Ghost power was on display in downtown Los Angeles last week as thousands of K-pop devotees gathered for KCON, a three-day celebration of South Korean pop culture.
KCON was more like a family reunion for many attendees, as some of them explain in the latest episode of Varietythe Strictly Business podcast. K-pop is growing in popularity around the world, but it’s still good enough that its most ardent fans enjoy hanging out with those who “get it,” as many attendees explained.
“You come for the music, the choreography, the costumes – all the beautiful, fun, shiny things. And then you end up staying because you make friends,” said Epiphany, a KCON attendee who lives in North Hollywood.
Conversations with other teens and twenty-somethings who attended the conference and two concerts at the Crypto.com Arena revealed a host of trends in media, media consumption, and how affinity groups that gather online can have massive real-world impact. The rise of K-pop, largely outside of major US-based entertainment conglomerates, has had a major impact on South Korea’s economy.
Additionally, the trends that have fueled the rise of K-pop are emerging across other media sectors, including an emphasis on artists having a direct connection with fans and the promotion of contests and trading cards that allow fans to special access to their beloved “idols”, as K-pop artists are known.
Whitney, who traveled to KCON from Chicago and met up with friends from Atlanta, explained the appeal of High Touch meet-and-greet events that allow fans to make brief contact with their idols the way sports teams often do. games begin or end — with players walking down a line to exchange brief finger taps.
“I mean, to get those five little seconds of eye contact is totally worth it. For us anyway,” Whitney said. “For other people, it sounds crazy, but it’s definitely worth it.”
The appeal of K-pop cannot be denied and neither can the expectations of its fans. Hollywood has a lot to learn from the organic growth of this market, especially in countries like Brazil, Turkey, Mexico and places as far away as Korea.
“What got me first was just like the fan culture she was surrounded by, because how people treat each other like family,” said Christina, who is Epiphany’s roommate. “And you know, there’s all these freebies and events, it’s very much like, it feels like a family because, like, you love the members that they love, you know, and they show love to the fans. But the fans themselves rally around something we all love and we’re all passionate about.”
“Strict business” is Variety‘s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment. New episodes debut every Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and SoundCloud. Click here to subscribe to the free Strictly Business newsletter.