Move over Beliebers, Kpop is now officially a thing.
After the seemingly overnight explosion of Gangnam Style, Kpop began to gain traction in the US and UK in a big way.
What, if anything, ticked all the boxes that made Gangnam Style so viral that it infiltrated the D-floors of Clubs, high school formals and even weddings?
Was it PSY’s US-education that railed against the cookie-cutter Kpop idol mould? A winning meme-worthy mix of catchy electronica, weird-ass music
video, viral dance moves and good old comedy? Was it a factor of cultural globalization led by the interwebs? Probs all of the above.
And where PSY’s Gangnam Style sparked a flicker of curiosity, it was Kpop girl groups and boy bands that set the world on fire.
Fans often talk about being drawn to the immense production value, a combination of impeccable and cohesive styling, slick dance moves and well
produced music. Kpop agencies have been rumoured to spend up to $3m creating a top idol. Many Kpop hopefuls will enter intense training programs from a very young age to hone their dancing, singing, acting, social media and brand mangement even before they are even considered for debuting.
What results is an international marketing behemoth encompassing merch, sponsorships, commercial relationships, ticket sales, acting salaries, even
before you get to concert ticket or album sales.
Lots of emphasis and effort is also placed on cultivating fanbases and interacting with fans, both locally and globally. Most popular groups will have members who can speak two or more languages, which allows them to build stronger connections with fans across the globe. They are fully expected to interact positively and frequently with fanbases, and are harshly punished in the courts of public opinion for perceived rudeness or disrespectfulness.
A young Jay Park who had recently moved back to South Korea from the US to train for 2PM left a few negative comments on his MySpace about South
Korea. When they surfaced a couple years later at the initial peak of 2PM’s popularity, he was slammed for it, left the group (was expelled anyway) and moved back to the US.
It took years for fans to forgive him, and a big part of that forgiveness was due to his continued commitment to interacting with fans and releasing content
It’s this element of attentiveness to fans that has helped Kpop idols and their agencies generate a continuous stream of content for fan consumption,
thereby fuelling the flames of the global Kpop takeover. Idols are fully expected to film behind-the-scenes snippets at the studio, at concerts and even in their dorms . They are expected to post frequent updates to their personal socials and official pages, ensuring that fans can become fully immersed in their idol’s lives.
Take an incredibly choreographed dance, layer in vocal training, the best lyricists and producers money can buy and you already have a great pop group.
Take consistent fan engagement and a massive marketing engine continuously spinning out merch and content, and you get the behemoth that is Kpop.
Start swapping your pickles for kimchi kids, the Kpop phenomenon is coming to a city near you if it hasn’t already.