K-Pop fans fuel the business of fandom: Ateez and Enhypen

Last week, Downtown Los Angeles was witness to the power of fandom as thousands of Kpop fans gathered for KCON. This three-day celebration of South Korean pop culture.

KCON was more like an extended family reunion for many participants, as several of the hosts explain in the latest episode. Variety‘s “Strictly Business” podcast. K-pop is growing in popularity around the world, but it’It’s still very niche, so its most avid fans love to be with other people who share their passion. “get it,”As many attendees as possible explained.

“You come for the music, the choreography, the outfits — all the pretty, fun, sparkly stuff. And then you end up staying because you make friends,”Epiphany is a KCON-goer and lives in North Hollywood.

The conference featured two concerts at Crypto.com Arena, which were attended by teens and twentysomethings. These concerts revealed a variety of media trends and media consumption. It also showed how affinity groups, which can be formed online, can have a huge real-world impact. The growth of K-pop, largely outside of the mainstream U.S.-based entertainment conglomerates, has had a huge impact on South Korea’s economy.

Moreover, the trends that have fueled K-pop’s rise are playing out across other media sectors, including the emphasis on artists having a direct connection with fans, and the promotion of contests and trading cards that allow fans to gain special access to their beloved “idols,”K-pop artists are well-known.

Whitney, who traveled to KCON via Chicago with her friends from Atlanta, explained why the attraction of the conference is so appealing. “High Touch” meet-and-greet events that allow fans to make fleeting contact with their idols in the way that sports teams often begin or end games — with the players walking down a line to exchange brief finger touches.

“I mean, to get that little five seconds of eye contact is totally worth it. For us anyway,”Whitney said. “To other people, that sounds crazy, but it’s definitely worth it.”

The appeal of K-pop can’t be denied, nor can the expectations of its fans. There’s a lot for Hollywood to learn from the organic growth of this market, particularly in places like Brazil, Turkey, Mexico and countries far removed from Korea.

“What originally got me was just like the fan culture surrounded by it, because like people treat each other like a family,” said Christina, whoIt is Epiphany’s roommate. “And you know, there’s all these freebies and events, it’s very much like, it feels like family because, like, you love the members that they love, you know, and they show love to the fans. But the fans themselves, like, rally around something that we all love and we’re all passionate about.”

“Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment. Every Wednesday, new episodes are released and can be downloaded from iTunes, Spotify and Google Play. Subscribe to the free newsletter by clicking here “Strictly Business” newsletter.

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