Billboard K-Town

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Billboard K-Town
Billboard logo.svg
Billboard K-Town Column launch 2013.JPG
Screenshot of Billboard K-Town column launch
TypeMusic column
FormatGraphics, text, videos
Staff writersJeff Benjamin, Tamar Herman
FoundedJanuary 29, 2013
HeadquartersNew York City, New York, U.S.

Billboard K-Town is an online magazine column presented weekly, on various days, by Billboard on its site. The column, launched on January 29, 2013, reports on K-pop music; artists, concerts, chart information and news events.[1][2]


Web presence[edit]

In January 2013, Billboard relaunched its websites with new features, including "enhanced content for fans" on its consumer site, which would provide more on-site reporting of festivals, award shows, and other major music events.[3] This relaunch included a new column, "K-Town," in a move to bring K-pop news, songs and music videos to its readers each week.[1] Billboard's website is one of the most popular music publications online, and in 2013, the site received an average of 3.3 million visitors a month in the United States, according to comScore, putting it slightly behind Rolling Stone but ahead of music outlets like Pitchfork and Spin.[4] Billboard, also, has business operations in South Korea,[5] home of K-pop.[6][7]

Beginnings, 2009 - 2012[edit]

In 2009, according to statistics from Google Trends, online searches for K-pop began their steady increase, after the release of two smash hit singles, Super Junior's "Sorry, Sorry" and Girls’ Generation's "Gee".[8] In the fall of 2009, some of Billboard's earliest K-pop coverage included articles of the first K-pop artists to chart on Billboard Hot 100, the Wonder Girls, who debuted at No. 76 with "Nobody", a feature of their stay in the U.S., including their tour opening for Jonas Brothers, and their inclusion as the 1st K-pop artists on Billboard's annual showcase "21 under 21" in 2010.[9][10]

In November 2010, Billboard invited the first K-pop artists to their New York studio, where JYJ performed "Ayyy Girl" and "Empty" from their album The Beginning; and in December, Billboard's readers put the album on Billboard Readers' Poll "Your Fave Album Of 2010."[11][12][13]

During the first half of 2011, according to Billboard magazine, the Korean music industry grossed nearly $3.4 billion, with K-pop being recognized by Time magazine as "South Korea's Greatest Export."[8] On August 25, 2011, Billboard and Billboard Korea launched the Billboard Korea K-Pop Hot 100 chart, ranking digital sales of the country's top songs and mobile downloads, and modeled on its Billboard Hot 100 and other Asian charts. Sistar's song "So Cool" was the first to top the chart.[14][15] On November 25–26, 2011, Billboard Korea hosted the "2011 Billboard K-Pop Masters, presented by MGM Grand" inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.[16][17] The announcement said that the recently created Billboard Korea publication was set to "showcase the top acts in K-Pop music," after releasing its Billboard Korea K-Pop Hot 100 music chart.[15] The line-up included TVXQ, 4Minute, G.NA, MBLAQ, Sistar, Beast, Shinee, and Brown Eyed Girls.[18] The MGM Grand said, "This event is significant because K-pop singers, who are becoming hugely popular not only in Asia but also in Europe and the Americas, will have their first concert together in Las Vegas." MGM Grand added that the event would serve as "an opportunity to showcase the appeal of K-pop music as one of the fastest-growing musical trends around the world."[19]

In July 2012, Psy's hit "Gangnam Style" took "the genre to the top of western charts," and made K-pop history.[20][21] Psy's success "reached beyond the Korean-American community, with online viewership, according to Google data, showing a doubling after 2012's Gangnam Style".[22] Not everyone was happy with Psy's success on the Billboard charts, especially with "Gangnam Style"'s #1 spot on the new Hot Rap Songs chart;[23] it reached #2 on Billboard Hot 100.[24] Critics said the October 2012 change in the way the magazine tallied their charts, which included digital sales, online streams and radio airplay gave stars with a pop-oriented sound and broad crossover appeal an advantage over other artists.[23] CNN noted that Billboard's 2012 "annual series of top 21 musicians under the age of 21 listed K-pop star IU at 15th on the list which includes heavyweights in the western music business such as Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber."[25]

K-Town, 2013 - present[edit]

Nu'est fan purse, Gilley's Dallas, Texas concert, May 3, 2015


The January 2013 column's launch was heralded as a possibility for more K-pop artists than Psy to seek out a coveted spot on the Billboard charts, with the caveat, "Is it finally safe to say, K-pop is here to stay in the U.S.?"[26] Girls' Generation welcomed the column with a video greeting,[2] and the first column article was a feature on "rising K-pop superstars" Infinite.[1][27] In April 2013, The Korea Herald said the effect of YouTube and the Billboard chart cannot be ignored in the international success of Psy's "Gangnam Style," and "Billboard's recent interest in K-pop is not a fleeting phenomenon."[28]

