EXO album sales have become a legend in recent Kpop history. Back in the days of no internet and no smart phones, consumers had no choice but to buy physical records if they want the music. But album sales plummeted when the digital age arrived. In the digital age, consumers prefer downloading or streaming over buying a CD, as no one carries around a CD-player in this age.
EXO album sales thus made history in 2013, when they stunned Korea and sold one million physical copies of their debut studio album. The last time a singer sold one million albums in Korea was 2001. EXO’s legend doesn’t stop at selling one million physical albums in 2013, however. Since debuting in 2012, EXO has now sold over six million physical albums – including EP’s and studio albums – in Korea alone (licensed versions of EXO’s albums sold in other countries are not included in this six million), and over 17.5 million digital singles according to Gaon.
This article will cover EXO’s undying sales numbers and why Korean and Chinese versions of EXO album sales are counted together. This article is – How Kpop Physical Album Sales Are Calculated Part 2. Read related article: Hanteo vs. Gaon: How Kpop Physical Album Sales Are Calculated Part 1
EXO: A brief introduction
EXO is a South Korean boy band that debuted on April 8, 2012, under one of the top three entertainment companies in Korea, SM Entertainment. At debut, EXO had twelve members, four of which are Chinese, while eight of the members are Korean. EXO would lose two Chinese members in 2014, and one more Chinese member in 2015, wherein Kris Wu Yifan, Luhan, and Z. Tao Huang Zitao filed lawsuits to terminate their contracts with SM Entertainment.
Despite losing three members, EXO continues to dominate sales and commands immense popularity both in Korea and abroad, achieving one million physical albums sales for each of their three full-length studio albums (2013, 2015, 2016), topping the list by Forbes Korea as the number one most powerful celebrity in Korea two years in a row (2014, 2015), and earning themselves the title of “The King of Kpop” with thirteen Daesang awards (Grand Prize) in just three years.
Read related article: What determines success in Kpop – Who is the most popular Kpop group
EXO Album Sales: Triple-million seller of physical albums in the digital age
EXO debuted with an EP (mini album) in 2012. In June of 2013, EXO released their first studio album, XOXO, which sold over one million physical copies by December of 2013. In March of 2015, EXO released their second studio album, EXODUS, which sold over one million physical copies by June of 2015. In June of 2016, EXO released their third studio album, EX’ACT, which sold over one million physical copies by August of 2016. EXO has managed to do what no one else in the Kpop industry has been able to achieve since 2001 – having one million physical album sales – three times in a row.
Details of the exact EXO album sales numbers and how fast each studio album reaches one million sales are included at the end of this article.
EXO Album Sales: Highest first-day and first-week sales on Hanteo
The Kpop industry is extremely competitive as idol groups vie to be not only the one who sells the most, but also the one who sells the most within the first twenty-four hours and the first week of album release. These two records are known as the highest first-day sales and the highest first-week sales on Hanteo, a chart that keeps track of real-time physical albums sales in Hanteo affiliated stores in Korea. These two records are especially important to idol groups seeking recognition, because having a high first-day and first-week sales gives them a chance to get news coverage.
Read related article: Differences between Hanteo and Gaon: How Kpop Physical Album Sales Are Calculated Part 1
EXO currently holds the record on Hanteo for both the highest first-day sales – 146,082 copies of EX’ACT, and the highest first-week sales – 522,372 copies of EX’ACT. EXO broke their own first-week sales record six times. Ever since EXO released XOXO in 2013, no other groups or person has been able to out-sale EXO in the first week of an album release. In general, no other Kpop group or person has been able to out-sale EXO since 2013. The only group that has overtaken EXO’s sales numbers is EXO itself. EX’ACT’s first-week sales number is now the seventh time EXO resets the highest first-week sales on Hanteo.
