The Gangnam Payoff

It’s official. Gangnam Style is the most popular video in the history of the internet, a cultural phenomenon in its own right, one of the most successful singles this millennium and has potentially done more to foster understanding between East Asia and the West than Nixon going to China.

The debate over its artistic validity and cultural meaning continues to rage with an unusually eloquent article on the Fox News (!) website stating

‘If the Blues and Soul spoke to a people in pain, struggling to find love and freedom; and if Rock n' Roll spoke to a generation ready for rebellion, then Gangnam Style speaks to a generation ready for nothing--a psychological vacuum, a flight from reality, a fear of being a human being with the capacity to feel for oneself and others, with ideas and ideals that really, truly matter.’


It is hysterical though – and self mocking – and has a sense of fun that the airbrushed pop of Generation X Factor so abysmally lacks. But how is he making any cash?

This is a fascinating question as it is a well known fact that sales in music are a shadow of what they used to be – and while up and comers in the industry now need a day job to fund their music projects, what is happening at the global hit level.

Well there’s Youtube ads obviously. PSY is estimated to have earned approximately $870,000 from the ads on the video – a figure that may sound like a lot to some – but actually – if that is how much the most popular video ever earned – what hope is there for the internet advertising business model?

Then there’s legal downloads – Gangnam Style has been downloaded 2.7 million times in the US and has been the No. 1 or No. 2 seller for most weeks since its debut, according to Nielsen SoundScan. PSY and his team are looking at just under a dollar of that per download it would seem.

But like so much in showbiz these days – the real cash will come down to licensing, TV appearances, advertising contracts, endorsements and concerts. And the real figures there are far murkier. PSY has certainly been tireless in jetting across the globe to eke out every last drop of potential from his hit, but it doesn’t look like it will be enough to propel him into the top global earners – or necessarily the top K-Pop earner astonishingly enough.

Though if he ever buys one helicopter too many and winds up skint – he can always fall back on his family’s 30 per cent share of DI Corp, a successful electronics company. Or corner the property market in Gangnam.


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