album sales or digital sales.
I think physical sales are a great representation of your fan base--if you sell a lot, that means you have a lot of loyal fans (whether or not they bulk-buy), if you don't sell a lot, maybe your fan base is small. Fans are loyal enough (or crazy enough) buy multiple albums to either just keep them for themselves, sell them to other fans or bring them to events like fan-signings. Not to mention, with those great physical sales, it can probably move you closer to holding solo concerts, opening original product lines and other necessities to generate large amounts of profit.
However, can it truly be a representation of popularity? I mean, the rookie group EXO sold more than a quarter of a million albums alone (when combining both EXO-K and EXO-M together), however, are still nugus in the eyes of Koreans. Not to mention, even if you were to count the EXO's sales separately, their total of album sales are almost the equivalent of Girls' Generation's I Got a Boy album (which, I must say, was outsold by lesser groups like Miss A and SHINee)... so does that mean EXO is even near as popular as power group Girls' Generation or are they just lucky sons of guns to be in a company where fans go ape-shit over album sales... because otherwise, they wouldn't be that high.
On the side of digital sales:
Unlike physical sales, digital sales can show a great representation of what the public thinks about the songs. Instead of buying a whole album (which are probably just a shit load of filler songs, anyway) they spend their money buying only a few songs or maybe even all the songs in the album to listen to. Of course, fans use this method, as well, however, it's undoubtedly a greater number of non-fans who buy digital than physicals.
Not to mention, many groups started to receive great public recognition after greater digital sales. Using the above example again, EXO has an outstanding amount of physical sales however, their digital sales are pretty low which correlates to their national popularity being low. Contrary to that, SISTAR, even with somewhat low physical sales has relatively high digital sales (not implying they got the sajaengi, but even if they did, the example still proves true) and are considered really popular in the Korean market as of now alongside other more popular Korean acts such as Davichi and Cho Yong Pil who kick as in digitals. In addition, declining and rising popularity can be shown simply through the amount of digital sales sold, for example, 2PM's recent comeback songs digitals didn't look as good as previous songs and their popularity decreases whereas on the other hand, rising groups (again, SISTAR, and even 4minute) can see a slight or obvious increase in both popularity and digital sales. Furthermore, in the end, even if digital sales don't generate as much money off the bat like physicals, digital sales do result in popularity which result in more opportunities like variety shows and CFs which later generate money.
The only thing relatively bad about digital sales are that of course, many times they generate less revenue than physical sales and less cash off the bat.
To conclude, though both have negatives and both have positives, my opinion as to which is better is digital, because ultimately, I would rather have more popularity which generates money later, than simply have money which generates no popularity. However, that's just through my views, which do you think is better and why?