Most international K-pop fans have probably experienced the same pains that I have: the waiting and wishing for a concert by your favorite idol, the exultation when a K-pop concert comes within reach, and the eventual tragically depressing disappointment that occurs when that said concert–which you did have concerns about because of the sketchy promotions of the concert–gets CANCELLED.

In my recent K-pop fanspan (fan+lifespan), I’ve lived through four cancelled K-pop concerts: Rain and JYJ‘s concerts in Hawaii, a ‘K-pop super concert’ called K-pop in Honolulu, and the recently cancelled SBS K-pop Super Concert in America in California.  These cancelled concerts all had one thing in common: crappy, half-assed planning.  K-pop fans are a loyal and crazy bunch able to mobilize with military precision, but not even K-pop fans can come up with hundreds of dollars for ticket costs, not to mention travel costs for some, in a week–which is what happened in a few of these cases.  Even with advance notice, after being burned so many times before K-pop fans have become gun-shy at buying K-pop concert tickets especially when artists aren’t announced until AFTER the tickets go on sale making fans hope for the best.  Other than concerts by artists backed by the ‘Big 3,’ K-pop concerts being planned and promoted by small-time promoters have often seemed like a reckless ‘Hail Mary’ than a well planned offensive attack on our K-pop loving senses. And then along came KCON 2012.

KCON 2012, a convention for Hallyu fans that would include forums and workshops with celebrity panelists, booths (from fan clubs, merchandise vendors, etc.), contests, fan signs, and a concert all for one fairly reasonable price.  Is this the K-pop mecca?  Or is it too good to be true?  

Produced by Mnet America, sponsored by Verizon Wireless, LG, Asiana Airlines, and State Farm, promoted with the help of media sponsors Koreaboo, Powerhouse Live, and the Anime News Network, KCON appears to be the stuff that K-pop dreams were made of.  So far they seem to be making all the right moves and K-pop fans are responding by mobilizing, buying tickets, and getting the buzz about KCON humming.  So what exactly has KCON done to make them stand out from everyone else?

 Planning BIG

Kcon didn’t stop at just trying to put together a K-pop concert, they’re going for the all-kill in producing a Hallyu themed convention for the masses.  Billing itself as “the first-ever large scale convention dedicated to the hottest entertainment coming out of Korea including K-pop, K-drama and Korean movies.” The activities planned for the convention include: workshops on Korean etiquette, style and dance; panel discussions about fanclub success stories, hit K-pop songwriters, the influence of foreign interests in K-pop, J-pop vs. K-pop, K-pop fashion, the growing popularity of Korean Cinema, Fanclub 101, K-dramas, YouTube idols, a BTS look at the MAMA Awards and M! Countdown, K-pop choreographers, producers and what I read was billed as a K-pop fan speed dating event–Love Connection; throughout the day CGV Mobile Cinema will be having special screenings, E-Sports is hosting a gaming tournament and interactive demos, and Mnet’s show Beats per Mnet will be hosting a dance and play time/area.  Throughout the day, there will also be more contests, performances, and a cosplay masquerade done in conjunction with Anime Expo.

Special guests attending the event to participate in the workshops and panel discussions include: K-pop choreographers Aimee Lee Lucas, Kyle Hanagami, Rino Nakasone and Ellen Kim,  Simon and Martina of Eat Your Kimchi fame, song writers JDRelic and Drew Ryan Scott, music producer Sean Alexander, electronic duo Daze-47A-Kpop aficionado Chad Future, Korea’s Got Talent Season 2 finalists Blue Whale BrothersDavid Yi fashion, stylist and on-air correspondent (and former Seoulbeats’ vlogger),  designer Sena Yang, makeup artist and YouTube vlogger Jen of From Head to Toe, YouTube musician AJ Rafael, Comedians David So and PK Kim, and JustKiddingFilms.  The event will also have food provided for sale by a bunch of food truck vendors (including Seoul Sausage Company  who just made it to the top 2 in the Food Network‘s The Great Food Truck Race)–my taste buds can hardly wait.

Contests include private photo sessions with B.A.P., EXO-M, and 4Minute where winners get to bring 9 friends to meet and take pics with these artists, an official guest DJ contest where the DJ submitting the best mix of the participating artists’ music will be flown to KCON to mix alongside the event’s official DJ (ends October 1st), and the Verizon Fly-away Sweepstakes where one grand prize winner receives: a dinner date with a KPOP star, airfare, Two-night hotel stay, and four VIP tickets to KCON 2012 at Verizon Amphitheater (ends October 2nd and only for Washington and California residents).

