[Editor’s note: This article may contain affiliate links from our partners.]
MANILA, Philippines – From Beatlemania to BTS mania, pop music’s colorful history has taught us to never underestimate the power of fangirls and fanboys.
There’s no denying that the term is often used with derogatory and dismissive connotation. But at the end of the day, these fans wield the power to make or break artists’ careers – ultimately shaping pop culture.
Fan – or as they call it these days, stan – culture has evolved, particularly in K-pop. Aside from music videos and commercials, fans used to only be able to see their faves, albeit from a distance, during concerts.
Artists now feature on variety shows and reality programs, even interacting with fans firsthand during live streams, fansigns, and fanmeets.
These types of content result in feelings of closeness and affinity between fans and artists. In turn, fans develop a sense of loyalty and a drive for their favorites to succeed. They hold streaming parties, looping their idols’ songs and music videos in the hopes of racking numbers and breaking records.
Fandom culture also exceeds the limits of the internet. Fans often travel overseas for the main reason of seeing their favorite artists live.
It’s only natural that this kind of dedication generated a demand for merchandise. The K-pop merch industry alone is worth US$132 million. And as K-pop outgrows its niche label and seeps into mainstream popularity in the West, led by top acts such as BTS and Blackpink, this number is only expected to skyrocket even further.
While K-pop merch includes your usual apparel, tote bags, posters, and school supplies, companies sometimes go a little more extra. Think instant coffee, ramen, shower curtains, even kitchenware.
On Lazada, you can find this Blackpink Samsung Galaxy gadgets, EXO tumbler and reusable straw, BTS cable organizers, and multi-fandom tableware. Who said fan merch can’t be useful?
Brick and mortar stores such as SMTown Coex Artium and YG Shop are dedicated to selling the fan experience, but fans outside of South Korea still find ways to buy merch by organizing group orders from official websites. Or if they’re handy and artsy, they even create the merch themselves.
Pau is a SHINee and NCT fan who started buying merch in 2017. She now owns three boxes of albums, posters, concert goods, and photobooks, a collection she dubs ‘Shrinee.’ And it’s not just a random whim – buying merch, she says, is part of her lifestyle.
While she doesn’t believe that buying merch is necessary to being a real fan, she still sees it as a way to support her faves. It identifies her to fellow fans as well. “It brings pride, like a way of bragging I’m part of the fandom, or that I support this particular group,” she says. – Rappler.com