Broadway’s K-pop musical showed just how hard it is to create internet fame

F8 (pronounced “fate”) is an eight-member all-male K-pop group signed to RBY Entertainment. A look at their official Instagram page shows the band performing at concerts, posing for photoshoots, and smiling on rooftops in eclectic yet color-coordinated outfits. The band has been promoting the upcoming show and is giving a big thank you to their fans, which they call “F8 Nation”. It looks a lot like the Instagram page of many other K-pop groups that a scrolling fan might stumble upon.

Exception: F8 is not real. This is a fictional group kpop, A musical that opened on Broadway on November 27th and is now closing after just two weeks after mixed reviews and low ticket sales. A month before and in the weeks following its opening, KPOP He marketed his characters on social media using the same tools and tactics that brought K-pop’s biggest names to mainstream fame. Unfortunately, KPOP‘s fictional groups have yet to achieve the same success. Building an internet fandom, it turns out, is hard to do.

a:hover]:text-gray-63 text-gray-63 dark:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-bd dark:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a]:text-gray-bd [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray”>Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images

KPOP — The musical was unique and groundbreaking in many ways, revolving around a fictional South Korean boy band named F8, a girl group named RTMIS, a solo artist named MwE, and the various dramas that arise while preparing for a performance in New York. . It was the first Broadway show featuring a female Asian composer and saw the Broadway debuts of 18 API artists. He also took a particularly interesting approach to social media marketing. The team tried to create fandom not only of the show, but also of the characters in the show. He created social media presences for the bands he covered and promoted them the way a label might sell real artists.

First KPOPOfficial Instagram profiles for F8, RTMIS and MwE appeared on opening night. The team behind them used photo collages (multiple posts creating one big image on the account’s feed), a technique often used by real bands. The images were very similar to the photos you see on the pages of real artists, from the decor and style to the bilingual captions.

Elsewhere, groups challenged each other’s songs (i.e. the numbers they performed on the show) with a TikTok dance and challenged viewers to follow along. They named their fans—the F8s were “F8 Nation” and the RTMISs were “Demis”—like real bands. “You are always with us and will support us. You give us strength every time we perform,” F8 noted in a recent Instagram post. “Thank you for your endless love and support, my very special fans,” MwE wrote in another. The moment F8 took the stage for the first time was a big event at the show I saw, preceded by dramatic music followed by a break for cheers and applause. Although the audience had never seen this fictional group before, we were expected to already know them.

As a K-pop fan myself, I have to admit that I was impressed by the authenticity of the social profiles and how well their creators understand today’s online K-pop scene. While I can only guess KPOP given the team’s mindset when designing their social media strategy, I imagine that creating a fandom for their fictional group would have seemed like a decent way to introduce the show to an extremely online audience. So why not? It worked well for dozens of real groups – why couldn’t it work with fictional groups?

I currently have a playlist full of BTS content from the past few weeks, including V’s latest concept film, Instagram photos from RM’s album release, RM’s small table concert, J-Hope’s new dance practice videos. and various TikToks from the #RunBTS dance floor. For many of the most recognizable K-pop acts today, social media is a central element of branding. Being a K-pop fan means watching a constant stream of online content.

While the avalanche of media is a lot of work for artists, the payoff can be huge. BTS was responsible for the most retweeted and second most liked tweets on all of Twitter last year, the latter being literally a selfie. BTS member V’s Instagram last year destroyed a laundry list of records, becoming the fastest profile to reach 10 million followers. And BTS is hardly the only group following this playbook. Many modern bands are even more active on social media, especially TikTok. Sure, there are K-pop fans who discover their favorite artists through their music, but I know many more through social media content — TikTok dance challenges, behind-the-scenes interviews, and viral variety show moments. discovered music after the fact.

