By Lindsay Wong
The onset of COVID-19 has pressed pause on all world tours, concerts, and fanmeets in the K-pop world. To make up for this, entertainment companies have been hosting online concerts and events instead. This brand new format could be the future of entertainment – it’s much more affordable than a concert, easy to access and artists can meet fans around the world at the same time. As long as you have an Internet connection and a credit/debit card, you can “attend”.
Video Call Fansigns
Fansigns are an integral part of K-pop fan culture. Fans who want to meet and interact with their idol and have them sign their albums buy lots of albums to increase their chances of getting in. Fansign attendees (only a limited number get to attend) are chosen via lucky draw based on how many albums they buy (one album = one chance).
Recently, fansigns have gone digital. Every artist does video call fansigns where the winners are chosen in the same manner. Each winner gets at least one minute to talk to their idol via KakaoTalk (Face Talk), LINE, Skype or Zoom. The signed album is later shipped right to their doorstep. The price to attend a video call fansign does not change, but it is more easily accessible as anyone in the world can apply.
Accessing idols via apps
Big Hit Entertainment (which created BTS and TXT) uses their company-specific app Weverse not only for fan-artist interaction and to sell merch, but also to livestream concerts. BTS’ recent anniversary concert ‘FESTA’ was livestreamed as ‘Bang Bang Con the Live’ on the app on June 14th. After purchasing tickets through Weverse, audience members were sent the livestream link. They can also re-watch it on VOD.
Online video-streaming platform VLive has long been used by K-pop idols to interact with their fans. Fans and artists interact via live broadcasts and media content that are posted by the artists, ranging from high-production reality shows to exclusive behind-the-scenes content.
This year, SM Entertainment, South Korea’s largest entertainment company, used VLive to hold ‘Beyond Live’ online concerts for NCT 127, NCT Dream, WayV and SuperM. ‘Beyond Live’ incorporated AR technology and real time 3D graphics to put on a spectacular show for online audiences. For example, there were AR elements like a golden dragon flying across the screen for NCT 127, matching the concept of ‘Kick It’, the song they were performing.
A function on Weverse and VLive also allows the audience to sync their digital lightsticks – paired to the app via Bluetooth – to the livestream to enhance the concert experience. Lightsticks are specific to each artist and used as cheering devices as they light up to match the music of the concert.
Most recently, six-member boy band Astro’s online concert was held on June 28th on the start-up concert and sports streaming app Kiswe Mobile. Their concert was titled ‘WWW’, which stands for “Wherever, Whenever, Whatever”, referring to how online concerts can reach a wider audience at a more flexible time.
Online concerts are pay-per-view and cost around SGD30. The cost of an average live K-pop concert ticket can range from SGD100-500, so online concerts are much more affordable – and you don’t even have to leave your room and you can replay the concert for free!
Upcoming virtual concerts
Seven-member boy band Victon will be using VLive for their first online concert ‘Mayday’ to be held on July 12th at 5PM KST. The members will be putting on special stages for fans and ticket pre-orders started on June 29th on their official VLive+ channel.
Online concerts for Cube Entertainment artists are held on their official company website/app CUBE TV. Tickets are sold on Interpark, the site that also sells tickets for real-life concerts in Korea. Merchandise can be pre-ordered on the site as well.
Girl group (G)I-DLE were supposed to have their first world tour this year, but due to cancellation from COVID-19, they will be holding it online on July 5th. Meanwhile, BTOB’s main vocalist Eunkwang will hold his first online concert ‘FoRest: Walk in the Forest’ on July 18th. After being recently discharged from the military, this is his first solo performance eight years after his debut.
The future is online
The future of entertainment could very well be virtual – BTS’ ‘Bang Bang Con’ ended up breaking records for being the biggest online concert in the world. During the 100-minute livestream, there were reportedly 756,000 concurrent viewers across 107 countries. With each ticket costing between SGD34-45 (depends on membership), the group raked in a whopping SGD25 million. With its flexibility and easy accessibility, online concerts and video call fansigns could continue well after the virus situation calms down.