Music industry of East Asia

The music industry of East Asia, a region that includes Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea and Taiwan is a rapidly growing economic sector that is home to some of the world's largest music markets.


Map of East Asia
Modern East Asia

In 2003, South Korea became the world's first music market where digital music sales surpassed those of physical formats.[1][2]

In 2012, Japan surpassed the United States as the world's largest recorded music market for the first time, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. Though the U.S. remained the largest if licensing fees are included into the figures.[3] However, in the following year, Japan fell back to the second-largest music market after experiencing a 16.7 per cent decrease due to the country's reliance of CDs and slow adoption of digital services.[4][5]

In 2015, the digital music market in China is expected to be worth US$2.1 billion.[6] China is expected to become one of the largest music markets in the world by 2020.[7]

Contrast with the global music industry

Although global physical music sales (such as CDs) have been declining in recent years, in East Asia (particularly Japan and South Korea), however, physical music sales have been rising consistently.[8]

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry credits this phenomenon to "K-Pop fans who want high-quality physical formats and deluxe box sets".[8]

According to a music executive from Universal Music Group, CDs are becoming "the new merchandise in Asia".[9]


Several controversies have arrived based on the way the industry has been treating its artists.

Control of artists personal lives

It is not uncommon for record labels to prohibit their pop artists from dating for a certain period of time or for as long as they have a contract with the company.[10] In Japan managers may attempt to discourage their artists from dating or engaging in behavior that may tarnish their images by keeping a busy schedule and only letting artists know about their schedules a day at a time.[10] Artists who break this contract, as in the case of Minami Minegishi from AKB48, run the risk of getting dropped from their music group or contract.[11]

Korea has similar rules for musical pop artists. Artists have more freedom to date and get married, however managers have strong control over their personal lives and behaviors.[11] In Taiwan, artists are also expected to behave in certain ways, as they cannot discuss taboo topics such as politics.[11]


The following table lists the total revenues of the music markets of East Asia:

Rank Country Revenue in 2017
(in million USD)
1  Japan 2,727.5 [12]
2  South Korea 494.4 [12]
3  China (PRC) 292.3 [12]
4  Taiwan N/A[a]
5  Hong Kong N/A[a]


  • ^ Statistics for 2017 unavailable. In 2010, the IFPI recorded total sales for Taiwan and Hong Kong at 56.3 and 37.8 million USD, respectively.[13]

See also


  1. ^ Marchand, Ruby. "Trade Mission Engages Key Korean Music Professionals". Grammy Award. Retrieved 2013-01-14. ...It's also the first country where digital surpassed physical sales.
  2. ^ McClure, Steve (2006). Billboard Vol. 118, No. 18. Billboard. p. 23. ISSN 0006-2510.
  3. ^ Kyodo News (9 April 2013). "Japan surpasses US as world's biggest recorded music market". ABS-CBN News Channel. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  4. ^ "Japan drags down global music market". BBC News. 18 March 2014. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  5. ^ Karp, Hannah; Inada, Miho (18 March 2014). "Japan Hits a Sour Note on Music Sales". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  6. ^ Steven Millward (December 4, 2015). "Already bigger than Spotify, China's search engine giant doubles down on streaming music". Tech In Asia. Retrieved December 4, 2015.
  7. ^ Chen Nan (December 21, 2015). "Music industry dreaming of China streaming". China Daily. Retrieved August 13, 2016.
  8. ^ a b "Francis Keeling, Universal Music's Global Head of Digital Business: Google Streaming Service 'Is the Biggest Funnel We Can Have'". Billboard magazine. Retrieved 7 May 2013. According to IFPI, global physical format sales declined from 61% in 2011 to an estimated 58% in 2012. However, in Japan, CD and DVD sales posted strong increases (sales numbers or percentages were not provided). While in South Korea physical sales are expected to rise for the third consecutive year, with IFPI crediting K-Pop fans who want high-quality physical formats and deluxe box sets, with driving the format's sustained popularity.
  9. ^ Lindvall, Helienne. "How K-Pop & J-Pop Are Saving Physical Music Sales". Digital Music News. Archived from the original on 18 May 2013. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  10. ^ a b "3 ways the Japanese entertainment industry keeps idol singers from dating". Japan Today. Retrieved 2017-12-12.
  11. ^ a b c Oi, Mariko (2016). "The dark side of Asia's pop music industry". BBC News. Retrieved 2017-12-04.
  12. ^ a b c "RIAJ Yearbook 2018: IFPI Global Music Report 2018" (PDF). Recording Industry Association of Japan. p. 4. Retrieved 2019-03-18.
  13. ^ "RIAJ: Yearbook 2012, IFPI 2010 Report: 31. Global Sales of Recorded Music by Country in 2010 (Page 24)" (PDF). Recording Industry Association of Japan. Retrieved 2012-04-26.