The official DJ of KCON will be Peter Rocks of My Ninja! and the official MCs are Danny Im of 1TYM and host of new Mnet America show Danny from LA and G.NA who will also be performing at the concert. Speaking of the concert, the first (they said ‘first,’ so I’m expecting at least another to be announced) opening act is Dumbfoundead with 4Minute, VIXX, B.A.P., G.NA, EXO-M, and NU’EST performing. The acts aren’t among K-pop’s top echelon of idols, but 4Minute and G.Na are good performers (saw them at KMF 2011) and VIXX, B.A.P., EXO-M, and NU’EST rank among the best of K-pop’s rookie boy bands with a large following of fans.  Considering the price, with VIP tickets going for a mere $120 for all-inclusive access to all the events plus the concert, it seems that fans will get an event well worth their money.

The breadth of events that KCON organizers have planned is impressive and elaborate. Hopefully, all their plans go well for the sake of all those involved, especially the fans.


 Knowing your Audience

It’s an often forgotten rule when planning things–organizers often get so caught up in their plans they forget who they are making those plans for.  I’d say that about 70% of the K-pop fans who are likely to attend an event like KCON, or any K-pop concert, are broke high school and college students.  Which is why I’m continually baffled at how high the ticket prices are when they are announced–how many fans can actually afford all of this?  It’s great when a concert is announced early giving fans a chance to save up, but a lot of the time fans are given little time to make arrangements.  So when KCON announced that tickets would be as low $40, fans were interested.  The $120 VIP ticket price is awesome and the biggest bargain yet at less than half the price that some of us have paid for VIP tickets in the recent past (SMTown, 2NE1, Big Bang).  What’s a deal is that all tickets, regardless of price, allows you access to the convention and all its perks which include fansignings with all the artists.  This is a definite advantage because VIP tickets to other K-pop concerts have only included early entry into the venue for sound check parties and goodie bags, but at KCON any ticket holder will be given much more acess to their idols.

The planners of KCON also have a good feel of what interests K-pop fans with their workshops and panel discussions encompassing many aspects of Hallyu that interest fans such as fashion, dancing, and K-dramas.  It was  a wise decision to hook up with Anime Expo as I have found that tons of K-pop fans out there came over to K-pop as J-pop, anime, andor manga fans.  The inclusion of YouTube celebrities was also a good move as many K-pop fans use the medium to find their idols’ music, appearances on shows, and to connect with one another. Knowing fans and their want of accesss to their idols, KCON also hooked up fans with cute activities like staring contests with the members of  VIXX and B.A.P through YouTube.

Open Communication with Fans

KCON 2012 opened their Facebook page on August 8th, with the first information about the event being shared with fans on the 9th.  From the beginning KCON had well planned and organized media promotions and teasers. The event’s sites (the main KCON site, Facebook, and Twitter), are also well organized, sleek, and from what I’ve heard some say–sexy.  Having an appealing site which is organized and easy to use will always appeal to customers, more so than one that isn’t.

The organizers have also done fairly well in answering fans’ many questions about the event like what is the camera policy (no professional and DSLR types), will merchandise be sold at the event (yes),  and can we re-enter the event (no–more on this later).  They’ve also answered fans numerous questions about the fansigning (yes all the idols will be holding them) and whether or not they can bring gifts for the idols (yes, but no food or drink–what? what about chocolate covered macadamia nuts from Hawaii?!).  This is really helpful because a lot of times other events fail to address these small, yet important details that can have an impact on your event attendance.  I usually have to call venues to ask questions like these, because I like being prepared–can you imagine is you bought a brand new camera for the concert only to find out that cameras weren’t allowed?

KCON organizers also appear to be the most interactive with fans that I have seen. They appear to be in communication with well known fan clubs and K-pop fans–I have seen them re-tweeting fan clubs’ tweets about their fanclub shirt sales, cheer towels or practice fan chants for the convention and concert.  Considering KCON will also be selling their own event t-shirt, it’s pretty cool that they’re supporting the fans’ efforts.  Fans will also be able to bring in their own official merchandise to be signed, often at other venues merchandise to be signed would have to be purchased at the event and at premium prices.