By July 2013, a year after "Gangnam Style", the surge continued, and Psy scored again with a new hit, "Gentleman". According to Google, 91% of viewership on top K-Pop channels were now coming from outside the Asia-Pacific region, as compared to less than half in 2011. Billboard provided a "Top 10 K-Pop Hits Post-Gangnam Style" (Psy's "Gentleman", Girls' Generation's "I Got a Boy", Hyuna's "Ice Cream", G-Dragon's "Crayon", G-Dragon's "One of a Kind", G-Dragon's "That XX", Girls' Generation's "Oh!", Beast's "Beautiful Night", Girls Generation's "Flower Power", and Kara's "Pandora"); and credited the two groups, Girls' Generation and Big Bang, as major acts that had cultivated large international followings.[29]

In November 2013, The Washington Post said that since the late 1990s, Korea had been producing "some of the most exhilarating pop music in the world" and commented on the fans, the "distinctly fervent (and always online) K-pop fan network."[22]


In January 2014, in a special to The Globe and Mail titled, "So whatever happened to pop music's Korean Invasion?" music critic J. D. Considine[30] wrote, "Perhaps it's a mistake, then, to think of the Korean Wave as a massive tsunami. Instead, it seems more like a steady flow, rising slowly but steadily seeping in. And it will likely be a deeper presence here in 2014." He quotes Billboard's K-town columnist Jeff Benjamin, "K-Pop lives and breathes online," and "That's why it's been able to cross into mainstream consciousness."[31]

On May 17, 2014, the Korea K-Pop Hot 100 chart was discontinued in the U.S., with Billboard charts' Manager Gary Trust saying, "We've removed the chart temporarily while we make some adjustments and hope to have it back up soon."[32] K-Town continued to follow K-pop artists' ratings on their other charts, Billboard Twitter Real-Time "Trending 140"; Psy's "Hangover" featuring Snoop Dogg reached #1 in late June,[33] and a #1 and K-pop's first time for Infinite with "Last Romeo" in September, on the Billboard Twitter Real-Time "Emerging Artists" chart.[34] K-Town also reports on YouTube's views in the U.S. and around the world,[35] and on North American concerts.[36]

In August, Big Bang fans, the VIPs, won the Billboard Fan Army Face-Off, with 91% of the vote in the final round and second place going to Thirty Seconds to Mars fans, (with wins over Rihanna's fans in Round 1, Selena Gomez's fans in Round 2, Girls’ Generation's fans in Round 3 and Skillet's fans in Round 4; with over 20 million votes cast.)[37][38]

In October 2014, Janice Min, co-president and chief creative officer of Guggenheim Digital Media's entertainment group overseeing The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard said,"The world is getting more and more interested in Hallyu content," noting that "K-pop is huge. ... K-pop is significant," and 2014 had seen a record number of K-pop albums on the Billboard Hot 200 albums chart.[39] She said, "We cover a lot of Korean content at Billboard, I would say almost obsessively."[39]

On December 1, 2014, Psy's "Gangnam Style" broke YouTube's video view counter, with more than 2.15 billion views, forcing them to upgrade; they said on Google+, "We never thought a video would be watched in numbers greater than a 32-bit integer but that was before we met PSY."[40] Also in December 2014, Rolling Stone placed 2NE1's Crush at No. 6 on their "20 Best Pop Albums of 2014" list, and said, "Almost two years after K-pop first giddily barged into America's imagination, the genre hasn't sustained a post-"Gangnam Style" wave, but the Seoul machine keeps humming."[41][42]


VIXX fans Global Citizen 2015 Earth Day, National Mall, April 18

In 2015, Billboard reported that K-pop was still doing well: an IFPI report said South Korea was still in the top 10 global music market rankings, having moved ahead of Brazil, at $266 million in trade value;[43] the National Tax Service of South Korea said the average annual income for singers rose more than 72 percent since 2010; and overseas revenues growth, attributed to interest in Korea's pop culture, led by music and television dramas, nearly doubled in five years.[44] Experts credited the jumps to more international album sales and tours, with 2014 the biggest year for K-pop concerts in America.[45]

