How much do kpop idols make?
Let’s see the full breakdown of the income distribution in the kpop business. Here we have to note that most labels keep their contract details secret.
Now the abridged version of the answer is
Idols make less than you think but more than you can imagine.
Let me explain. Kpop idols have a lot of similarities to professional athletes. They both tend to have relatively short careers. Which requires peak physical conditioning. Their financial status is highly misunderstood because most people only focus on top-tier talent.
If your perception of athletes revolves around superstars like Lebron James or Cristiano Ronaldo. Well, you would just assume all athletes are massive millionaires.
There is a very wide spectrum of professional athletes. For example, you have minor league baseball players, arena football players, and professional pool players.
Many of these professional athletes make less than your typical office job. Kpop idols are no different. There is a huge financial discrepancy between a group like BTS and a newly debuted group that one had never heard of.
Basic understanding of How income distribution works in Kpop.
The income distribution relies on how much a company is willing to pay its artist. And whether that amount is gross or net.The company can pay an artist via a 50:50 split of the gross sales. After deducting promotional costs, recording costs distribution costs, etc. Hence the artist will go home with much less, this is called the net income.
You may have seen some numbers from some Korean blogs and forums that, the income distribution for a supposed evil company like SM entertainment has a 90:10 spilled.
While some companies like JYP entertainment offers a 50:50 spilled for their artists. Let me clarify for you that one is a net total while the other is a gross total. This means in the end the distribution is the same. This was confirmed by former kpop idols by themselves who both were at one time signed under Jtune. Which is the subsidiary of JYP entertainment.
Now I also need to mention that this is the only calculated income from physical album sales.
I honestly don’t know how much an artist makes from digital sales on stream. What I do know is that the digital sales stream pays artists next to nothing. Because there’s just not much profit margin left after recording labels and distributors take all their shares.
Let’s take a look at the best of the best BTS.
They sold a combined 7,068,997 million copies of their album in 2020. Which sold for $20 on an average per album you’re looking at the total of 141,379,940 million dollars.Now Bighit steps in and takes half I.e. 70,689,970 million dollars. That seems kind of greedy well it probably is.But here is the catch they don’t get to keep all of it. You see most companies will take out the cost of the album distribution and retail costs from their share.
But what the members make so at 141,379,940 million Bighit taking half that leaves boys with about 70,689,970 million dollars. Now from this songwriters and producers take an additional 50 %. Which also includes royalties. So minus the 50% cut from the songwriters and producers now we are left with 35,344,985 million dollars.
The next thing is to be deducted is the promotional and recording costs. Which includes things like fancy photo books, advertising, hair & make-up. Other than this wardrobe for music shows are also included in this.
Now u may be thinking don’t idols get paid to perform on these music shows. Yes, they do get appearance fees from the networks about 100 dollars. Really yeah have fun splitting that between the group members.
With each group member wearing expensive clothes and performing in a different outfit for each show for 5 shows a week.
A group like twice is losing around 70,000 dollars to 100,000 dollars a week by just performing in these music shows. So when you take out 30% promotional cost & recording you’re now left with 24,741,490 million dollars. Now as for the cost of the music video this is deducted from the artist share.
The average video production cost between $250,000 to 500,000 dollars. So for two music videos of higher quality. Let’s say a million dollars. Now total stands at 23,741,490 million dollars.
Now, this amount splits between 7 group members. And each member is left with 3,391,641.43 million dollars. Now for some people that might not seem like a lot of money for major superstars. But I can assure you in the world of kpop idols that is an astronomical amount just from the album sales.
If you start adding concerts in 2020 was a bit hard to come by. Despite the online concerts. But if you go by the previous year 2019, Forbes estimates that the BTS made about a total of 50 million dollars. When u include a full year of concerts.
And that would place BTS annual salary above people like Steph Curry, Lebron James, Patrick Mahomes and that’s only from their day job.
You start including endorsement and even their equity in their own company. But that is the highest end of the spectrum. What happens when you take a few spots down. Let’s talk about Mamamoo a very popular group and pretty successful. Well going by the numbers in 2020 they sold a total of about 170,000 albums multiplied by $20 you’re looking at 3,400,000 million dollars.
From there you take out half from the record label. This leaves 1.7million dollars. Songwriters and producers take another 50 % leaving 850,000. Now minus another 30% for promotional cost leaves around $595,000
two music videos as well looking at $95000 remaining. Now it’s divided among 4 members and you’re looking at just $24000 each. Album sales are only a small portion of total income.
That is the thing if you’re not selling millions of albums and most Kpop groups don’t.Even for all other idols, the music is no longer the product they’re trying to sell. It’s just an advertisement for a calling card for endorsement. It’s the image of the idol of popularity that is being sold to advertisers. And all the attention the idols get from you the fan is their leverage.
You see only a few selected groups can afford to have multiple comebacks a year. So when a group releases a lot of albums that means they are profitable.
When you see some of the ridiculous numbers generated by a group like BTS. This is a reason so many startups companies continue to launch new Idols. Despite the ridiculous odds of success. They’re playing a lottery. A race to create the next Bts. If you think this is crazy, just remember that Bighit entertainment just a few years ago used to be a little startup company themselves.