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(News Focus) EXO reaches for triple million seller to global fandom

All News 15:30 June 13, 2016

By Chung Joo-won and Lee Eung-jung

SEOUL, June 13 (Yonhap) -- The widely accepted belief among K-pop marketers asserts that the K-pop industry has a clear gender divide, with boy bands excelling in album sales and girl groups outselling in music chart rankings.

However, South Korean boy band EXO of S.M. Entertainment countered the market belief as it appeared triumphant on both album sales and music streaming charts with its third and latest full-length studio album "EX'ACT."

Released on Thursday in both Korean and Mandarin Chinese versions, "EX'ACT" caught both rabbits of album sales and music charts. Preorders hit a total of 660,180 copies, including 442,890 of the Korean language version and 217,290 Chinese, with a robust combined sales volume of 10.3 billion won (US$8.8 million). The numbers do not include the offline store sales of "EX'ACT" in China, meaning that the idol group is just around the corner of achieving its third million-seller album. EXO's first two million-sellers were full-length albums "XOXO" and "EXODUS," released in June 2013 and March 2015 respectively.

The digitalized EP of "EX'ACT" also emerged strong, topping the major South Korean music charts since the album's release.

"Cheer Up" by girl group TWICE, the former No. 1, gave way to EXO's dance song "Monster," one of the two lead songs of "EX'ACT," which jumped to the No. 1 slot in music charts including MelOn, Genie Music and Bugs Music.

"EX'ACT" also conquered iTunes' Asia-based album charts, spanning seven countries including Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. The album also ranked among the top 10 albums in iTunes album charts operated in 16 countries around the world including Canada, the U.S., Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Russia, Mexico and Japan.

The third-time million seller band's strength owes much to the K-pop group's global fandom, with some 3.7 million registered fans of official fan clubs.

The top three countries with the most viewers of EXO's music videos turned out to be South Korea and Thailand with a tie of 12 percent, closely followed by the U.S. at 10 percent. The viewership rate also stood high among Japanese and Taiwanese YouTube users at 6.7 percent an 6.3 percent, respectively.

With abundant fans in China, where YouTube is blocked by the communist government, EXO flew high on Weibo. Some 1.3 billion postings spread on the Chinese equivalent of Twitter with hashtags related to EXO and "EX'ACT."

However, the triumphant South Korean idol group has yet to overcome a crucial challenge -- two extremely different viewpoints about their latest album.

Despite its second-to-none album sales, music chart ranking and popularity in global social media, EXO has been facing some critical song reviews.

Among some 30,000 reviews on "EX'ACT" on MelOn, one of the largest music chart and streaming service providers, were cold reviews such as "songs that only fans would listen to."

And yet S.M. Entertainment made a visible effort to cover as wide a gamut of music-lovers' tastes as possible, as it set up the double lead songs of two different genres for "EX'ACT."

Another way of making EXO's songs meet a wide variety of listener standards was collaborations with award-winning international producers, The Stereotypes and London Boys.

Overall, K-pop market observers point at the success of a winning idol-producing system, an area where S.M. Entertainment has proved the most competitive among its business portfolio.

Since the 1990s, the agency has created some of the most influential boy groups of their time, such as H.O.T and TVXQ. EXO is a finely-tuned work born from this systemized cradle.

"(EXO's) excellent global performance owes much to its giant fandom that was first created in Korea and China and then spread around the world," said Lee Sung-soo, the managing director of S.M. Entertainment.


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