In the week following the release of ENHYPEN’s BORDER : CARNIVAL on April 26, the new album saw a daily average of 440,224 listeners globally on streaming service Spotify. The average daily listeners for BORDER : DAY ONE, their debut album, was 198,435 for the week following its release on November 30. During each of their respective launch weeks, the total number of streams for CARNIVAL and DAY ONE reached 17,885,580 and 10,273,040 respectively, showing a 121.9% increase in the number of daily listeners and 74.1% more streams. We can speculate more about the significance of this growth by looking at physical album sales in this initial period: CARNIVAL had sold 384,699 physical copies in South Korea one week after its release—outselling DAY ONE by 36.9% and making it the 31st best-selling initial release as of May 6. The album also topped the weekly Oricon chart in Japan and reached ninth place on the Billboard World Albums chart in the US. As the number of listeners increased, so too did the number of albums sold.

ENHYPEN rose to number one on a music show for the first time on Tuesday, taking first place on SBS MTV’s The Show with their new single “Drunk-Dazed,” while #ENHYPEN1stWin was the top trend worldwide on Twitter. It’s difficult to say for sure just how popular the boys are after becoming the world’s top trending topic on Twitter just the one time, but seeing as they were trending at the same time as streams and album sales were growing, it’s only natural to be curious about the correlation between them all. That day, #ENHYPEN1stWin trended at first place in Korea, second in Japan, third in the US, and within the top 50 in 30 other countries. ENHYPEN has a strong enough fanbase in Korea, the US and Japan—the largest markets for the K-pop industry—for their music show win to claim the top spot on Twitter’s trend charts. It’s highly likely that this is a reflection of increased global music consumption and sales of ENHYPEN’s latest album. In that sense, ENHYPEN’s success with BORDER : CARNIVAL is as exceptional as it is ideal. Even now, when it has become the norm for popular K-pop idols to enjoy international fame, it’s rare that a group should see such meaningful music sales in their three biggest markets just two albums in and five months after their debut; for that same achievement to be accompanied by increased streaming figures and social media mentions is all the better.

On the day BORDER : CARNIVAL was released, ENHYPEN was mentioned 2,804,936 times on Twitter. That’s 14.1% higher than the buzz surrounding their debut album, BORDER : DAY ONE, when they were mentioned 2,459,230 times on November 30, the day of that album’s release; the average daily mentions between the CARNIVAL preorder announcement and the Friday following the release was 957,080, a 58% percent increase over DAY ONE for a similar period (605,745 mentions). This difference stems from who is talking about ENHYPEN on Twitter. It’s mainly fans, who are likely to purchase the album, that are interested in preorder announcements. Mentions made during the teaser period, too, are largely from fans who are particularly invested in the group. On the day an artist releases an album, however, even many people who aren’t fans tend to mention it. Moreover, because the members of ENHYPEN were chosen through Mnet’s I-LAND audition show, they received more attention than typical idol groups at the time of their debut. Before the release of CARNIVAL, the greatest single-day number of mentions ENHYPEN had received was 2,526,324, immediately after the group was finalized on I-LAND on September 19. With no other major event planned beyond the launch of the album itself, the buzz around Twitter reached an even higher peak thanks to the growth of the fanbase.

“Given-Taken,” the lead single of BORDER : DAY ONE, had 4,179,373 views on YouTube six hours after premiering, while “Drunk-Dazed” was watched 2,616,324 times in the six hours following its release. With no promotions from the label to boost views for either of these songs, the difference between views was 1,563,049 on the first day and widened to 3,623,280 by the next. The gap began to narrow, however, on the third day—down to 3,457,658 views’ difference—and with 16,618,954 views for the new song on midnight of May 6, the 11th day after release, to the old song’s 17,389,478 over a similar period, the difference shrank to just 770,524 views. As ENHYPEN’s debut song, there was buzz surrounding “Given-Taken” as listeners grew curious whether the group would be successful after their formation. As such, the views on the first and second days after release were higher than any other day to follow. “Drunk-Dazed,” on the other hand, is steadily racking up more views than “Given-Taken” as time goes on, meaning that either the number of people watching the new music video keeps increasing, or the number of times people repeatedly watch the video is going up.
The number of subscribers to ENHYPEN’s YouTube channel shines some light on which of those two explanations is closer to the truth. The number of subscribers jumped by 8,864 the day “Drunk-Dazed” was released, the most since the day preorders for the album went live. The record was broken once more when the STUDIO CHOOM YouTube channel uploaded the “Drunk-Dazed” performance video (9,203 additional subscribers), and again when the official dance practice video was posted (10,546). Views for the music video and album sales early on presumably reflect the popularity the group had amassed up to that point: No one really watches music videos or buys albums from an artist they’re unfamiliar with or don’t already like. On the other hand, the rise in YouTube subscribers points to those subscribers’ intention to keep up-to-date with content from the artist. This means there have been an increasing number of people who are interested in ENHYPEN since the release of BORDER : CARNIVAL. Once you notice that the number of subscribers increased the most on the days that the music video, STUDIO CHOOM performance video, and dance practice video went up, it’s clear what’s happening with ENHYPEN. Between the album releases, the active fanbase grew, which in turn led to an increase in Twitter activity, streaming and early sales in tandem. Continuing on to the album’s release, content like the music video and the performance video put the group’s abilities and the quality of their videos on display and grabbed the attention of even more people.

So we need to take another look at performance on Spotify. “Drunk-Dazed” rose to number 195 on Spotify’s global top 200 chart on the day of its release; the next day, April 27, it moved up 159. The number of listeners globally increased from 418,200 on the first day to 488,800 on the second, with 464,600 and 458,300 on the two days that followed respectively. On its first day, “Given-Taken” had 230,841 listeners. The 81.1% jump in listeners now streaming ENHYPEN songs, by comparison, speaks to the increase in the number of people taking an active interest in the group, just as the steady growth of daily listeners proves that “Drunk-Dazed” is enjoying a positive response. On Korean streaming services Bugs and Genie, “Drunk-Dazed” charted as high as number one and number 21 respectively on the daily charts at some point during the week of its release. New songs from idols tend to do particularly well on those two platforms. As the services have relatively small userbases, there’s a good chance that these idols’ fans are streaming dedicatedly. But that doesn’t change the fact that the number of fans and the amount they stream has gone up, judging by the upward-trending response to “Drunk-Dazed.” Even on Melon, the streaming service with the greatest number of subscribers in the country, the number of users listening to “Drunk-Dazed” stood at 38,361, a 13.1% leap from the 33,914 users who listened to “Given-Taken.” The number of fans across the globe grows, the new album receives more attention, and the fanbase grows even more. As a result, streams and sales of the album, particularly in Korea, the US and Japan, have increased enough to lead to significant change in the rankings. In other words, the result is in line with the name of one of Spotify’s playlists: “K-Pop Daebak.” But they should also add the word “Global” to the title.
Even if they technically debut in Korea, idols can really debut worldwide simultaneously thanks to social media. This is also a time when streaming services undeniably cut into physical album sales. As such, it’s become difficult to set standards to measure an artist’s popularity, or even to explain why they are. As the pandemic has caused the performance market in particular, an anchor of the music industry, to nearly dry up, the metrics that define an artist’s popularity have become increasingly foggy. However, the figures ENHYPEN are pulling with BORDER : CARNIVAL point out one fact clearly and concisely: If you’re truly popular, and that popularity is growing, all the numbers will grow alongside. Even when you’re a fourth-generation idol showing up in this very different world we live in now, that won’t change.
Article. Myungseok Kang
Photo Credit. ENHYPEN Twitter
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