Gaon became South Korea’s official sales chart over a decade ago in 2010, and since then has been one of the best sources to use to keep track of K-Pop album sales numbers. They keep daily, weekly, monthly, and annual counts on album sales, as well as reward certifications for albums that have reached certain milestones.
With the K-Pop genre growing in popularity over the last decade, album sales have gone up respectively with the greater publicity of the music genre. And looking back at how K-Pop album sales have gone up drastically each year since 2010, there’s data to prove it!
In 2010, just eight K-Pop albums hit 100,000 sales, and only one reached 200,000: Super Junior‘s Bonamana.
The following year, in 2011, twelve albums reached 100k sales, four reached 200k, and two reached 300k, one of which was Girls’ Generation‘s The Boys.
Between 2012 and 2014, no albums reached more than the 300,000 sales milestone, with both Super Junior and EXO being the best-sellers of that era. In fact, only one album each of these three years hit the 300k mark, and those that hit 100k and 200k sales fluctuated with no obvious increase in number.
2015 was the first year that a K-Pop album broke 400,000 sales: EXO’s album EXODUS, which really indicated just how popular the SM Entertainment group was during this time.
2016, however, seems to have been a turning point in K-Pop’s history. This was the year that BTS‘s popularity began to rise substantially, and the best-selling album in the K-Pop genre that year, Wings, jumped to over 700,000 total sales. One album also sold over 600,000 units, and two broke the half-million mark!
2017 was the year that a K-Pop album reached 1 million sales for the first time. With the release of BTS’s Love Yourself: Her, which had sold just under 1.5 million copies by the end of that year, the seven-member boy group really helped to spread the music genre on a more global scale, and the following years have proved it!
2018 saw the first (and second) K-Pop album reach 2 million sales (the best-selling being BTS’s Love Yourself: Answer), with three others making over 1 million that year. 2019 had the first 3 million selling album — Map of the Soul: Persona — and nearly every other milestone from 100,000 and upwards had more albums reaching them than any year previous.
Of course, 2020 just continued the trend, with Map of the Soul: 7 becoming the first K-Pop album to reach 4 million sales! Six other albums hit 1 million sales this year — the most in a year by a huge margin — including albums by SEVENTEEN, NCT, and the first girl group to reach this milestone, BLACKPINK!
Though 2021 isn’t over yet, records have already been made this year as well. Eleven albums have sold over 1 million copies — including fourth generation artists Stray Kids and ENHYPEN, as well as soloist Baekhyun — and three have reached 2 million: NCT DREAM‘s Hot Sauce, NCT 127‘s Sticker, and BTS’s Butter.
With this trend seeming like it’s just going to continue as the years progress, it’s exciting to see the K-Pop music genre become more well-known and appreciated worldwide, without signs of slowing down!
Here’s a look at the full breakdown of K-Pop album sales over the last twelve years: