Earlier this year, the IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry) revealed the artists with the top 10 highest-selling albums of 2019 worldwide. But when BTS’s position on the chart was announced, ARMYs noticed that millions of album sales had suddenly vanished from the records. Now, investigative reporter Yim Hyunsu from The Korea Herald has finally solved the mystery of the missing sales—and surprisingly, BTS’s own label Big Hit Entertainment is the body responsible.
Back in March, the IFPI announced its Global Top 10 Albums of 2019 list. Japanese boy band Arashi ranked #1 with compilation album 50×20 All the BEST!!, Taylor Swift reached #2 with Lover, and BTS won the 3rd place spot with Map of the Soul: Persona. However, while #3 is a highly respectable position on such a prestigious chart (beating out major international artists like as Billie Eilish) ARMYs soon noticed something was amiss.
Here’s the official #IFPIGlobalAlbumChart winners of the top 10 biggest global albums of 2019:
— IFPI (@IFPI_org) March 19, 2020
When IFPI revealed the sales figures they used to compile the chart, sales for Map of the Soul: Persona were listed at just 2.5 million units. Of course, fans who keep a close eye on these numbers already knew that the album had exceeded 3.7 million copies sold on the Gaon Chart.
In theory, this should have made Map of the Soul: Persona the #1 highest-selling album of 2019, since Arashi’s album only sold 3.3 million copies. Immediately, ARMYs demanded answers as to what happened to the missing 1.2 million sales.
Some speculated that Map of the Soul: Persona might have had its sales slashed in half because it was a mini-album, though the IFPI assured fans that this wasn’t the case. As long as an album has five or more tracks (or a run time of at least 25 minutes), it’s considered an album on the charts.
Another theory suggested that the IFPI may have been racially discriminating against BTS. However, others pointed out that this seemed unlikely, given that another Asian boy band (Arashi) topped the chart.
Now, a reporter at The Korea Herald has finally uncovered what happened to those 1.2 million sales. According to a statement from Linzi Goldthorpe, the IFPI’s senior communications executive, the federation requires every record label to submit their own “self-certified” sales data. This means that Big Hit Entertainment itself is responsible for the underreported figures.
Reporter Yim was able to confirm with Big Hit Entertainment that the sales data used came from the Hanteo Chart. While Hanteo is an important chart in Korea, it doesn’t count the majority of sales made overseas.
IFPI asked us for sales data and we submitted that of Hanteo Chart, which is based on the album sales at home.
— Big Hit Entertainment public relations official
The Gaon Chart, on the other hand, counts data from all the official distributors for Map of the Soul: Persona across the whole world. Understandably, fans are confused about why Big Hit Entertainment chose to report the lower figure, which doesn’t represent the data generally collected by the IFPI.
Even a representative from the Korea Music Content Association (which manages the Gaon Chart) explained their bewilderment at Big Hit Entertainment’s choice.
We asked Big Hit why they’d submitted data from Hanteo… The agency just repeated that they were asked by the IFPI to provide sales data, but Hanteo cannot count the volume of export sales and through which company and in which country.
— Korea Music Content Association representative
This appears to be the first year record labels were asked to submit their own data to the IFPI, which did not renew its usual agreements with local distributors. In 2018, both Love Yourself: Answer and Love Yourself: Tear appeared on the IFPI Global Top 10 Albums of 2018 list with even higher reported sales than those found on Gaon. This suggests that Map of the Soul: Persona’s true sales figure could possibly exceed 4 million units.
ARMYs are now calling on the IFPI to explain why they do not independently verify data given to them by record labels, given that this could lead to labels inflating their own sales. However, it remains to be seen whether the federation has any intention of updating its 2019 chart with the correct figures.
Putting aside the incompetence BH showed by reporting the Hanteo numbers, if IFPI is getting their data directly from record labels and aren’t independently verifying it, what is the point of the IFPI? https://t.co/U16yqBmP6V pic.twitter.com/vZf7YE4y35
— bora⁷ (@modooborahae) May 20, 2020