I’ve been a part of all kinds of fandoms that use technology to connect with fans. (Remember One Direction’s Twitcam live streams?) Over the years, as tools like Instagram and TikTok have become bigger and bigger drivers of fame, I’ve heard a lot of talk about the formulaic nature of such online mediums. Don’t even care about kids these days music or artistsDid I hear members of my generation — or are their musicians just the ones with the best Instagram game?

Using the tried and true K-pop formula, KPOP He may have inadvertently chosen his fictional artists as the control group for this experiment. Can the K-pop machine known for its fame, or rather a Broadway musical trying to emulate the K-pop machine, create fandom for artists that literally don’t exist?

You don’t need to understand Korean to watch or appreciate the show

The answer is no, or not in a short window KPOP was given. As of this writing, MwE has 284 followers on Instagram, 374 on RTMIS, and 661 on F8. It’s not zero, but it was captured by the followers of those so-called artists – performers of the incredibly talented Luna. MwE and is a true K-pop idol with 1.5 million followers.

On the one hand, these are very new Instagram profiles. On the other hand, they had access to a larger audience than most new Instagram profiles. KPOP‘s cast included both Broadway and K-pop veterans. They have millions of followers on Instagram, Twitter and TikTok who promote their content widely. I have no doubt that these profiles reached K-pop circles and K-pop fans, but they did not find a foothold there.

“KPOP” Opening Night

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As both a long-time K-pop listener and an avid theatergoer, I’m about as intimate as one can get in the target audience for this musical. I saw KPOP during previews. He had very catchy songs. I was not prepared to see a cast full of Asian and Asian American performers on Broadway. Contrary to what some reviews claim, you don’t need to understand Korean to watch or appreciate the show. I had problems with KPOP‘s pacing and character development, but these were in no way the fault of the fantastic performers.

But to me, some parts of the social media push was not true. Some of them, I think, may be specific KPOPBroadway production status.

The first was confusion. It was never clear to me whether the TikToks and Instagram posts were meant to depict the fictional groups or the actors who played them—I was being addressed as a real fan, or I was witnessing the characters addressing fictional fans. The fact that many of the actors are noticeably older than their true career idols, who debuted in their teens, probably puts even more cracks in the illusion. (Again, not a criticism of the actors who did a great job.) And there was also the fact that some of the performers (probably non-native Korean speakers) had mostly English lines in the song and show. while a completely understandable creative choice from KPOP team is not something you usually see with real bands.

Some parts of the social media push were not true

These are all very reasonable choices that would have the audience suspend their disbelief in an obviously fictional Broadway musical. It’s perhaps a tougher sell when a production tries to court a fictional story with true fandom and die-hard fans intimately familiar with every convention of the genre the production depicts.

“KPOP” Opening Night

a:hover]:text-gray-63 text-gray-63 dark:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-bd dark:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a]:text-gray-bd [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray”>Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images

But I also found – and I can’t speak for all K-pop fans here; That was just my experience – an element of personality missing from F8, RTMIS and MwE’s social media personas. Even if this content is very well produced, it’s not just the dominance of TikToks and Instagram posts that creates popularity. You only have to look at Luna’s personal profile, which is more popular than her fictional character, which includes photos with friends, photos with pets, photos in bed and declarations of love to her co-stars, along with filming and promotions for the show. .

I believe Instagram and TikTok skeptics can take solace. It may seem like social media has changed the definition of stardom since the days of the Jonas Brothers and Twitcams. But for me KPOP it has become a reminder of how much remains the same.

It’s not just the flood of online content that’s made the best K-pop artists so adept at the internet, but also the people and humanity that exists in that content and connecting with others online. That’s what shines through in the online content of groups like BTS a simple selfie with a kissing face as the title. That kind of quirkiness, humor, and vulnerability would be hard for any fictional character to replicate—which is likely part of what sets today’s more viral social media stars apart from the rest. As a result, technology alone is not enough. The artist still needs to be contacted.

I invite you all to listen KPOP‘s upcoming cast album and get tickets to the next projects from its great cast.

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