The K-Pop music industry does not shy away from using new technologies to revolutionize its marketing approaches. Recently, several K-Pop entertainment agencies have delved into the blockchain space by selling non-fungible tokens (NFTs) that play into an already existing form of artist merchandising widespread within the industry.
From big names such as G-Dragon of BIGBANG launching his own NFT collection Archive of PEACEMINUSONE in collaboration with Fandom Studios in March 2023, to big K-Pop festivals such as Waterbomb partnering with Eternal Editions to bring NFTs into the live music space, the industry seems to be latching onto the Web3 space with all its might.
How else are NFTs transforming K-Pop, and where could this new phenomenon be headed next?
K-Pop Embracing Web3
Asian financial markets have embraced the cryptocurrency industry with open arms, with some of the most prominent summits being held in the region, including Token2049, Korean Blockchain Week, and the Edge Summit in September 2023.
Central and southern Asia crypto markets have been leading the way in crypto adaptation according to ChainAnalysis’ 2023 crypto adaptation index, with six out of the top 10 countries being located in the region.
The number of NFT holders in South Korea surged from 10,000 in 2020 to around 760,000 in 2021, according to data published by AJ Marketing, and it is expected to continue growing to 970,000 by 2027 as the market continues to increase in popularity.
“South Korea overall has embraced Web3, and the K-pop industry in particular stands to benefit from NFTs’ many novel attributes,” the head of NFTs, Art and Culture at Ava Labs, Dominic Carbonaro, told Technopedia.
Ava Labs had recently partnered with the South Korean entertainment company Dreamus and multinational firm SK Planet to allow fans to purchase NFT tickets for Dreamus events like K-Pop concerts and other shows such as Avalanche NFTS.
“Among other artists, Dreamus manages distribution and events for prominent K-pop artists like PSY, Twice, and MissA,” Carbonaro noted.
He added that NFT-based ticketing and e-commerce programs are transforming how fans and the K-Pop industry interact, revolutionizing that as well, mainly because K-Pop marketing focuses very closely on fans and idol interactions.
Kendrick Na, the CMO of Waterbomb NFT, told Technopedia:
“K-pop, or the entertainment market in Korea, focuses on communication with fans. The communities formed through fan communication are similar in structure to NFT communities, which stimulate people’s possessiveness.
“Just as a successful K-pop idol has a strong fan base and community, the success of NFT also depends on passionate fans and a supportive community. The K-pop industry is entering the NFT industry to expand communities through fan interaction, strengthen bonds, and increase the utilization of intellectual property (IP) management,”
Waterbomb is one of the most significant water and music-themed festivals in South Korea, sporting some of the biggest acts in the K-Pop industry. Working together with the Eternal Editions NFT platform, Waterbomb launched Waterbomb Leage NFT. This event combines real-world water fights with elements from the metaverse, K-Pop culture, and live performances.
Na added that some of the most notable examples of the K-Pop industry immersing in the Web3 space include MetaBeat, which issued a special NFT for the popular K-Pop female group Mamamoo “encouraging active participation and rewarding holders with goods and concert tickets”.
Another K-Pop group, Triple S, is an idol group nurtured through NFT, offering features such as photo cards and voting through non-fungible tokens.
Fan Interaction, NFTs, and Projects to Look Out For
Fan service is one of the pillars of K-Pop marketing, and according to Na, “NFTs authenticate true fandom for K-Pop fans.”
“By providing special goods and content to holders of NFTs, “true fans” develop a deeper connection, motivating regular fans to engage more actively to become true fans.”
Julie Lamb, the Head of Events at CryptoOracle Collective, told Technopedia that NFTs are also serving as an opportunity for K-Pop idols to connect with their fans while also offering them exclusive gifts.
“Virtual meet-and-greets, personalized messages, access to exclusive performances, and more are possible using NFTs. Rare photos or movies that only appear here might also be included… Certain K-pop groups are leveraging the potential of blockchain technology to expand and enhance fan-driven communication, giving them the opportunity to fully participate in the decision-making process.
“Using the Polygon blockchain and NFT governance procedure, TripleS curated some of its creative choices for its most recent album.”
Lamb noted that several larger groups in the industry, including WINNER, BLACKPINK, BTS, and BigBang, have had their agencies dive into the blockchain space head first.
“SM Entertainment, a well-known entertainment company in Korea, is one of the businesses to watch. Establishing the first organized idol incubation process and environment that enabled K-pop to grow into an international phenomenon.
Another one to be aware of is Abyss. Their NFT business success is mentioned as a blueprint of how K-pop intellectual property and NFT technology may work well, and it’s debated to be the first of many such examples to come.”
Ava Labs’ Carbonaro added that NFT tickets allow for an “incredible degree of customization that benefits both K-Pop artists as well as fans.”
NFTs in K-Pop: Ownership Integrity
CryptoOracle Collective’s Lamb added that NFTs also retain an ownership integrity level that “neither paper nor digital tickets can match” as they solely exist on a specific blockchain.
This means that fans can now experience owning a ticket with an added personalized utility.
“An NFT has its full chain of custody, just like any other blockchain transaction, and its owner must have it in order to sell it or, in some cases, even share it. This shields secondary buyers, the artist venue, and the event ticketing industry from the dangers of scalping duplicate sales and forgeries.”
Cardano added that NFT tickets offer authenticity, decreasing the potential for scams as fake tickets are becoming more popular in the live events industry worldwide. Moreover, they can also help solve the problem of bots and scalpers in the live event ticketing industry.
“In addition, NFT tickets can be programmed with other useful options, such as allowing for resale, but pre-programming the maximum and minimum resale prices. In addition, NFT ticketing opens up new royalty streams for the artists.”
However, Lamb has stressed that when a fan purchases an artistic work with an NFT, they oftentimes only receive a restricted license to exhibit that work for non-commercial uses, meaning that NFT buyers must be aware of the rights in the underlying asset that they are acquiring.
What Is the Future of K-Pop NFTs?
Waterbomb NFT’s Na noted that in the past, K-Pop fandoms were groups not expecting rewards for their love of idols. Still, in recent months, fandoms can be seen as “prosumers” who not only consume but also produce content related to their favorite idols, such as fan art in the form of videos, memes, and goods.
“Artists benefit from the endless growth through fandom-created content, but there is currently no compensation, leading to the need for ‘NFT’ as an alternative for a sustainable synergy structure among fandoms, entertainment companies, and artists.”
Ava Labs’ Carbonaro added that he believes NFTs will “become an indispensable part of the K-Pop experience,” spanning from NFT-based ticketing that aims to enhance live events to NFT art and loyalty reward programs that could open venues for K-Pop fans to express their love and passion for favorite groups in a virtual space.
The merge of K-Pop and blockchain technologies has ushered in a new era of fan engagement and revenue streams. NFTs have become the bridge between artists and fans, offering unprecedented opportunities for interaction and ownership. Major K-Pop festivals like Waterbomb are embracing Web3 tech, ensuring ticket authenticity, combating scalping, and providing exclusive fan experiences; meanwhile, prominent artists such as G-Dragon and groups like Mamamoo are pioneering NFT collections, enhancing their connections with fans.
As the K-Pop industry delves deeper into NFTs, the future promises even more innovative applications, with the intersection of K-Pop and NFTs truly on the way to reshape the industry, empowering fans and revolutionizing the entertainment industry into something completely unseen before.