In addition to KCON organizers being fairly sympathetic and responsive to fans needs or wants, the reasonable ones that is, K-pop groups and fans have learned to organize and help each other outalso. An example is K-pop United, an organization dedicated to giving back to the K-Pop community, helping to arrange hotel rooms, transportation to and from the SNA Airport and Irvine Train station, and to KCON at very reasonable prices for fans.  It was a great option for fans not used to travelling and or who were travelling alone to help defray travelling costs to the concert.  I’ve also seen a lot of comments and tweets by fans helping each other out and organizing themselves.

So Everything’s Great, right?

Well, there are a few things I have complaints and concerns about.

While KCON did start advertising fairly early in general, they only advertised for about two weeks before tickets went on sale and they pulled the age-old-K-pop concert fail of only naming a couple of artists before ticket sales.  They announced tickets prices on August 23rd and two artists that would be performing, 4Minute and VIXX, with no set panels or workshops.  I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t excited.  They were better than others at constantly releasing names of other artists that would be performing, other activities, etc., so they still get a pretty good mark for this.

It’s never been mentioned, but I’m assuming that the convention and the concert will both be held at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre Irvine?  It has been said that there will be no re-entry, which means once you’re in–you can’t leave or else you’re totally out.  With the convention starting at 10:00 am, and I’m sure tons of fans will be there earlier to get to be the first ones in, and the concert probably ending about 10:00 pm that means attendees will have to be there for what could be more than twelve hours straight.  Which is way too long to be stuck in one place.  What if someone participates in the dancing or cosplay contests?  They’re going to be all sweaty and sticky and won’t be able to go back to the hotel or whatever to shower and change.  Some people might also get in really late Friday or early Saturday morning and some might want to take a break or a nap before the concert to relax, but this would take away that option.

I’m excited about being able to sample some of LA’s finest food trucks’ fare, but the thing about food trucks is that the food from most isn’t cheap.  If thousands of people are coming out to eat at their trucks, their limited cooking areas can only cook so much food at a time so the lines, and waits in line, can be long.  I’ve been to a few food truck gatherings and at every single one you had to wait in line FOREVER.  With the event only allowing people to bring in one 24 oz bottled beverage, I worry that frenzied fans will forego the cost of food and waits in lines and not eat or drink properly all day–which would probably lead to fans getting sick or fainting at the concert.  Not a good thing.  I’ve also seen comments from fans worried about food options because they’re vegetarian or allergic to a lot of things, which are valid concerns.  It’s common for concerts to have rules like this, but we’re not talking about a two to three hour wait for a concert, this is an all day event.

As excited as I am about the forums and panel discussions, I wonder how they will be handled?  What if 80% of the crowd wants to go to one discussion so there’s not enough room? Is everything going to be first come, first served, so that fans will be running all over the place trying to get a space?  Fansign schedules have also not be released yet and I can only imagine how those will go.  I’m appreciative of the packed schedule, but wonder if everything will be able to keep on schedule with so many people about.  In my experience attending conventions, concerts, and other events like this, one of the main things people fail to consider is the time it takes for things to be done–the time it takes to wait in line, the time it will take to sign an autograph, the time it takes to get your food and eat, etc.  People always fail to consider how long it takes to wait in line and move around.  That, and the number of restrooms needed for female attendees of which I’m thinking there will be lots at KCON.  So please have lots of restrooms for women, lots of clean restrooms.

Lastly, I have to say there are two glaring things missing from KCON: K-varieties and Korean food.  Korean variety shows are HUGE and yet there is nothing about K-varieties at KCON.  I’m hoping I’m wrong and maybe at the Beats per Mnet area they’ll be hosting some of K-variety’s best games like the pepero game, the suck and blow paper game, tug-of-war, or maybe even some ssireum.  As for Korean food at KCON, I’m sure they’ll be some Korean food trucks there, but it wold also be great if they had booths at the convention selling Korean snacks like choco pie that we all see while watching our favorite shows, but don’t always have access to.  A cooking demonstration would have been cool, too or kimchi making classes.

I too bought into the hype that is KCON and will be flying over for the event.  I do have a lot of hope that the US’ first ever K-pop convention goes off without a hitch– we’re putting our faith into you Mnet!  And while you can’t please everyone and someone is bound to be disappointed because they couldn’t get an autograph or something, I’m hoping for the most part that KCON organizers have everything well organized so that most of us can enjoy an awesome event.  K-pop fans have to do their share too by cooperating with organizers, staying calm, obeying the rules, and showing some respect to their fellow fans.  There are still tickets available, so you still have a chance to be a part of KCON 2012.  Let’s spread the K-pop love y’all.