The Japanese music market may be increasingly resistant to international repertoire, but that isn't stoppingGirls' Generation. The Korean girl group is hoping to turn huge YouTube buzz into sales in Japan and other international markets.
Known as So Nyuh Shi Dae, or SNSD, at home and as Shoujo Jidai in Japan, the nine-member pop group has become a most-viewed regular on YouTube. Its kitsch videos for songs including "Gee" and "Hoot" have racked up 30.1 million and 5.9 million views, respectively.
Put together by South Korean management company/label SM Entertainment, group members Taeyeon, Jessica, Sunny, Tiffany, Hyoyeon, Yuri, Sooyoung, Yoona and Seohyun -- all known only by their first names -- have been huge stars in Korea since their 2007 debut. In addition to releasing a total of seven projects, including several repackages of the same material, the act has secured high-profile endorsements with Samsung and LG.
But with opportunities limited by the size of the Korean market, Girls' Generation is now targeting more lucrative international territories. Its first stop is Japan. The country has shown greater interest in Korean music since the success of such acts as BoA and Tohoshinki. And the girls' cute image appeals to J-pop fans.
According to Susumu Machida, managing director of the group's Universal-owned label Nayutawave Records, the major began capitalizing on the YouTube buzz by releasing a DVD compilation of the act's videos before issuing a record. Initial purchasers of "Shoujo Jidai Tourai: New Beginning of Girls' Generation," released Aug. 11, gained access to the act's debut Japan shows at the Ariake Coliseum in Tokyo on Aug. 25.
"Both their singing and dancing are remarkable," Machida says. "And that has driven their popularity."
The DVD -- which has sold 60,000 copies, according to Universal -- was followed by a rerecording of the group's Korean hit "Tell Me Your Wish" as its debut Japanese single, "Genie." The single hit No. 4 on Billboard's Japan Hot 100 and has sold 98,000 copies since its Sept. 8 release, according to SoundScan Japan. Follow-up single "Gee" reached No. 2 and has sold 80,000 since Oct. 20.
Meanwhile, aided by the fact that Sooyoung speaks fluent Japanese, the band secured appearances on more than 20 Japanese TV shows: almost unprecedented coverage for an international act. "Their performance on TV is so well-produced and sharp," Machida says. "In Japan, that's half the battle."
Girls' Generation's first Japanese-language album is due in the spring, and the group may target Europe later in 2011. There aren't yet any plans for a North American release.