As opportunities for fans to see K-pop artists live, both conventions and concerts factor prominently in fan practice. They also have a different impact on the perception of K-pop.
On one hand, K-pop engagement events like KCON resemble the convention model, much like San Diego’s ComicCon. For example, KCON combines concerts, fan engagement with artists, exhibit stalls and a variety of panels that bring together experts, industry professionals and social media content creators. The the two-day concert is often the highlight, allowing audiences to see a slate of artists that ranges from rookies to veterans in a way that they would otherwise be unable to see live.
In the past, KCON has featured a mix of new and older artists. For example, KCON LA 2018 featured Chungha, who had just debuted a year before, as well as veteran hip-hop act Dynamic Duo. However, KCON 2022 features largely a slate of fairly new artists. Kep1er debuted in 2022 and ENHYPHEN, P1Harmony and StayC all debuted in 2020. NCT Dream is the most senior group in the bill, having debuted in 2016. With this slate of very recent artists, KCON 2022 seems to cater to more recent K-pop fans.
On the other hand, you have family concerts, which feature artists from the same label. While concerts with multiple artists on the bill are not new, K-pop family concerts like SMTown Live 2022 differ in important ways. SMTown Live 22 featured interaction among newer artists, like aespa, older artists like Super Junior and TVXQ! and veteran artists like Kangta and BoA. Individual artists performed their own songs, but the concert also features collaborations between artists. Such a huge undertaking could be scheduling nightmare even with artists on the same label. As a result, some members of some groups were not present due to other promotions (Onew of SHINee) or military service (Chanyeol and Baekhyun of EXO).
These two different approaches to the live engagement between artists and fans can result in different perceptions of K-pop. KCON 2022’s focus on fairly new artists firmly places K-pop in the present. It is designed to attract recent fans with new artists that resonate more with them than established acts. There is a tendency for current K-pop fans to focus on K-pop artists that are currently popular to the exclusion of older groups. This can be seen in arguments that disparage older artists as well as the overall lack of knowledge about older groups. This nearly exclusive focus on recent groups fails to place K-pop within a context, ignores the connections between artists and generations and promotes K-pop as a trendy fad. This focus on newer groups also fails to provide an opportunity for older and newer K-pop fans to enjoy K-pop together, as previous KCON’s did when the artist slate had more variety.
Conversely, family concerts mixes artists from different generations, showing how older artists are still relevant. For example, SM Town often ends the family concert with all artists performing the song ‘빛 Hope.’ As this fancam shows, fans get to see a variety of artists interact together.
Since artists are frequently involved in their own promotions, it is rare to see this many different artists together. SM Town concerts frequently feature older artists on the label, whether or not they are actively promoting or not. For example, Kangta was a member of the first successful male idol group at SM Entertainment, H.O.T., and he mingles on stage with SM’s junior artists. In fact, every group, from the oldest to the youngest, get a special introduction to to the audience at the end of the performance. In this way, fans are exposed to a wider array of artists, which in turn expands their perceptions of K-pop beyond just the current artists. SM Town’s consistent incorporation of older artists on the label and the interaction between artists helps to foster a more comprehensive approach to live engagement between artists and fans.
CL.6v6. “(HD) 220820 SMTown Live Concert 2022 in Suwon Ending Full Version – ‘빛 Hope’ From Kwangya.” YouTube. 20 Aug 2022. https://youtu.be/QNvMT9uoWG8.
K-pop, Conventions and Concerts by Crystal S. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.