Concert Season Part 1: Merchandise
With summer still in full swing, it seems like every artist one could hope to see in concert is on tour. From KCON to DAY6’s Youth tour to Eric Nam’s Honestly tour to BTS’s upcoming Love Yourself tour, artists are out and about, visiting as many fans as they can around the world. As any K-Pop conneussier knows, we K-Pop fans can be a fierce bunch. Whether it’s crashing ticketing sites or lining up overnight just to get a chance at front row, we tend to take it to the extreme, but there are some things to keep in mind to keep concert season safe and fun for everyone, no matter if you’re a concert veteran or brand new to the K-Pop concert scene.
Every other week, we’ll be posting a new installment but for now, get ready to cover everyone’s favorite: merchandise!
The Merch Rush
Anyone who’s ever been to a concert knows the merchandise line is never fun, but K-Pop takes it to the next level. For anyone looking to buy merchandise before the concert (got to have that light stick in check!), be prepared to line up well before the doors open in some cases. For the Chicago stop of BTS’s The Wings Tour last year, people began lining up for merchandise around 8 a.m. even though the outdoor booth did not open until 1 p.m. Although most merch booths will move inside once the doors open, things tend to get a little crazier as concert time approaches (not to mention stock will get super low!) so if you’re able, it’s best to get there as early as you comfortably can and get merch out of the way so you can rest up.
Most companies, whether it’s the artist’s management or the promoter, will post the merchandise online before the start of the tour so it’s a good idea to check it out and get an idea of what you’d like to buy before you’re in front of the table. It’s best to have several items in mind so you’re prepared with a backup in case your top choice sells out. For those who want to skip the line, you can usually purchase the same items online before the tour even starts but keep in mind that your merch might not arrive in time for your concert (and don’t be surprised when the shipping costs an arm and a leg).
Lastly, be ready for restrictions, especially if you’re buying your merch in person. For The Wings Tour in Chicago, the merchandise table was very strict in enforcing several rules such as only allowing a person to purchase three of any identical item in addition to only allowing the purchase of a maximum of two light sticks per person. When it comes to forms of payment, most tables will accept either cards or cash but be sure to look out for online announcements about regulations regarding this as well: for The Wings Tour Chicago, credit cards were only accepted for orders over $60 and an ID was required as proof of identification.
Slogans and Light sticks and Pickets, Oh My!
K-Pop concert crowds are usually overflowing with merchandise from shining light sticks to pickets with every member’s face plastered on the front. While it may feel like half of the concert experience is in the merchandise, you still have to consider the rules of the venue. In the case of light sticks, it’s best to confirm with the venue’s security directly via phone, email, or onsite. As for signs, some locations will have strict regulations on sizes or may prohibit them entirely; if you plan on bringing anything to hold up, make sure it fits within these guidelines or you risk having your merchandise confiscated by security. To check out these requirements, all you need to do is a quick Google search for the venue’s FAQ. Even if your sign or slogan is within the permitted parameters, be sure to be considerate of the people around you during the concert: the people in the row behind you want to see the concert just as much as you do.
In addition to official merchandise, K-Pop concerts are positively littered with unofficial merchandise, either from generous fans just wanting to share their love for the artist or fansites selling extensive varieties of goods. If you’re looking to buy from fansites, the best way to stay up-to-date is by following them on social media, like Twitter, as most will usually post their locations and stock prior to the start of the show. Unofficial merchandise is not permitted by most venues/promoters, so the majority of fansites will sell their goods outside of the immediate concert area. Do, however, be aware of scammers! Unfortunately, some less genuine sellers may rip you off by selling counterfeit items (no real CD is going to cost only $5—yes, I had someone try to sell me some at a concert) so it is important to use your discretion when making any purchase that is not from the official merch table!
Can’t afford merchandise? That doesn’t make you any less of a fan! Nowadays, many people are treating their smartphones as light sticks by just turning on their flashlight. In addition to makeshift light sticks, there are also apps such as LEDit or Scrollit that allow you to turn your phone into a banner. Just make sure these merchandise hacks are okay with security. Also keep your eyes peeled for free merchandise! Prior to doors opening, everyone from regional fan groups to media to fansites tend to wander around handing out free merch to help get the crowd hyped.
Check back next week for another article to help you get prepared for your upcoming concerts! Until then, leave your merch success (or horror) stories in the comments below.