For many Korean musicians today, the quickest way to get a song into the charts isn’t a snappy music video or a cutting-edge collaboration, it’s getting on the soundtrack of the latest hit TV show.
The global popularity of over-the-top (OTT) streaming services like Netflix has also given a boost to the soundtrack market, with singers now releasing songs specifically for soundtracks as not only a reliable way to make some money, but also to appeal to more fans around the world.
Of the 200 most popular songs in Korea in the first half of this year, 14 percent were from soundtracks, according to album sales tracker Circle Chart.
The popularity of soundtrack songs is not an entirely new thing. The trend first started to really takeoff in 2016, when a series of Korean dramas proved popular overseas, including KBS’s “Descendants of the Sun,” and tvN’s “Guardian: The Lonely and Great God.”
The “Descendants of the Sun” soundtrack made 12 billion won ($9.2 million) in 2016 alone, around 58 percent of total sales in the soundtrack market that year.
“That is when people started to recognize that soundtracks are a profitable business,” a source from the music industry said. “Investors began making investments and agencies that specialize in soundtracks were established.”
Netflix also announced its entrance into the Korean market in 2016. Since 2018, Netflix has released a total of 42 original series in Korea.
Singers now release songs exclusively for soundtracks, considering it the easier way to attract an audience and make money.
Singer Baek Ji-young said in a video that her biggest hit song is “Like Being Shot By Gun” (2008), but she has made the most profit off of songs that appeared on soundtracks.
“It’s no exaggeration to say that I’ve been invited to many events just because of my soundtrack songs for popular dramas like ‘Iris’ (2009) and ‘Secret Garden’ (2010-11),” Baek said.
The soundtrack market is even bigger in the webtoon world.
Singers are paid more for songs that appear on the soundtracks of webtoons because the format is relatively new and a growing number of investors are jumping into the market.
Boy band B1A4’s Sandeul’s “Slightly Tipsy” from Daum webtoon “She is My Type” is still in the top 100 on the Circle Chart, though the series has ended last year.
Singer Kim Jae-joong recently released “In this World,” a track on the soundtrack of ongoing webtoon series “Plainwalker of Stigmatization” by Kakao Page. The track is set to be released in Japan soon.
“It will be the first time a song from a webtoon soundtrack will be released in Japan,” said a spokesperson for Gwangju Information & Content Agency, who were involved in the production of the song. “The song will garner more worldwide attention as soon as Kim starts his Asia tour in September.”
Concerts focused on popular soundtracks are also gaining popularity. Most Contents held the “MOST (Memories from Original Sound Track)” concert in 2019, with an orchestra playing songs from the soundtracks of popular dramas including “Mr. Sunshine” (2018) and “Love in the Moonlight” (2016).
“We realized that lots of people have this wish to feel the feeling again that they felt while watching dramas through music,” said Most Contents CEO Yoo Ji-no. “We are thinking of a business that opens soundtrack concerts regularly and releases remakes of soundtrack songs in overseas markets.”
BY HWANG JEE-YOUNG, SARAH CHEA [email@example.com]