Investors in the K-pop sector have had a rough start to the year, with stock prices of major companies experiencing significant declines. JYP Entertainment, YG Entertainment, Hybe, and SM Entertainment all saw a drop in their stock prices, with some companies experiencing losses of over 30% year to date. The decline was exacerbated by a dating scandal involving one of SM Entertainment’s artists, leading to negative press coverage and backlash from fans.

Despite the challenges faced by the K-pop sector, Goldman Sachs remains optimistic about the industry’s future. In a report released on March 14, the investment bank suggested that the K-pop sector is “misunderstood” and highlighted the potential for a valuation re-rating. The analysts pointed out that companies in the industry continue to deliver multi-year earnings growth, despite the recent sell-off in stock prices.

Redefining Success Metrics in the K-pop Industry

Goldman Sachs challenged the mainstream mindset that album sales are the key indicator of a K-pop company’s success. Instead, the analysts argued that offline concert attendance is a more accurate metric for measuring the industry’s reach and growth potential. They emphasized that album sales can be influenced by factors such as wallet share and pandemic-related disruptions, which may not accurately reflect the true fan base size.

The analysts at Goldman Sachs identified Japan as a significant growth opportunity for K-pop companies in the near term. They highlighted the increasing popularity of K-pop among Japanese audiences, driven by scandals in the local talent agency industry and the successful appearances of K-pop artists on major music shows. The report projected a substantial increase in concert audiences in Japan, with K-pop companies expected to double their market share in the country by 2026.

In addition to Japan, Goldman Sachs also pointed to the global expansion of K-pop as a key growth driver for the industry. The success of Hybe-managed girl group NewJeans in the U.S. market was highlighted as an example of K-pop’s growing global fanbase. The analysts noted that NewJeans’ recent album topped the U.S. Billboard 200 chart, with their lead single reaching No. 2 on the Billboard Global 200. The group’s performances at major music festivals like Lollapalooza and Coachella further solidified K-pop’s mainstream presence.

Hybe’s recent announcement of an expanded partnership with Universal Music Group (UMG) reflects the increasing mainstream acceptance of K-pop globally. The collaboration includes exclusive distribution rights for Hybe’s artists and labels through UMG’s network, which boasts artists like Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, and Justin Bieber. Goldman Sachs viewed this partnership as a significant milestone for the K-pop industry, providing companies with stronger bargaining power in business relationships and solidifying their competitive position in the global music market.

While the K-pop sector may be facing challenges in the short term, there is still optimism for long-term growth and success. By redefining success metrics, exploring new markets, and expanding global presence through strategic partnerships, K-pop companies are positioning themselves for continued growth and global recognition. Investors and fans alike can look forward to a brighter future for the K-pop industry, driven by innovation, resilience, and a growing international fanbase.


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