Billboard charting changes are for 'credibility': Company president addresses K-pop concerns

Billboard President Mike Van, left, and Billboard Korea publisher and CEO Yuna Kim answer questions from reporters during a press conference held on April 15 in southern Seoul prior to the launch of Billboard Korea in June. [YONHAP]

Decreasing the influence of digital downloads and making a separate category on the Billboard charts and the Billboard Music Awards (BBMAs) for K-pop — these moves were not meant to diminish the influence of the made-in-Korea music genre on the U.S. music charts, but part of its effort to “add to the credibility” of its brand, according to Billboard President Mike Van.

“It is completely untrue,” Van said on Monday during a press conference with Korean reporters in southern Seoul, when asked whether Billboard has been intentionally changing its charting methodologies to push K-pop artists down on its music lists.

Billboard had been accused by K-pop fans and music critics for adjusting its chart metrics to give less leverage to digital downloads and streams, a large feat that K-pop fans around the world have mastered.

“The methodology that we have in place that measures all music consumption across all of our partners — whether that be the data providers or the major and independent labels —, all of the sales data and the methodology are widely accepted and signed upon by all of those companies,” Van said regarding the charting technique.

“And so as a result of that, everything that we do and everything that we measure, everything we publish is not only widely accepted but codified and approved by our partners. Although it may seem or it may appear that there may be some one-offs here and there, overall, that is simply not true."

Billboard President Mike Van answers questions from reporters during a press conference held on April 15 in southern Seoul prior to the launch of Billboard Korea in June. [YONHAP]

Van’s visit to Korea, his first ever to the country according to the Billboard CEO, took place as a celebration of the inauguration of Billboard’s official Korean branch, Billboard Korea, which is scheduled to take place within June along with the first issue of its magazine “Billboard K Vol. 1,” though no specific date was given on Monday.

Billboard Korea joins the list of Billboard’s other international editions printed in China, Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam and more.

Billboard magazine began in 1894 as Billboard Advertising by publishing a list of best-selling music sheets in 1913. It rose to become the biggest music chart in the United States and subsequently the world, making its annual BBMAs one of the most prestigious music awards, alongside the likes of the Grammy Awards, MTV Video Music Awards and the American Music Awards.

K-pop's global presence grew when Psy's “Gangnam Style” spread across the globe in 2012, but the made-in-Korea genre really started making itself known through BTS, when the septet first topped the Billboard 200 albums chart in 2018 with “Love Yourself: Tear.”

Girl group NewJeans [ADOR]

BTS and its members Jimin and Jungkook have topped the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, while other acts such as Blackpink, Stray Kids, Tomorrow X Together, Twice, NewJeans, Ateez and SuperM have followed BTS in topping the Billboard 200 albums chart with their own releases. A weekly K-pop chart was added in 2019, and the BBMAs started awarding K-pop artists in a separate category from last year.

“At Billboard, we recognize the significance of K-pop and K-music as not just a musical genre, but as a cultural movement that continues to transcend borders and redefine the landscape of the global entertainment industry,” Van said.

“With our dedicated team of journalists and music enthusiasts from both the U.S. and Korea, we are poised to further amplify the beauty of K-music through Billboard’s industry-leading platforms and content. From our world-class digital and social presence to our unique live experiences and IP [intellectual property], Billboard Korea will serve as a cultural ambassador and the go-to destination for all things K-pop, K-music and K-culture.”

Mike Van was appointed president of Billboard by the music chart’s parent company Penske Media Corporation in May last year. He had held executive positions in advertising and sales at Pandora, Electronic Arts and MySpace prior to his position as vice president overseeing global partnerships at Billboard since 2018.

Yuna Kim will sit as the publisher and CEO of Billboard Korea, the local subsidiary of the U.S. Billboard brand. Kim is also the publisher of WWD Korea magazine and a member of the board at wireless LAN developer Davolink.

Billboard President Mike Van, left, and Billboard Korea publisher and CEO Yuna Kim pose for photos during a press conference held on April 15 in southern Seoul prior to the launch of Billboard Korea in June. [NEWS1]

Attempts to establish a Korean branch of Billboard under the name Billboard Korea were made in the past, but they were mostly executed by domestic entrepreneurs who bought the Billboard license and published their own content, rather than acting as a subsidiary directly established and operated by the U.S. headquarters.

“Billboard Korea will work as the K-music team of the Billboard headquarters,” Kim said. “We are already working on a variety of content with the headquarters. We will be publishing digital pictorials of K-pop artists every month, in addition to the content that will be published on social media and the website.”

“I see a very bright future for K-pop,” Van said. “The volume, frequency, quality and variations of projects and music and performances that continue to come out — and the pipeline is very, very robust. I see a very, very, very bright future for it."

“But I want to be clear here,” he said, “at Billboard, we measure all music genres. And so for Billboard Korea specifically, it’s not just about K-pop, but we seek to support the entire scope of the music ecosystem of all genres that will come from this country. I don’t see any shortage or stoppage of the music that’s going to be coming out of this region and how we’re going to celebrate it.”