At first glance, convenience stores may seem unrelated to Korea’s cultural content. However, they are increasingly being recognized as a new platform to promote music where customers can conveniently access classical music and K-pop albums by some of the country’s most celebrated artists today.

Emart24, retail behemoth Shinsegae’s convenience store chain, has been taking pre-orders of pianist Lim Yun-chan’s debut studio album, “Chopin Etudes,” on its mobile app.

Emart24 is the only convenience store chain to offer the much-awaited album, which will come out on April 19.

Customers hoping to appreciate the spellbinding piano recordings by Lim can pre-order them until April 16. Lim is the youngest winner of the prestigious Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, who pulled off the feat at 18 in 2022.

“Convenient stores are likely to keep selling the albums by globally popular artists so that they can bring international fans and mobile customers to their offline stores,” an industry insider said. “Buying unique products at these shops can create a special experience for customers.”

This is not the first time Emart24 has branched out into music to diversify its merchandise and lure a broader range of customers. In 2023, it made its first attempt by offering the USB albums of the iconic Korean singer-songwriter Cho Yong-pil.

Known as the “King of Pop,” the 74-year-old has rolled out a series of mega-hits, including his first full-length album that sold a million copies for the first time in K-pop history in 1980.

Initially, the USB renditions of Cho’s “Road to 20 – Prelude 2” album were only available for purchase at his concert sites. However, thanks to Emart24, which decided to sell them in a limited quantity, Cho’s followers could grab them without heading to concert venues.

On the other hand, two other major retailers here — GS Retail and BGF Retail — have turned to K-pop to amplify their market presence. The former runs the convenience store chain GS25, while the latter operates CU.

In February, GS25 sold K-pop girl group Le Sserafim’s third mini-album, “Easy,” on its mobile app and at five offline stores. Its move came a few months after it made headlines for selling boy band Enhypen’s album in September 2023. K-pop powerhouse HYBE manages both groups.

“We will continue to strive to become a platform introducing diverse cultural events in addition to K-pop,” a GS25 official was quoted as saying.

CU, the convenience store chain, selected the album “The Name Chapter: Freefall” by Tomorrow X Together, another boy group under HYBE’s umbrella, as its new merchandise in October. A CU store in Mapo District, northern Seoul, even underwent a transformation into a pop-up store for the quintet, attracting legions of fans.

Last year, BGF Retail signed an agreement with YG Plus, a subsidiary of YG Entertainment that manages the girl group BLACKPINK. The deal aims to provide K-pop content utilizing YG artists’ intellectual property at BGF’s stores, among others.

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