The impact of “Gangnam Style” lasts a decade after breaking the internet

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Seoul (AFP) – When South Korean rapper Psy released “Gangnam Style” a decade ago, few anticipated the scale and speed of its success, and how it would help usher in the streaming revolution.

His crazy music video featuring the now-trademark horse-dancing was released on July 15, 2012. It focused on local, poking fun at Seoul’s wealthy Gangnam district – but within weeks it went global.

By December of that year, it had reached one billion views on YouTube. It spawned countless memes and parodies, with the dizzying dance performed by flash mobs from Azerbaijan to New Zealand.

And “Gangnam Style” showed the music industry what could be achieved through internet platforms and social media, especially by artists outside of the West who didn’t perform in English.

Psy “broke the rules of the game. Traditional marketing and promotion manuals were basically thrown out the window,” said Bernie Cho, president of Seoul-based artist and label services agency DFSB Kollective and South Korean music industry expert.

Bronze sculpture in Seoul by artist Hwang Man-seok pays homage to horse dance
A bronze sculpture in Seoul by artist Hwang Man-seok pays homage to South Korean rapper Psy’s ‘Gangnam Style’ horse dance ANTHONY WALLACEAFP/File

It showed “the importance, the impact, the influence of YouTube on pop music and pop culture around the world”.

In 2012, the streaming industry was still in its infancy, providing less than 7% of global music revenue, according to industry group IFPI.

But the resounding success of “Gangnam Style” – along with viral videos from artists such as Justin Bieber and Carly Rae Jepsen – showed a new way for artists everywhere to not only release music, but also to tap into online advertising revenue, find sponsors and get booked for gigs, analysts say.

“Imagine the Possibilities”

A decade later, streaming is the main source of revenue for the global music industry – 65% in 2021, according to IFPI – with content available online through subscription services, YouTube and short video apps such as Tik Tok.

“Gangnam Style” is “an example of the power a platform like YouTube could have to generate interest in a particular video from many different places around the world,” said Michelle Cho, an assistant professor at the University. from Toronto studying Korean Pop Culture.

Psy's 'Gangnam Style' has spawned countless memes and parodies, and the dizzying dance has become a global viral sensation
Psy’s ‘Gangnam Style’ has spawned countless memes and parodies, and the dizzying dance has become a global viral sensation KIM JAE-HWAN AFP/File

“The importance of video…goes far beyond the content of the video. And it really has more to do with how it has allowed people to imagine the possibilities of the platform.”

A few months after its release, “Gangnam Style” was the most viewed video on YouTube. He held this position for more than three years.

As of July 12 of this year, it has nearly 4.5 billion views.

South Korea is a global entertainment powerhouse today, but in 2012,
South Korea is a global entertainment powerhouse today, but in 2012, “Gangnam Style” was the first encounter with Korean pop culture for many audiences. Anthony WALLACEAFP

The online buzz for “Gangnam Style” and viral phenomena such as “Harlem Shake” was such that Billboard in 2013 changed the way it compiles charts, adding streams on YouTube and other platforms to then-common metrics such as than radio and sales.

“My only good job helping K-pop was changing Billboard’s rules,” Psy told AFP in a May interview, noting the popularity of Korean bands on YouTube.

“Authentic, original, unique”

“Gangnam Style” has also rocked South Korea, overnight becoming the country’s biggest cultural export and a source of national pride.

K-pop groups had attempted to break into international markets before 2012 with some regional success in Asia, but failed to break into huge and lucrative Western markets such as the United States.

Psy performs in central Seoul on October 4, 2012, to an estimated 80,000 fans
Psy performs in central Seoul on October 4, 2012, to an estimated 80,000 fans KIM JAE-HWAN AFP/File

And then came Psy, who didn’t fit the profile of polished K-pop idols.

“Industry executives, government officials, pundits, critics, fans… just assumed that the Korean star was likely to be either a boy band or a girl band,” said DFSB’s Bernie Cho. .

Psy “proved to everyone that instead of a Korean version of a western pop star or an international pop star, what the world wanted was something very authentic, original, unique. “

Horse dancing was ubiquitous – performed on primetime TV in the US, in an English football stadium and by Bollywood stars in India.

'Gangnam Style' propelled Psy to global stardom
‘Gangnam Style’ propelled Psy to global stardom Anthony WALLACEAFP

Then-US President Barack Obama said his daughters taught him “a pretty good Gangnam style”.

South Korea is a global entertainment powerhouse today, but in 2012, “Gangnam Style” was the first encounter with Korean pop culture for many audiences.

“It was really influential in maybe making Korea or Korean music or Korean media a common item of general knowledge in many places…certainly in the United States, but also around the world,” said researcher Michelle Cho.

“That knowledge, that…familiarity definitely helps other content gain a foothold.”

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