2013.06.03: XOXO – 118,598 copies sold from June 3 to June 10
2013.08.05: Growl (Repackaged of XOXO) – 119,780
2013.12.09: Miracles in December (EP) – 197,887
2014.05.07: Overdose (EP) – 264,747
2015.03.30: EXODUS – 267,246
2015.12.10: Sing For You (EP) – 270,503
2016.06.09: EX’ACT – 522,372
Why EXO’s Korean, Chinese versions, and repackaged albums sales are counted together
This can be understood easily if we use the proper terms. The proper term for “the Korean version” is the Korean edition, the proper term for “the Chinese version” is the Mandarin edition, and the proper term for “the repackaged album” is the deluxe edition. The sales from the Korean edition, the Mandarin edition, and the deluxe edition of the same album are counted together because in essence, they are the same album in different editions. EXO album sales numbers are thus simply a combination of the different editions of the same album. Below explains in detail each of the editions.
EXO Album Sales Explained
EXO debuted as a group who is meant to promote the same music in two languages. At EXO’s debut, SM Entertainment stated that the twelve members of EXO are split into two subunits: EXO-K, who would promote in Korea, and EXO-M, who would promote in China, singing in Mandarin. EXO’s music release has thus always been dual: one album in Korean and one album in Mandarin containing the same songs are released simultaneously for every promotion. This format of music release is a first in the Kpop industry and unique to EXO.
The Korean and Mandarin albums are seen as two editions of the same album because they have the same arrangements, the same instrumentals, and most importantly, the same composers and the same release date. Some lyrics and song titles are different in different languages and some lines might be distributed to a different bandmate, but the copyright goes to EXO all the same, with royalties going to the same composers no matter the language of a song, and the sales numbers of the Korean and Mandarin editions are combined for each album, much like a movie that is dubbed in different languages have one combined box office, and a book that is translated into different languages is still only one book.
The idea behind this is simple: A composer writes a song, SM Entertainment buys it for EXO, who records their vocals, in Korean and in Mandarin. The song now belongs to EXO. The composer will receive royalties from the song he wrote no matter which language EXO sang it in. EXO’s Korean and Mandarin editions of their identically titled albums have the same release date and the same songs by the same composers, making them essentially the same, just in different languages. The sales of the two editions are therefore combined.
The repackaged version of an album is an edition that includes all of the same songs plus two to four new songs. Repackaged albums are considered a deluxe edition of the first edition of the album. The sales numbers of the repackaged editions are thus combined with the sales numbers of the first editions of the album, since they are simply different editions of the same album.
Details: How fast EXO’s first three studio albums physical sales reach one million
EXO’s albums are some of the fastest selling albums in Kpop, reaching one million sales in less than three months of release. The sales of the studio albums are a combination of the regular album and its repackaged album, as SM Entertainment usually produces a deluxe edition for its artists a couple of months after the release of a regular album.
XOXO (June 2013) and its repackaged album, Growl (August 2013), took around six months to break one million sales. On December 27, 2013, with 471,570 of XOXO and 536,007 copies of Growl sold, EXO became a one million seller for the first time, totaling 1,007,577 sales. EXODUS (March 2015) and its repackaged album Love Me Right (June 2015), took less than three months to break one million sales. On June 2, 2015, with 753,860 copies of EXODUS and 371,160 copies of Love Me Right sold, totaling 1,125,020 copies, EXO was dubbed a double million seller by Korean media. EX’ACT (June 2016) and its repackaged album LOTTO (August 2016), also took less than three months to break one million sales. On August 17, 2016, with 796,085 copies of EX’ACT and 374,280 copies of LOTTO sold, totaling 1,170,365 copies, EXO is now known as the untouchable triple million seller.
Regardless of the different editions EXO has, the band manages to sell over 1.17 million physical copies within two months, from June to August of 2016, making EX’ACT the fastest album to reach one million sales and making EXO album sales an even more unattainable number for other idols. It seems that EXO will remain the King of Kpop for quite a while and is still on their way to make more legends.
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