K-Town's continued coverage included analysis of the future of K-pop in America and which groups might succeed.[46] A watch was kept for collaborations of K-pop artists with mainstream American pop artists - March: "P.D.D", Rap Monster of BTS and Warren G;[47] April: "The Heartbroken (Kpop Remix)", Wonder Girls' Yubin and Justin Thorne, previously of NLT;[48] May: "Doctor Pepper", 2NE1's CL and Riff Raff and OG Maco, produced by Diplo;[49] July: "Cash Money" Brave Brothers and YG featuring Krayzie Bone;[50] and December: Psy released his album Chiljip Psy-da with tracks featuring and Ed Sheeran.[51]

In March, at a major U.S. music festival, Miami's Ultra, CL performed Dirty Vibe, a 2014 release with Skrillex and Diplo (which she and G-Dragon featured on), then her own rap in Korean lyrics, during a performance with Sean Combs, which Billboard called "a breakthrough moment for Korean music";[52] with echoes from Korean media.[53]

Some concert reviews were - January: F.T. Island,[54] April: Amoeba Culture's Dynamic Duo, Primary, Zion.T and Crush,[55] June: Epik High[56] and July: BTS,[57] including their Billboard studio performance.[58] Epik High added tour dates and became the biggest North American K-pop tour in years,[59][60] and BTS sold-out VIP tickets were re-sold at more than $10,000.[61] In October, K-Town reviewed the Newark concert of Big Bang's six-city North American tour, after their Los Angeles concert scored in the top ten on "Billboard Hot Tours" with a sold-out boxscore earning;[62][63][64] and did a November pre-concert interview with Block B.[65] More coverage included the concerts and conference days for KCON 2015 in California again, and first time on the East Coast,[66][67][68][69] including interviews with performers Red Velvet,[70] Got7,[71] Zion.T and Crush,[72] Roy Kim,[73] Monsta X,[74] and AOA.[75]

Articles included attention from the film industry, Hollywood and American celebrities - TV station Nickelodeon aired a K-pop inspired show Make It Pop,[76][77][78] Big Bang's Fantastic Baby was played in the trailer of Pitch Perfect 2,[79] Randy Jackson visited Epik High backstage,[80] and Emma Stone told Conan's viewers she is obsessed with K-pop, saying it is "beyond excellent, it's the best thing you've ever seen", and her favorites were 2NE1 and Girls' Generation.[81][82] In November, EXO and Disney released "Light Saber", a song and music video for Star Wars: The Force Awakens;[83]


Local K-pop dance teams vie at Kaja Kon dance/concert, Miami Beach Convention Center, The Gleason Room Backstage, October 30, 2016

In 2016, K-Town reported on a study that found America was becoming a priority for touring Korean acts. The study was conducted by a concert kickstarter website, while they were gauging local fan interest for future concerts. The study examined the number of K-pop concerts held between 2013 and approximately May 2016, which found that East Asia still had the most concerts, but their numbers were tapering, while North America, South America and Europe were showing consistent growth.[84] The top three countries with the most concerts abroad were Japan, China and the USA.[84] The number one touring act in the study was the all-male group Big Bang.[84] In July, Forbes reported they made $44 million in pretax earnings over the past year, compared to $33.5 million made by the current highest-paid American all-male arena pop group, Maroon 5 and were No. 54 on the Forbes Celebrity 100.[85]

Still without a "designated" K-pop chart, the column continued to feature articles on K-pop's performance on all Billboard charts, which continued to be watched closely and rehashed by South Korean media and others internationally.[86][87][88]

Chart history news included Got7 receiving a No. 2 on the Social 50 chart and a No. 45 on the Artist 100 chart in April,[89] followed by BTS in October, who received No. 1 on the Social 50 chart (joining Psy's record) and a top K-pop artist scoring of No. 16 on the Artist 100 chart.[90] BTS's Wings, also, charted at No. 26 on Billboard 200 and No. 19 on Canadian Albums chart, setting records for K-pop on the charts.[91] New girl group Black Pink became the fastest act to hit No. 1 on the World Digital Songs chart with "Boombayah" and received No. 2 for "Whistle",[92] and CL's English language song "Lifted" charted at No. 94 on Billboard's Hot 100.[93]

Interviews and concert coverage included Jay Park touring with AOMG,[94] DEAN,[95] Got7,[96] Crush[97] and a concert review of CL, all in NYC;[98] and an interview with Tablo before Epik High's appearances at Coachella.[99] K-Town again covered KCON in New York[100] and L.A.,[101][102] including interviews with Ailee,[103] Crush,[104] Day6,[105] SHINee,[106] Amber,[107] and Twice.[108] And, for the first time, they covered a Canadian event, the Toronto Kpop Con.[109]

