G-Dragon's 'Kwon Ji Yong' Physical Sales Excluded From Korean Charts

Han Myung-Gu/WireImage
G-Dragon aka Kwon Ji-Yong of South Korean boy band Bigbang attends the launch party for 'Acne Studio' flagship store on Sept. 18, 2015 in Seoul.

With streaming’s rise, there are many ways to release songs and albums nowadays, and the most recent album by K-pop icon G-Dragon spurred controversy because of it.

The BIGBANG member’s eponymous solo EP Kwon Ji Yong debuted on the Billboard 200 within a day of its release last week but was considered ineligible for Korea’s Gaon Chart. The chart’s operator, the Korean Music Content Industry Association (KMCIA), determined that the EP was not a true physical album since GD decided to sell USBs that linked to the songs rather than CDs with the songs on them.

The KMCIA said that G-Dragon’s highly personal five-track EP was not a true physical album because its USB linked to a site where buyers could download the songs rather than actually containing the tracks themselves.

According to Yonhap News, KMCIA's decision was based on South Korean copyright law that defines an album as a physical object featuring music. If it goes uncontested, the decision will negatively impact G-Dragon's success on other local music charts. It will also have a negative effect on weekly music programs, including SBS’ Inkigayo and MBC’s Show! Music Core, where the best-selling artists of the week, based on several categories including chart rankings, are awarded prizes.

G-Dragon addressed the debacle on Instagram, with a post titled “What’s the Problem?” “Everything in the world has pros and cons, but the external form of music records has consistently changed from cassette tape to CD and then to download file,” the artist wrote. “Isn’t the most important thing for music a good melody that will linger on the ears, mouths and minds of people for a long time and the lyrics that can touch people and make them laugh and cry?”


"What's The Problem?" 누군지도 모르는 어떠한 사람의 결정에 따라 한 아티스트의 작업물이 그저 '음반이다/아니다' 로 달랑 나뉘어지면 끝인가? 오랜 시간 고민끝에 겨우 단 몇 곡을 세상에 선보인다. 비닐에 쌓인 새 앨범이 손에 잡히면 그 기분은 매번 꿈같다. (LP, 테이프, CD, usb파일...등등) 포인트가 다르다. 정작 제일 중요한건 겉을 포장하고 있는 디자인적 요소와 재미까지 더한 형태가 아니라 아무것도 아닌 곳에 그 누가 어디서 틀어도 그 안에 담겨져 있는 음악, 그 가수의 목소리가 녹음된 그 음악이 제일 중요하다고 생각한다. 당신의 귀를 통해, 눈을 통해, 손을 통해, 입을 통해서 오랜시간 세월이 지나도 가슴속에 변치않고 영원히 기억될 수 있는. 그저 짧은 노래라 하지만 언젠가 인생의 한 페이지를 회상할 때같이 자연스럽게 뒤에 흘러나올 수 있는 그런. 좋은 멜로디와 좋은가사가 그게 전부다. 다른건 중요치 않다.

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“We think that the whole issue is a structural problem, those holding on to the old way of thinking and not being able to accept the changes that are happening right now,” a YG Entertainment rep told Sports Dongha. “Why does music have to be stored only in CDs? This doesn’t make sense. ... Devices change, but the most important thing is the melody and the lyrics that can stand the test of time and stay in people’s ears, mouths and minds as something precious and comforting.”  

The USB links to a site containing photos, videos and download links for the five tracks of Kwon Ji Yong. It can be reused as a regular USB, providing a useful tool for fans who purchase the album, but remains controversial for pushing the boundaries of what is and what is not an album by KMCIA's standard. Other sorts of nontraditional albums, such as digital-only releases, are also under scrutiny by the organization. 

(The USB’s physical appearance also ignited some concern about quality control regarding the experimental album packaging after the red color of the product smudged, but YG Entertainment said it was intentional. The USB, which says “Kwon Ji Yong, Blood type A, 1988, August 18,” is meant to reflect G-Dragon’s DNA and birth.)

With hard-hitting hip-hop tracks and more reflective, melodic songs, such as the single “Untitled 2014,” Kwon Ji Yong earned G-Dragon his best U.S. sales week ever and landed at No. 192 on the Billboard 200 for the week ending June 8. The album also saw major success in China with more than 1 million albums sold via QQ Music, the country's biggest music-streaming site, despite a Chinese push against Korean pop culture exports in recent months due to political and military concerns.