Since Park Kyung‘s open fire Tweet on sajaegi — or chart manipulation — more industry insiders have opened up about it and spilled the industry’s dirty little secrets. Hence, it has grown almost inarguable that in the darker corners of the K-Pop world, such ways of paying to tweak the music streaming charts do exist.
And most recently, SJ “SINXITY” Shin, a former YG Entertainment‘s creative director now turned CEO of his own entertainment business, shared on Instagram an actual pricing chart from one of the many sajaegi agencies in Korea.
He explained the pricing chart to be “a digital marketing estimate”. The estimate listed a number of manipulating services for different charts and websites — plus the daily/hourly costs of using each service. This particular service agency provided not only music streaming chart manipulation, it also provided different keyword search boosts and contents exposure deals.
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이것은 제가 입수한 디지털 마케팅 견적서 입니다. 음원 사재기를 누가 했는지는 알 수 없겠지만, 음원 사재기라는 것의 존재여부에 대해서는. 존재한다는 가정이 합리적이라고 생각합니다. 음원 사재기에 대한 저의 개인적인 입장은 제가 지난주 포스팅에서 말씀드렸지만, 절대로 옹호한다는 것은 아닙니다. 다만 수십년간 이 업계는 공정한 경쟁의 결을 벗어난 것들과 순수한 노력이 공존하고 있습니다. 프듀의 접대와 조작과, 그것도 모르고 순수하게 참가한 자녀를 응원하는 연습생의 아버지의 피켓처럼. 무엇을 위한 논란인지. 차트를 위한 상술과 편법, 그리고 불법의 차이는 무엇인가요?
Here is a digital marketing estimate which I confiscated. We don’t know who used the manipulating system, but we can logically believe that such systems do exist. I’ve shared my personal opinion on sajaegi in my last week’s posting. But I do not think lightly of it. Please keep in mind this industry has come decades, with unfair competition and pure passion coexisting.
— SJ Sinxity Shin
According to this pricing chart, it would cost up to 5 million KRW (5K USD) per hour to boost an artist’s name to rank within the “Top 10 Most Searched” category on one of Korea’s biggest search engines. The most hefty cost came to be around 250 million KRW (250K USD) per day, for an artist to rank within the “Top 50” on one of Korea’s major music streaming applications.
1. Keyword Boost (Most Searched) / Per Hour / 5K USD / Will rank within Top 10 Most Searched
2. Chart Top 100 / Per Day / 88K USD / Will rank within Top 100 for a day
3. Chart Top 50 / Per Day / 250K USD / Will rank within Top 50 for a day
4. Music Chart / 1 Day Guaranteed / 30K USD / Will rank within Top 50
5. Music Chart / 1 Day Guaranteed / 50K USD / Will rank within Top 10
6. Keyword Boost (Most Searched) / Per Hour / 4K USD / Will trend as keyword
7. Live Chart / Per Hour / 50K USD / (10% /day to maintain) Additional 50K
8. Live Chart / Per Hour / 80K USD / (10%/day to maintain) Additional 80K
9. Main Content / Per Case / 8K USD / Will boost to be included as a main content
10. Main Content Exposure / Per Case / 70K USD / Will boost to be included as a main content
SJ Sinxity Shin added that no “genre” is clean from these services. He pointed out that it isn’t necessarily one type of music / artist that employs these services — there isn’t a safe zone when it comes to these manipulation.
It is a grave mistake to think only a ‘certain type of music’ will use sajaegi services to manipulate the charts. Pop, K-Pop… There is no safe zone.
— SJ Sinxity Shin
Meanwhile, K-Pop fans remain shocked at the lengths agencies will go to “promote” their artists. Moreover, they can’t wait for actual investigations to unfold and reveal the truth behind which artists and agencies may have paid their digital marketing fees to unfairly claim spots on the chart.