Cashing In On Gangnam Style's YouTube Fame

South Korean rapper PSY, who gained popularity from his famous song "Gangnam Style," gives a press conference prior to his concert at the Marina Bay Sands on Saturday Dec. 1, 2012 in Singapore.
Associated Press + More

It's likely the fast fading music CD industry generated even smaller revenue. PSY's 9 percent cut from sales of 102,000 CDs in South Korea would earn him $50,000 or more, according to an estimate by Kim Dong-hyun, a senior manager at Korea Music Copyright Association.

As for many other parts of Asia, illegal downloads and pirated CDS are so pervasive that only a small minority are willing to pay up for the legal versions.

TV COMMERCIALS

PSY has been jetting around the world, performing on shows such as "The X-Factor Australia" and NBC's "Today Show," but such programs usually cover travel costs and not much else, said Gary Bongiovanni, editor-in-chief of concert trade magazine Pollstar.

It is television commercials that are the big money spinner for the most successful of South Korea's K-pop stars. PSY has been popping up in TV commercials in South Korea for top brands such as Samsung Electronics and mobile carrier LG Uplus.

Chung Yu-seok, an analyst at Kyobo Securities, estimates PSY's commercial deals would amount to 5 billion won ($4.6 million) this year.

The money is cool. The products not so much. PSY is now the face of a new Samsung refrigerator and a major noodle company.

THE FAMILY

A fact little known outside South Korea is that PSY's father, uncle and grandmother own a combined 30 percent of DI Corp., a company which makes equipment that semiconductor companies use to make computer chips.

It's a stretch to plausibly explain how the success of "Gangnam Style" will boost DI's profits but that doesn't matter to the South Korean stock market. Perhaps inspired by the pure power of pop, DI shares surged eightfold from July after PSY's hit reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 1 on the U.K. singles chart.

It was time to cash in for PSY's grandmother, who sold 5,378 shares for about $65,000.

The share price has fallen since then but is still about double what it was before the release of "Gangnam Style."

PSY's agent YG Entertainment has also done well. Its share price is up about 30 percent since mid-July. The value of CEO Yang Hyun-suk's stake has swelled to about $200 million, making him among the richest in South Korea's entertainment industry.

THE FUTURE

The question now hanging over PSY is whether he will replicate the blockbuster success of "Gangnam Style" or end up remembered as a one-hit wonder.

"When this slows down, what comes next for PSY?" said Nielsen analytics vice president David Bakula. "Is it the evolution of a new musical style, something audiences are going to be craving en masse, or is it something that's just a passing fancy?"

Analysts say "Gangnam Style" alone will not be enough to propel PSY into the ranks of musicians such as Adele and may not even be enough to make him the top-grossing K-pop star. That will depend largely on his upcoming album, which PSY said will be released in March.

___

Ryan Nakashima contributed to this report from Los Angeles.

Youkyung Lee can be reached via Twitter: www.twitter.com/YKLeeAP

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.