Psy Nears $10 Mil. Payday from Gangnam Phenomenon

Psy may be classified as a Kpop star, but in financial terms he has become an international star, with most of the earnings from “Gangnam Style” coming from outside Korea, according to an analysis conducted by the Associated Press.

Psy’s biggest feat to date may be passing Schoolboy Records stablemate Justin Bieber to grab the all-time record in YouTube views. Between the nearly 900 million views for the original Gangnam Style video and the estimated 400 million views of the countless parodies, tributes and remixes on YouTube, as well as Psy’s own subsequent versions, YouTube has logged about 1.3 billion views of videos credited to Psy because the video-sharing service is able to detect any video that makes use of the copyrighted “Gangnam Style” track.

But each YouTube view earns Psy only about one-fourteenth of a cent as his share of revenues from banners shown alongside the video. So far that has translated to just $870,000 for Psy and his Korean agent YG Entertainment. A miniscule percentage of those revenues come from Korea where online video advertising doesn’t command the same level of revenues as in the US.

By comparison Psy, 34, has already earned an estimated $2.6 million from his cut of the 2.9 million digital downloads of his smash hit in the US alone where iTunes charges $1.29 for the song. Psy and his agents get 70% while Apple keeps 30% of those revenues.

Song download revenues from Korea, a nation of 50 million, are miniscule. Koreans typically pay less than $10 per month for subscriptions to music services that allow hundreds of downloads. Psy’s cut is some fraction of the estimated $0.10 that each Korean download generates. Psy’s share is only 14% of that. For streamed music the artist’s cut is just 7.5% of the estimated $0.02 fee per stream.

That means the 3.6 million downloads and 40 million streams of “Gangnam Style” through November generated just $61,000 for Psy and his management. To that is added only about $50,000 for the 102,000 Gangnam Style CDs sold in Korea.

Gangnam Style’s biggest boon for Psy has been in making him an international celebrity that fills Koreans with pride. He is suddenly the nation’s most sought-after personality for product endorsements. Psy has already appeared in Korean TV commercials for Samsung Electronics, mobile carrier LG Uplus and Nongshim, maker of one of Korea’s most popular instant noodles. Those and other commercials earned him about 5 billion won ($4.6 mil.) so far this year.

Psy’s fame has also enriched his father, uncle and grandmother who own about 30% of the shares of a company that makes equipment for making chips. At one point in July Psy’s fame caused the company’s stock price to multiply eightfold. The price has since subsided but remains double what it had been before Psy became a global phenom.

Psy himself is careful to manage expectations for his next single and an album planned for March release, saying that “Gangnam Style” is a unique phenomenon that can’t possibly be repeated. But all evidence suggests he’s doing everything he can to do just that. Not only will the lyrics of his next tunes be half in English, he has promised to include a few more catchy dance moves in the album.