J-pop (Japanese: ジェイポップ, jeipoppu; often stylized as J-POP; an abbreviation for Japanese pop), natively also known simply as pops (ポップス, poppusu), is a musical genre that entered the musical mainstream of Japan in the 1990s. Modern J-pop has its roots in traditional Japanese music, but significantly in 1960s pop and rock music, such as The Beatles and The Beach Boys, which led to Japanese rock bands such as Happy End fusing rock with Japanese music in the early 1970s. J-pop was further defined by new wave groups in the late 1970s, particularly electronic synth-pop band Yellow Magic Orchestra and pop rock band Southern All Stars.Eventually, J-pop replaced kayōkyoku ("Lyric Singing Music", a term for Japanese pop music from the 1920s to the 1980s) in the Japanese music scene. The term was coined by the Japanese media to distinguish Japanese music from foreign music and now refers to most Japanese popular music. Popular styles of Japanese pop music included technopop during the 1970s–1980s, city pop in the 1980s, and Shibuya-kei in the 1990s.


K-pop (abbreviation of Korean pop; Korean: 케이팝) is a genre of popular music originating in South Korea. While the modern form of K-pop can be traced back to the early 90s, the term itself has been popularized since the 2000s, replacing the term Gayo (가요), which also refers to domestic pop music in South Korea. Although it generally indicates "popular music" within South Korea, the term is often used in a narrower sense to describe a modern form of South Korean pop that is influenced by styles and genres from around the world, such as experimental, rock, jazz, gospel, hip hop, R&B, reggae, electronic dance, folk, country, and classical on top of its traditional Korean music roots. The more modern form of the genre emerged with the formation of one of the earliest K-pop groups, Seo Taiji and Boys, in 1992. Their experimentation with different styles and genres of music and integration of foreign musical elements helped reshape and modernize South Korea's contemporary music scene.Modern K-pop "idol" culture began with the boy band H.O.T. in 1996, as K-pop grew into a subculture that amassed enormous fandoms of teenagers and young adults. After a slump in early K-pop, from 2003 TVXQ and BoA started a new generation of K-pop idols that broke the music genre into the neighboring Japanese market and continue to popularize K-pop internationally today. With the advent of online social networking services and Korean TV shows, the current spread of K-pop and Korean entertainment, known as the Korean Wave, is seen not only in East Asia and Southeast Asia, but also in Bangladesh, India, Latin America, North Africa, Southern Africa, the Middle East and throughout the Western world, gaining a widespread global audience.

Music industry

The music industry consists of the companies and individuals that earn money by creating new songs and pieces and selling live concerts and shows, audio and video recordings, compositions and sheet music, and the organizations and associations that aid and represent music creators. Among the many individuals and organizations that operate in the industry are: the songwriters and composers who create new songs and musical pieces; the singers, musicians, conductors and bandleaders who perform the music; the companies and professionals who create and sell recorded music and/or sheet music (e.g., music publishers, music producers, recording studios, engineers, record labels, retail and online music stores, performance rights organizations); and those that help organize and present live music performances (sound engineers, booking agents, promoters, music venues, road crew).

The industry also includes a range of professionals who assist singers and musicians with their music careers (talent managers, artists and repertoire managers, business managers, entertainment lawyers); those who broadcast audio or video music content (satellite, Internet radio stations, broadcast radio and TV stations); music journalists and music critics; DJs; music educators and teachers; musical instrument manufacturers; as well as many others. In addition to the businesses and artists who work in the music industry to make a profit or income, there is a range of organizations that also play an important role in the music industry, including musician's unions (e.g., American Federation of Musicians), not-for-profit performance-rights organizations (e.g., American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) and other associations (e.g., International Alliance for Women in Music, a non-profit organization that advocates for women composers and musicians).

The modern Western music industry emerged between the 1930s and 1950s, when records replaced sheet music as the most important product in the music business. In the commercial world, "the recording industry"—a reference to recording performances of songs and pieces and selling the recordings–began to be used as a loose synonym for "the music industry". In the 2000s, a majority of the music market is controlled by three major corporate labels: the French-owned Universal Music Group, the Japanese-owned Sony Music Entertainment, and the US-owned Warner Music Group. Labels outside of these three major labels are referred to as independent labels (or "indies"). The largest portion of the live music market for concerts and tours is controlled by Live Nation, the largest promoter and music venue owner. Live Nation is a former subsidiary of iHeartMedia Inc, which is the largest owner of radio stations in the United States.

In the first decades of the 2000s, the music industry underwent drastic changes with the advent of widespread digital distribution of music via the Internet (which includes both illegal file sharing of songs and legal music purchases in online music stores). A conspicuous indicator of these changes is total music sales: since 2000, sales of recorded music have dropped off substantially while live music has increased in importance. In 2011, the largest recorded music retailer in the world was now a digital, Internet-based platform operated by a computer company: Apple Inc.'s online iTunes Store. Since 2011, the Music Industry has seen consistent sales growth with streaming now generating more revenue per annum than digital downloads. Spotify and Apple lead the way with online digital streaming.

Music of China

Music of China refers to the music of the Chinese people, which may be the music of the Han Chinese as well as other ethnic minorities within mainland China. It also includes music produced by people of Chinese origin in some territories outside mainland China using traditional Chinese instruments or in the Chinese language. It covers a highly diverse range of music from the traditional to the modern.

Different types of music have been recorded in historical Chinese documents from the early periods of Chinese civilization which, together with archaeological artifacts discovered, provided evidence of a well-developed musical culture as early as the Zhou dynasty (1122 BC – 256 BC). These further developed into various forms of music through succeeding dynasties, producing the rich heritage of music that is part of the Chinese cultural landscape today. Chinese music continues to evolve in the modern times, and more contemporary forms of music have also emerged.

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