K-town columnist Benjamin participated in K-pop conferences and media inquiries about K-pop's status in America. In February, he spoke on a Boston University College of Arts and Sciences' panel, "Music & Media: Korean Pop Industry", which included issues about K-pop's fit with Western culture and the Korean entertainment industry's close scrutiny of media interviews.[110] In June, at KCON NY, he told NBC News Stephany Bai that K-pop was gaining global fans while retaining its "distinctive characteristics". He credited its continued success with things like accessibility on social media, song titles in English on YouTube, and an ability to involve fans in what he called K-pop's "scene" rather than a genre, which involves them in a "whole different world".[111] In July, with almost 190 foreign reporters registered to cover KCON LA, he told Korea Times reporter Si-soo Park, "K-pop is getting closer to the mainstream", and mentioned its coverage by major news outlets like The New York Times and others.[112] In November, he contributed K-pop analysis for a Time report on artists CL, Eric Nam, and Dean's attempts to enter the mainstream music market in America.[113]

The year closed with a report of four girl groups' disbanding: January - Kara, June - 4Minute, October - Rainbow, November - 2NE1.[114]

List of K-pop on the Billboard charts[edit]

Timeline of K-pop at Billboard[edit]


Jeff Benjamin manages and writes the column.[115] Prior to K-Town's launch, Billboard included K-pop news and articles, written by Billboard and Billboard Korea staff,"[1][116] which included Benjamin. He is a music/journalism alumni of New York University, where he interned with Billboard[117] and has contributed to other media featuring K-pop, including Rolling Stone, BuzzFeed, Nylon, CBS Radio, Mnet America, Fuse TV, Mnet TV America and Allkpop.[118]

Billboard Korea reporter Jessica Oak has also written K-pop articles for Billboard since 2012, then for K-Town when it was launched,[119] along with other Billboard Korea staff from offices in Gangnam.[120] Other contributors include Tamar Herman and Monique Melendez in New York City, as of 2016.[121][122]

Readership and reception[edit]

In April 2013, The Korea Herald said, "the more Billboard talks about K-pop, the faster the speed of K-pop advancement in the U.S. will be."[28]

As a K-Town columnist, Benjamin has been called upon for his opinions on K-pop from the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Entertainment Weekly, New York's Korea Society, Mnet America's Headliner series, Television in South Korea, NBC News, and Time, among others;[118][123][124] and has appeared in panels for KCON,[125][118] and Global Hallyu Forum 2013 Washington, D.C.[126][127] South Korean media, including South Korea's own music chart, Gaon Music Chart,[128] has posted interviews and articles about Benjamin.[129][130][131][132] K-Town articles have been re-phrased and quoted in media in the U.S., South Korea, and around the world.[133][134][31][135][136][137]


