(Seoul) When South Korean rapper Psy released Gangnam Style ten years ago, few anticipated the scale and speed of its success, and how it would help usher in the streaming revolution.
Posted at 6:48 a.m.
On July 15, 2012, his delirious clip was released. Poking fun at the wealthy Gangnam district of Seoul, it hit the world in weeks, hitting one billion views on YouTube in six months.
His signature “horse-riding” dance has given rise to a host of parodies and emulators: on prime-time television in the United States, in an English football stadium and even at the White House, the American president of the Barack Obama era, having declared that his daughters had taught him “a very good Gangnam Style “.
The title demonstrated to the music industry the power of influence of online platforms and social networks, especially for non-Western artists who do not perform in English.
“Traditional marketing and advertising textbooks have been thrown out the window,” said Bernie Cho, president of Seoul-based creative agency DFSB and an expert on the South Korean music industry.
In 2012, the streaming industry was still in its infancy, providing less than 7% of music revenue worldwide, according to the music industry federation IFPI.
But the incredible success of Gangnam Style helped pave the way for artists all over the world to not only release their music, but also earn online ad revenue and get called up for gigs.
Ten years later, streaming is the main source of revenue for the global music industry – 65% in 2021, according to IFPI – with content available online via subscription services, YouTube and/or video apps short like TikTok.
A few months after its release, Gangnam Style had reached the record for the most watched video on YouTube, a place it kept for more than three years. As of June 21 this year, it has been viewed over 4.5 billion times.
The buzz generated by Gangnam Style and viral phenomena such as Harlem Shake prompted Billboard in 2013 to transform the way it does its rankings, adding streams on YouTube and other platforms to traditional record sales and radio stream numbers.
But Gangnam Style also rocked South Korea, overnight becoming the country’s biggest cultural export and a source of national pride: K-pop groups that had tried to break into the international scene before 2012 had regional success in Asia, without succeeding in imposing itself on the lucrative Western markets such as the United States.
Psy “proved to everyone that instead of a Korean version of a western or international pop star, what the world wanted was something very authentic, original, unique”, said DFSB’s Bernie Cho.