Concert season has finally arrived, and K-pop artists are no exception. More and more K-pop acts are announcing unexpected tour dates left and right, such as BTS’ Suga, aka Agust D, announcing his first-ever solo tour which kicks off in the U.S in late April, or TWICE announcing their 2023 world stadium tour, which will begin in mid-April with tour stops in the U.S. over the summer. There’s no telling how many more groups or artists will go on tour this year. One thing is for sure: My bank account has been seriously jeopardized in recent months.
If you decide to buy a ticket to a K-pop live performance but have never been to one, you might be surprised to learn that there are differences between attending a K-pop concert and a Western artist’s performance. Before you frantically search for how to prepare for your first K-pop concert, this space is the perfect place to learn all about what to expect at a K-pop concert — you can thank me later!
One significant difference at a K-pop concert is that some fans will perform fanchants during a group or artist’s performance. A fanchant is essentially a script specifically designed for fans to perform together during certain parts of a song or dance break. A fanchant may consist of reciting the names of all the members of a K-pop group or emphasizing a specific line in a song. Some K-pop groups release fanchant guides on YouTube or other social platforms like Weverse with each new title track or music release that they are scheduled to perform live. You don’t have to know the fanchant to join in on the fun, but there has been debate about whether you should amongst fans (plus, it’s just kind of cool to hear the whole crowd chanting in unison).
- PHOTOCARds and FREEBIES
The distribution of photocards and other freebies is one of the cutest ways to interact with other fans. There are usually fans in line for the concert venue who make their own custom photocards to give to other fans while they wait. Photocard freebies are not official for the specific concert and may include an image of an individual member or the entire group. Giving away freebies is customary at K-pop events, and fans may even hand out goodie bags filled with candy and other treats!
- NO OPENING ACTS
You heard that right! When attending a K-pop concert, unlike with Western artists, there are usually no opening acts or guests before the main performers. Once the show begins, you’ll see your favorite artists or groups from beginning to end.
Don’t worry if you don’t know what a VCR is in K-pop. I didn’t either until I went to my first K-pop concert — and no, it doesn’t mean a video cassette recorder. A VCR is a series of pre-recorded videos that are played during the concert, usually before or between performances. VCRs are essential for K-pop groups, allowing them to change costumes or take a break in between their intense choreographies. VCRs may include the artist’s music videos, variety show segments, photoshoot clips, or fun moments shared by members.
- MUSIC VIDEO OR COMEBACK-inspired outfits
One of the most exciting aspects of attending your first K-pop concert is deciding what to wear. You’ll quickly notice that fans prefer to dress in a specific era of their favorite K-pop group. Fans often choose to recreate an outfit design from one of their favorite releases and put their own spin on it. I even joined in on the trend at my first K-pop concert, wearing an outfit inspired by Seventeen member Vernon’s live stage outfit for their song “Hot.”
One of the most noticeable differences you’ll observe when attending your first K-pop concert is fans holding lightsticks. A lightstick is a group or artist’s official sign or logo that helps distinguish the various K-pop acts. Lightsticks can sometimes shine the color of the act’s official fandom color or it may glow a variety of colors for the show. Lightsticks are frequently powered by a Bluetooth system, which you can connect to when you arrive at the concert venue.
When attending a concert, a lightstick is a must-have item, and you may see different K-pop groups’ lightsticks at the event (however, the etiquette of bringing one group’s lightstick to another group’s concert has been heavily debated among fans, so make your own decision with that in mind).
Lightsticks can cost from anywhere between $50 to $90 dollars depending on the group or purchasing shop. There are many K-pop purchasing sites where you can find a lightstick (including usually on the group’s official merch website, though they tend to sell out in advance of a concert), but many concert venues will sell the lightsticks before the show begins — just remember to bring batteries!
If purchasing a lightstick is a little out of your price range, why not consider getting a slogan? At a K-pop concert, there are usually two kinds of slogans: official ones and fan-made ones. Official slogans are made of paper or cloth and feature the band’s name and official design that can be purchased at the concert venue. A fan-made slogan is typically a collaborative effort in which fans create and give out a slogan outside the venue for free that will be displayed during a specific segment of the show as a surprise to the artists. Fan-made slogans are created uniquely for each tour stop, so if you want something to remember your specific show by, make sure to grab one on the way to your seat.
- Signed Album merch
Depending on the artist, you may not even need to purchase a VIP package to obtain a signed album from one of your favorite groups. At the venue stands, K-pop artists will occasionally include pre-signed albums among the merch available for purchase. Make sure to arrive as early as possible to beat the lines, as those are usually the first to go — I speak from experience.
- Image Pickets
Image pickets are a cute and practical way to show off your favorite members at a concert. Image pickets, which feature a photo of a specific member on the front and sometimes the back sides of the picket, are typically sold at the venue or on K-pop specialty sites. If you don’t have a bias in the band, there are group image pickets as well (P.S. If you prefer to support a small business, you can find custom pickets on Etsy).
- photocards and holders as accessories
Have you purchased an album in time for the concert and want to bring your photocard? Not only do K-pop fans give out free photocards, but you’ll also see fans bringing and taking photos with their official album photocards for fun memories and aesthetic images. People also use the clip of their photocard holder to accessorize their outfits or bags in time for the exciting day.
- hi-touch and fansign events
Want to meet your fave performers at the concert? Hi-touch and fansigns can provide an amazing opportunity to interact with them. A hi-touch is a way for fans to wave and even high-five artists. You are usually arranged by a queue number and told where to go as you or the members walk by. A fansign is more intimate and is typically done by smaller K-pop acts before or after concert events. A fansign is a chance to have your K-pop album autographed by the members as well as speak directly with the artists for a few minutes. These concert add-ons are usually available through the VIP packages when booking online and are purchased separately from the actual ticket.