The salary and earnings of a K-Pop idol has always been one of the most enticing, interesting and sometimes mind-boggling mysteries of the beloved genre.
Whether it is because you wanted to become a K-Pop idol yourself or simply wondered how your K-Pop idols fare in comparison to the overly elite and rich idols in America, it has been hard for fans to always receive an exact number. Usually, we see headlines of K-Pop idols with over $50 million dollars worth of art in their home, buying a new building in Gangnam, or sporting the latest brands and fashion trends in Korea and we wonder who is the richest K-Pop idol? On the other hand, we hear some artists struggling to survive, still paying off their debt and even K-Pop idols who work part-time jobs.
However, some news released over the years, including interviews with singer-songwriters, has definitely helped illuminate the earnings of idols that are shadowed in mystery and allows fans to finally gauge just how complex the situations may be but how much our favorite idols are truly pocketing.
Now, fair warning, not all K-Pop idols are making this much money. Artists who make features or work on project collaborations are never guaranteed this money. For those who want to work in the K-Pop industry, whether as an idol, top-liner or a singer-songwriter yourself, you will not make this much money. This article is simply to highlight the most surprising monetary values and most interesting methods of how they were earned.
Recently, San E, a famous rapper in Korea mainly known for his position as a judge on the hit series ‘Show Me The Money’ (which is going on their 11th season) revealed how much money he earned just from his summer hit “A Mid-summer’s Night Sweetness” from 2014. San E stated, “I would make more than W200 million won ($168K) a month just from royalties when the song was most popular.” Talk about a whopping monthly paycheck. What people dream of making in a decade, San E pockets in a matter of weeks. However, he isn’t the only artist rolling in the dough.
EXID’s LE is famously known for being a royalty queen! She has over 67 songs currently registered under her name as a producer and singer-songwriter. With some songs being Touble Maker’s “Trouble Maker,” and Jewelry’s “Look At Me,” alongside the songs she produced for the group. She often remained ambigious in her responses regarding the exact value but she often stated on variety shows and YouTube Interviews that it was, “enough to purchase a car, but not a foreign luxury car.” Just to put that into perspective for the curious readers out there, I did the research.
A luxury car can be anywhere between W80,000,000 – W1,000,000,000 won in Korea (roughly $70-80K). However, you can buy Toyota Camry or Honda Accord for around $30,000 in the US, but it costs around $40,000 in South Korea. The most average car price is KRW34,855,100 ($30K) so we can safely estimate that LE earns $30K a month, which is the standard salary of any office worker in Korea. While the amount was not as explosive as San E’s hit song, we can rest assured when LE’s tracks gained traction, her wallet saw the same increase.
Seventeen’s Woozi is another fantastic lyrcist with over a whopping 120+ credits on Korean Music Copyright Association (KOMCA) alone at the young age of 25! For the group itself, Woozi notably helped produce ‘Don’t Wanna Cry,’ ‘Pretty U,’ ‘Very Nice,’ ‘Clap,’ ‘Left & Right,’ ‘Ready to Love,’ and continues to support other K-Pop artists with his work. Woozi recently received honorable recognition with his individual award at the Asia Artist Awards for winning the ‘Best Producer Award’ with ‘Your Choice‘ and ‘Attacca.’
Now, the songs alone have a very noticable amount of fame but since Woozi has masterfully placed his efforts in various groups and places, Woozi can safely accumulate more than $100K a month if not more. His recent self-produced track “Ruby” is one of his first full-English songs and is already garnering the attention of international fans. Let’s help push the song up the charts and check out the MV below!
Aside from these three, in the past idols such as Big Bang’s G-Dragon, Block B’s Zico, and even B1A4’s Jinyoung were (and still are) regarded as gods when it comes to their creative solo-productions and royalty earnings – starting from a few years ago. According to the Korea Music Copyright Association in 2017, the list released featured the seven idols that topped their register. Jinyoung ranked seventh and joined the list alongside BIGBANG’s G-Dragon, BEAST’s Junhyung and Block B’s Zico. However, Jinyoung climbed to number 1 spot in the very same chart later on.
While Jinyoung never revealed an amount, reaching the top is no easy feat. It can be expected he is making similar amounts as San E monthly, and probably per song due to the fact Jinyoung has more than 50 songs entirely produced by himself.
Lastly, songs like Zico’s “Any Song,” that blew up with popularity in the summer of 2020 and obviously has more earning potential, even out beat songs like “Okey Dokey,” which featured Mino. Zico revealed his first copyright check was a mere W120,000 won ($100 USD) which he framed and saved proudly. He also stated he uses all his earnings to pay off his parent’s debts in an interview back in 2018 but it is evident it has been all paid off by now and he can indulge in his earnings as an artist. It can easily be expected that his monthly earnings can range anywhere between $300-$500K a month, based upon calculations of American artists with similar popular songs with successful royalties and the YouTube rates and earnings based on ad revenue and views.
While there are plenty of artists who can be mentioned in this list, such as BTS or IU, the importance is to highlight actual numbers and news revealed to the public as well as a somewhat controlled level of fame, as BTS and IU not only have immense fame, but have also been in the industry for a long time and are known for their successful producing abilities currently as active producers.
What do you think of this breakdown on K-Pop idols’ salaries and earnings? Was there an artist you think we missed and should include in future updates? Don’t forget to comment on which royalty earnings surprised you the most and share this with your friends!