K-pop charts 'prone to rigging'

CAN YOU TRUST THIS? According to data, 57 per cent of songs recommended by Melon (its Top 100 Chart pictured), as of August, were distributed by partner firm Loen Entertainment. Loen and CJ E&M insist on calling the function a curation service that helps customers discover new songs.


    Oct 29, 2015

    K-pop charts 'prone to rigging'


    EVER wondered why K-pop has so many chart-topping debuts or new releases? How trustworthy do you think the K-pop charts are?

    According to some industry insiders and experts, the online charts are prone to manipulation.

    A major issue with the charts today is "hoarding", efforts allegedly coordinated by fans or brokers to push certain songs up the charts by streaming simultaneously, especially during off-peak hours and particularly upon release.

    According to Kim Min Yong of Kyung Hee University in Seoul, at the centre of the problem is the existence of real-time charts, which are refreshed approximately every hour. These charts allow for 24 "No. 1 songs" every day.

    "If you hit No. 1 just for one hour, you can claim that you had a No. 1 song," Professor Kim said in a recent forum in Seoul.

    Those chart scores are taken into consideration when deciding rankings on music programmes or awards at the end of the year. According to writers for major radio programmes who asked to remain anonymous, chart rankings also play a part in determining which artists are chosen to make appearances as well.

    The problem of hoarding was brought into the public eye recently after a media outlet revealed the scores of suspicious user accounts on Melon, the largest music service provider in South Korea, allegedly used for hoarding.

    The issue was first brought up in 2013. Then, four of K-pop's largest entertainment agencies - YG, SM, JYP and Star Empire - asked for a state investigation of "brokers" who offered to manipulate the charts for large fees. The case was thrown out due to insufficient evidence.

    Also in dispute are the "recommended" songs that appear on top of the charts on every major streaming platform.

    The problem stems from the fact that listeners usually stream all the songs they see on the Top 100 charts rather than choose specific songs to listen to, according to Prof Kim. He said that in choosing "all tracks" listeners inadvertently streamed the "recommended" song as well, pushing up the recommended track's streaming numbers.

    The contention is that streaming platforms are rigging the system in order to push certain songs up the charts, allowing the companies behind those artists to gain more streaming revenue and opportunities for media appearances.

    According to data provided by Prof Kim, 57 per cent of songs recommended by Melon, as of August, were distributed by partner company Loen Entertainment.

    Loen Entertainment and's parent company, CJ E&M, agree with the overall idea that "recommending" songs could warp the charts to a certain degree, but insist on calling the function a curation service that helps customers discover new songs.

    On Oct 21, became the first platform to issue an official statement pledging concrete change. CJ E&M stated it would "remove the 'package-deal recommendation service' from (its) music service soon" and "aggressively pursue an alternative to real-time charts, which leads to streaming hoarding".

    Loen Entertainment told The Korea Herald that it had no plans to eliminate the "recommended" tracks from its Melon charts, saying that "Melon is currently developing algorithms that would prevent hindering fairness or reason through partiality", and that the service would "present a meticulous song recommendation service customised for individual listening preferences within this year or early next year".

    As for the hoarding behaviour by fans or brokers, Loen said, "Since two years ago, Melon has operated a data analysis team that has run a filtering system to block abnormal data, and has filtered over one million abnormal IDs".


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