The power of fandom was on display in downtown Los Angeles last week as thousands of K-pop enthusiasts gathered for KCON, a three-day celebration of South Korean pop culture.
KCON felt more like a family reunion for many attendees, as several of them explain in the latest episode of Varietyfrom the “Strictly Business” podcast. K-pop is growing in popularity around the world, but it remains niche enough that its most ardent fans revel in being with those who “get it,” as many attendees explained.
“You come for the music, the choreography, the outfits — all the pretty, fun, sparkly things. And then you end up staying because you make friends,” said Epiphany, a KCON aficionado who lives in North Hollywood.
Conversations with other teens and 20-somethings who attended the conference and two concerts at Crypto.com Arena revealed a host of trends in media, media consumption, and how affinity groups that come together online can have a massive impact in the real world. The growth of K-pop, largely outside of major US-based entertainment conglomerates, has had a huge impact on South Korea’s economy.
Additionally, the trends that have fueled the rise of K-pop are spilling over into other areas of the media, including a focus on artists with a direct connection to fans, and the promotion of contests and cards. to redeem that allow fans to have special access to their beloved “idols,” as K-pop artists are known.
Whitney, who traveled to KCON from Chicago and caught up with friends in Atlanta, explained the appeal of “High Touch” dating events that allow fans to make fleeting contact with their idols the way sports teams often start or end games – with players walking along a line to exchange brief finger touches.
“I mean, having those five little seconds of eye contact is totally worth it. For us anyway,” Whitney said. “To other people it seems crazy, but it’s definitely worth it.”
The appeal of K-pop cannot be denied, nor the expectations of its fans. Hollywood has a lot to learn from the organic growth of this market, especially in places like Brazil, Turkey, Mexico, and countries far removed from Korea.
“What originally attracted me was like the fan culture that surrounds it, because people treat each other like family,” said Christina, who is Epiphany’s housemate. “And you know, there’s all these giveaways and events, it’s really like a family because, like, you love the members that they love, you know, and they show the fans love. But the fans themselves rally around something we all love and are passionate about.
“Strictly professional” is VarietyThe weekly podcast from features conversations with industry leaders about the media and entertainment sector. New episodes debut every Wednesday and can be downloaded from iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and SoundCloud. Click here to subscribe to the free “Strictly Business” newsletter.