Saharial shows her appreciation for the way in which hip-hop group Epik High’s new album is marketed: international fans are included, and even welcomed.
On 21 March 2009, a website went live and promptly crashed under the weight of 300,000 hits. It was unexpected, but the kind of unexpected that you almost hope for in the music industry these days. Particularly in South Korea. The site was http://mapthesoul.com, launched by the hip-hop group Epik High to promote and sell their new album and have direct contact with fans both Korean and International. Cutting out the middleman and selling direct to the fans is unprecedented in South Korea and a move that has won them much support from fans all over the globe.
The album itself is unusual consisting of a book as well as a CD, the book documenting the making of the album as well as the creative processes as a way of encouraging creativity in others. It is also bilingual with all text and lyrics translated. Only available from the site, the International ordering system is now up and running for those with international credit cards, though the impatient can purchase the tracks from iTunes. Some people will do both to show support, though shipping for the album/book is done by EMS and costs almost as much as the item itself.
Another form of support has surfaced too – the reporting of download links with fans often taking measures to flaming extremes in their zeal to prevent illegal downloads, something I am betting many more artistes secretly wish their fans would do. The well meaning idea though did start becoming more of an angry mob of course, though now the Epik site itself has asked for just the links so they can report them officially.
There has also been an exchange of a much nicer and more cultural nature on the boards as the Korean fans explore the site and discovered the English section for international fans
“Where did all you guys come from?” asks a Korean fan in amazement on the English section of the bulletin board. The replies come back in multitude – Finland, France, USA, UK, Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, Philippines… a map by one of the users showed almost the whole globe lit up with fan locations.
As an international fan of any Korean group it can be hard going to get any information or even feel like your support is appreciated or wanted, but this site and concept changes all that. We are now included, which is all we really want, to have somewhere we too can show support, say thank you and have our existence acknowledged.
Epik High have just finished a sell out tour of the USA and will head back to Korea shortly, hopefully to sort out some of the minor issues with the ordering system (such as the lack of paypal which I have resorted to grovelling for on the noticeboard).