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  2. ^ a b Benjamin, Jeff (January 29, 2013). "Billboard & Girls' Generation Welcome You to K-Town!". Billboard. Retrieved September 16, 2014.
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  30. ^ "rocksbackpageslibrary, J.D. Considine". Rock's Backpages. Retrieved September 22, 2014.
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  32. ^ Lent, Jesse (June 13, 2014). "U.S. Version Of Billboard K-Pop Hot 100 Removed Indefinitely For 'Adjustments' [EXCLUSIVE]". Kpopstarz. Retrieved September 22, 2014.
  33. ^ Benjamin, Jeff (September 3, 2014). "How Has K-Pop Performed on Billboard's Twitter Charts So Far?". Billboard. Retrieved September 24, 2014.
  34. ^ Benjamin, Jeff (September 11, 2014). "INFINITE Become First Korean Act to Top Twitter Emerging Artist Chart, Enter Top Tracks". Billboard. Retrieved September 24, 2014.
  35. ^ Benjamin, Jeff (June 6, 2014). "Most Viewed K-Pop Videos in America vs. Around the World: May 2014". Billboard. Retrieved September 26, 2014.
  36. ^ Benjamin, Jeff (June 25, 2014). "K-Pop Concerts on Major Global Increase (Infographic)". Billboard. Retrieved September 26, 2014.
  37. ^ Song, Dain (August 6, 2014). "Big Bang goes head to head against Thirty Seconds to Mars for best fan army". JoongAng Daily. Retrieved September 27, 2014.
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  40. ^ Lynch, Joe (December 3, 2014). "Psy's 'Gangnam Style' Breaks YouTube Video Counter". Billboard. Retrieved July 5, 2015.
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  42. ^ Charles Aaron; Caryn Ganz; Maura Johnston; Brittany Spanos; Barry Walters (December 19, 2014). "20 Best Pop Albums of 2014". Rolling Stone. Retrieved July 5, 2015.
  43. ^ Smirke, Richard (April 20, 2015). "Seven Takeaways from IFPI's Study of the Global Music Market Last Year". Billboard. Retrieved July 26, 2015.
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  47. ^ Benjamin, Jeff (March 13, 2015). "4Minute's 'Crazy' EP Debuts at No. 1 on World Albums Chart". Billboard. Retrieved July 26, 2015.
  48. ^ Benjamin, Jeff (April 1, 2015). "Exclusive Video Premiere: Singer-Songwriter Justin Thorne and Wonder Girls' Yubin Enlist Their Fans for 'The Heartbroken (K-Pop Remix)'". Billboard. Retrieved July 26, 2015.
  49. ^ Benjamin, Jeff (May 22, 2015). "Listen to Diplo, CL, Riff Raff & OG Maco Team Up for 'Doctor Pepper'". Billboard. Retrieved July 26, 2015.
  50. ^ "YG & Krayzie Bone Break International Borders With Brave Brothers-Produced 'Cash Money': Exclusive Video Premiere". Billboard. July 10, 2015. Retrieved July 26, 2015.
  51. ^ Benjamin, Jeff (November 30, 2015). "PSY Reveals 'Daddy' & 'Napal Baji' Videos, Star-Studded Album ft. Ed Sheeran, & CL". Billboard. Retrieved September 19, 2016.
  52. ^ Benjamin, Jeff (March 30, 2015). "Why CL's Ultra Performance Was Way More Than a Cool Cameo". Billboard. Retrieved July 26, 2015.
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  62. ^ "Big Bang joins Billboard Hot Tours list w/ $1.7M in revenue from LA stop". The Korea Times. October 29, 2015. Retrieved September 6, 2016.
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  66. ^ Benjamin, Jeff (August 2, 2015). "KCON 2015 Saturday Recap: Super Junior, GOT7, Monsta X & More Shake the Staples Center". Billboard. Retrieved September 16, 2015.
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  70. ^ Benjamin, Jeff (August 6, 2015). "Red Velvet Talk First U.S. Performance, Their New Member & Summer Songs at KCON 2015: Exclusive". Billboard. Retrieved September 16, 2015.
  71. ^ Benjamin, Jeff (August 7, 2015). "GOT7 Talk 'Just Right,' Learning Acrobatics & Give Confidence Advice to Fans at KCON 2015: Exclusive". Billboard. Retrieved September 16, 2015.
  72. ^ Benjamin, Jeff (August 12, 2015). "Zion.T & Crush Reveal New Music Details, Favorite R&B Albums at KCON 2015 Los Angeles: Exclusive". Billboard. Retrieved September 16, 2015.
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  74. ^ Benjamin, Jeff (September 1, 2015). "Monsta X on Rookie Rivals & Why They're 'The Avengers' of K-Pop at KCON 2015 L.A.: Exclusive". Billboard. Retrieved September 16, 2015.
  75. ^ Benjamin, Jeff (September 10, 2015). "AOA Reveal Confidence Tips & Who's the Best Lacrosse Player at KCON 2015 L.A.: Exclusive". Billboard. Retrieved September 16, 2015.
  76. ^ Benjamin, Jeff (April 28, 2015). "Nick Cannon's 'Make It Pop': How He Mixed K-Pop & Nickelodeon Culture for Hit Kids Show". Billboard. Retrieved July 26, 2015.
  77. ^ Benjamin, Jeff (April 30, 2015). "'Make It Pop' Star Megan Lee Talks K-Pop & Diversity on U.S. TV, Status of Career". Billboard. Retrieved July 26, 2015.
  78. ^ Caramanica, Jon (April 5, 2015). "Review: 'Make It Pop' on Nickelodeon Veers Toward K-Pop". The New York Times. Retrieved July 26, 2015.
  79. ^ Benjamin, Jeff (April 16, 2015). "New 'Pitch Perfect 2' Trailer Features BIGBANG's K-Pop Hit 'Fantastic Baby'". Billboard. Retrieved July 26, 2015.
  80. ^ Benjamin, Jeff (June 19, 2015). "Epik High Talk U.S. Tour, Getting Randy Jackson's Co-Sign & Being 'Afraid' of Yoko Ono: Watch". Billboard. Retrieved July 26, 2015.
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  83. ^ Benjamin, Jeff (November 10, 2015). "K-Pop Boy Band EXO Collaborate With 'Star Wars' on New Single 'Lightsaber': Watch". Billboard. Retrieved September 19, 2016.
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