With the outbreak of COVID-19 indiscriminately affecting the entire world, people have had to find ways to carry out their lives with as much normalcy as they can. Of great importance is finding ways for people to take care of themselves amongst the unknowns of the outbreak. Live music has long been a way for people to do just that but concerts are presently not possible due to the outbreak. To combat this, K-Pop entertainment companies have begun to hold online shows for fans everywhere, something that’s been positively met and much appreciated by fans. With that in mind, will online concerts replace in-person concerts as both the new norm and preferred way for fans to enjoy live performances of their favorite artists?
In response to the outbreak, SM Entertainment began the trend of holding online concerts for fans of their many groups. These included shows for SuperM, WayV, NCT Dream, NCT 127, TVXQ, and Super Junior. Much to the disappointment of fans, they were all paid concerts, something that’s later being repeated by other artists. These concerts were designed to recreate the in-person experience through things like making lightsticks still usable and able to sync just like they could at a real concert.
Building on this momentum from the success of SM Entertainment’s online concerts, BTS held their own virtual music experience. Their show, titled “Bang Bang Con,” was held on June 14, and was held in front of roughly 765,000 viewers from all over the world. To put that in perspective, that number could fill nine Wembley Stadiums (a sports stadium in the UK). Wembley Stadium is a 90,000 seat venue that BTS performed two sold-out shows last year during their BTS World Tour Love Yourself: Speak Yourself. With the average sports stadium holding capacity of around 50,000, this allows 15 times as many fans to enjoy a concert of their favorite artists than in an in-person concert.
Other artists are looking to follow the massive success of SM Entertainment’s and BTS’s online concerts. GFRIEND, ASTRO, and Dreamcatcher are all set to hold paid online concerts on June 20, June 28, and July 4, respectively, with tickets still available for purchase. Additionally, the world-famous KCON has decided to hold their festival experience online, creating a week-long international event from June 20-26. Artists including MONSTA X, LOONA, MAMAMOO, Stray Kids, and TXT are set to perform virtually for fans, and artist meet-and-greets are still scheduled for several of the artists in the lineup.
Some artists have taken to different concert approaches during the coronavirus outbreak. Artists such as Henry and AKMU held “Drive-in Busking” were fans gathered in their cars and watched the performance from their cars, much like going to a drive-in theater. However, approaches like these are only feasible with smaller audiences, as groups like SuperM, NCT, and BTS have shown to draw crowds much too large for a drive-in busking.
K-Pop idols have already been connecting with their domestic and international fans through technology even before this advent of online concerts. Live broadcasts, Instagram lives, and posts on Weverse, Twitter, and their own DAUM fan cafes have all been social media platforms used for idols to reach their fans and vice versa, often even live.
Many argue that these online concerts will become the new and preferred way to experience K-Pop. They do allow for more fans to attend at once and do bring considerably more revenue for the artists. However, most fans argue that, while it’s fantastic to have the option to attend virtually, that nothing will ever replace an in-person concert experience. Fans love the experience of being in an arena or stadium with thousands of other excited and pumped-up fans. The experience of being in the stands next to thousands of fellow adoring fans, of being able to watch the lightsticks flashing in time to the music, of feeling the beat echoing through your chest and hearing the fanchants during the songs—fans say that these are irreplaceable parts of all K-Pop concerts and are things that can only be experienced and truly appreciated in-person.
With this new frontier of concert experiences taking flight, will in-person concerts be replaced in favor of these virtual experiences? It seems like that might be the future trajectory, but only time will tell how it will all play out.