This worldwide phenomenon has transcended languages and cultures. The Blinks, the Armys, the Netizens, what is the secret behind K-pop’s success, and how are the fans involved? Watch the video below!
How K-Pop idols are born
K-Pop is so big that the Korean government decided to spend 250% more in entertainment schools between the years 2011 and 2012. Trainees in these academies spend years training, dancing and learning languages. They have strict rules such as no tattoos seen in public and no independent social media accounts in order to avoid public scandals that could jeopardize the idols' perfect personal image. They even have a ban on dating for the first 3 to 5 years of their career!
Companies create a public image of the singer through social media that encourages what in sociology is called a "Parasocial relationship". This is a one-sided bond that is developed by fans under the illusion that they maintain an intimate friendship or family relationship with the music professional.
As an example of how fans appreciate K-pop idols, many universities around the world began teaching Korean to students who demanded to learn the language. Australia has recently added a BA major in Korean in 5 prestigious universities due to the high demand.
Just as important as the talent of idols are the fans.
Fan associations are responsible for the vast majority of achievements in terms of album sales and popularity awards that groups like BTS, Twice, Blackpink, or EXO get. In fact, these are the K-Pop groups that have the biggest and most influential fandoms.
What is a fandom?
The term "fans" was invented in the United States at the end of the 19th century referring to sports supporters. K-Pop fans created massive associations called “fandoms” where they share breaking news, talk about their idols and help them win awards and gain records by promoting them on several social media platforms.
They use original names, mostly linked to the name of the band such as EXO-L (for love), ONCE ( for the groupTwice) or Blinks as an abbreviation of Blackpink.They are usually identified with colors or symbols like purple hearts for BTS.
What is the role of fandom in the group's success?
Fans not only limit themselves to admiring and listening to their favorite artist but also actively participate in their success.
Some just love having groups with the same interests, others want to be recognized and most of them want to get some type of recognition or eventual contact (or a simple “like”) from their idols.
There are three types of fans who actively participate to bring their favorite group to the top.
Specialized Labor, The "Hommas" (short for Home Masters).
These fans carry out creative tasks. They are in charge of creating and posting content to fan’s websites. They travel to all concerts, autograph signings, and any idol performances for the purpose of getting exclusive images. They use these photos for the creation of original merchandise that will be sold and distributed among the fandom. Record labels recognize them as a thriving force, although they might be taking a part of their official merchandise selling business from them.
The work of these fans lies in the effort to maintain and improve the image of their idols in front of society. On many occasions, they do charitable acts to contribute to the public image of their favorite artists. For example, in 2020 BTS donated $1 million to the Black Lives Matter movement and the Army (the fandom for BTS) decided to start their own fundraising and managed to get even more! Another common practice is the gathering of funds for advertising and promoting their idol’s birthday, a new song or concert. In 2019, 2 GOT7 fans carried out all the necessary logistics to display a 20-second video created by themselves in one of the most important streets of Soul, the capital of South Korea. Other members are in charge of organizing fan meetings, often synchronized in several cities or even countries.
- Streaming labor
This is the newest task of all. To take groups like Twice or BTS to the top of the charts it is necessary to watch and listen to their music videos over and over again. BTS has a record 9 billion views on YouTube, which is largely due to the work of streamers. Fans will even go as far as using their family member’s phones and tablets to create more views from different IP directions!
Belonging to a fan club is defined by sociology as the desire to belong to a group of peers where the conversational resource or excuse is the artist chosen as the object of admiration for all the members. While the first professionals to address the issue like Jenson in 1992 saw fans as a negative group by their own fanatic nature, the truth is that these organizations have evolved into a form of catapult for artists.
Currently and especially in K-pop culture, artists also worship their fans, as they see them as allies for their success and are therefore the object of their appreciation and gratitude. We are at a balance point between entertainment companies, idols, and fans who interact with each-other and promote a collaborative economy. This is a great example of how most areas should work, with love, help and gratitude. Thank you fans!