How far would you travel for your favourite K-pop act? (Image: www.kcon.tv)
Let's be real here: whether you like it or not, K-pop is without doubt one of South Korea's most lucrative exports. The hype around their 'idols' is no joke; their bands have had sold-out shows around the world, including the United States, and it has also given their tourism industry a boost
The appeal in K-pop concerts is that they bring a different sort of experience compared to Western musical acts. The singers are not just there to sing and perform; the concert has a story of its own (be it the band trying to save the world or a coming from another planet with super powers). They're also REALLY flashy with their stage (Lightsabers! Water dance! Mini DJ table in the middle of the stage!).
While yes, Malaysians do get their fair share of K-pop concerts, but fans still have a preference to go overseas, particularly Seoul. In fact, this Rojak Daily
writer was once asked by an Air Asia staff whether she was going to the capital city to watch a K-pop concert (she wasn't).
To find out more about its appeal, we talk to two avid K-pop fans, Nadia and Maddie (not their real names), about their experience with ticketing and the concert atmosphere.
What's the difference between a Malaysian K-pop concert and one held overseas?
Nadia attended Bangtan Boys' On Stage Epilogue Concert in Seoul earlier this year, but has also watched them perform in Malaysia prior to that. "The band appeared more at ease in South Korea to me. It's probably because they didn't have to interact with the crowd using a foreign language," she comments.
She also adds that there were more 'fan events' happening at the South Korean venue. For example, an official merchandise booth was set up, which wasn't done so in other tour stops. This was a bonus because international fans like herself could personally purchase merchandise and skip shipping cost.
Freebies were also given out by various fan-run websites, and sponsors even gave out free BBQ chicken on the concert day and food vouchers to fans. "In Malaysia, there were only stalls selling fake merchandise and a small booth selling the albums," she says.
Official merchandise are exclusively sold at Seoul concerts (Image: Nadia)
Maddie has attended several K-pop concerts overseas, including in Bangkok, Japan and Seoul. "Malaysia gets a stripped down version of the concert, usually with less song and less fanciful stages," she tells us. This was mostly because of venue considerations.
It doesn't help that Malaysia is usually an afterthought for organisers. "We're usually snuck in towards the end of the tour and in between schedules, so by the time they arrive on our shores, they're usually tired. It's extremely noticeable how idols seem to falter and don't put as much energy into their performances in Malaysia." Concert set lists also change throughout the year as the bands release more new songs, so one venue may not get a new song if the concert happens before that.
Not all EXO concert stops had this water dance performance (Image: SMTOWN)
How did they buy the tickets? Is it expensive?
Nadia tells us that the amount of money she spent on her concert tickets for two days of performances is equivalent to the price she shelled out for one VIP ticket in Malaysia (roughly around RM628). "It's a deal and with all the experiences that came with the trip, it's definitely worth it," she adds.
However, the process of buying said tickets was almost like going to war. "It was extremely hard since ticketing was done online and for this concert, there were two periods: one for official members of their fan club and the other was for general sales." She also had to compete with Korean fans, who gathered at their cyber cafes for high speed Internet.
Maddie hasn't had much problem buying concert tickets before. It's much cheaper to get them through normal means in South Korea and Japan. And usually, concerts have one price for the entire venue, no matter what seat you get. Immensely popular bands such as EXO, however, is an exception. There are even scalpers who would sell the tickets at a hefty price.
Was it a nightmare to queue up, and was the crowd rowdy?
Nadia assures us that people were generally civil and not rowdy at all. "The only time I felt things got a little out of hand was when a pack of teens were rushing to get in line for freebies. The queues were also mostly organised and smooth, from the security check to the seat-ushering."
"Overseas concerts observe a strict queue number. Malaysians don't," Maddie comments. When she was in Bangkok, lines were clearly marked out with barricades, and in Japan, they do a very thorough bag check but no one pushes at all. Singaporean concert organisers would mark off people in groups of 100 according to the number and stopped people from entering the queue once they pass the cut-off time.
"In Seoul, you could try cutting the queue if you have balls of steel, but everyone around you would kick you out. They also go insane once the idols come out, so it's best to hang out at the back anyway."
Tips for fans who want to try buying tickets!
Nadia lets us in on how to make your ticketing experience painless.
1) Make sure that your internet is good enough for online ticketing. You'll be up against South Koreans, who have the fastest internet in the world.
2) While getting tickets, make sure that your credit card allows overseas transactions so that you don't get turned away right before you secure your ticket.
3) If you purchase tickets online and need to collect them at the venue, make sure to print out and bring all the relevant documents they've asked you to bring when you made your purchase. Don't forget your passport and credit card used to buy the ticket too!
4) Buying tickets at the venue? Make sure you arrive extra early. Like 6am early. Nadia and her friends arrived at 7am and the line for official merchandise was already very long. Make sure to ask around for the ticketing line. Some organisers have English-speaking staff to guide international fans, too.
5) If you're buying from a reseller, take necessary precautions to ensure the person on the other end isn't a scammer. Ask for confirmation of purchase. Ask the reseller to write your name on a piece of paper and place it next to the ticket for photo proof.