On 10th November, Mamamoo’s fans, known as Moomoo, announced that they were going to boycott the girl group’s “2018 4 Seasons F/W” concerts at the SK Olympic Handball Gymnasium on 15th and 16th December. They also vowed to not purchase any of the band’s merchandise. This was after RBW, Mamamoo’s agency, refused the fans’ initial request of postponing these concerts due to the group’s busy schedule. After seeing the seriousness of the fan’s intent, RBW released a statement explaining that they would let fans who are a part of the official fan club vote on whether the concerts should take place or not. The majority voted no, forcing RBW to, in the end, postpone the concerts.
This isn’t the first time fandoms have threatened to protest against an agency because of idols’ intense schedules. In 2016, Big Bang’s fandom, V.I.P., vowed to boycott YG Entertainment due to the band’s hectic schedule and other issues such as a lack of full album releases. iKONICs went further and actually boycotted the same agency by refraining from buying all YG goods and cited iKON’s busy schedule as well as a lack of the band’s promotions in Korea as reasons for the protest. These types of boycotts are in the minority as most fans threaten to blacklist agencies or idols for more selfish and frivolous reasons — for instance, E.L.F relinquished their support of Super Junior’s Sungmin after his lack of communication with fans and his failure to tell them about his relationship with Kim Sa-eun. Male Red Velvet fans also protested against the girl group by burning their merchandise after Irene mentioned she had been reading a feminist book.
In spite of being in the minority, Moomoo’s threat to boycott RBW and similar protests from other fandoms are important as they have the potential to change a gruesome and persistent aspect of the K-pop industry: idols being overworked. Idols’ schedules are crammed with various album releases a year, music show appearances, solo activities, and multiple concerts. This year, Mamamoo’s schedule, the main reason for their fans’ proposed boycott, includes seven concert shows, 2 mini album releases, solo concerts, overseas performances and many more events. You also don’t have to look far to find a plethora of articles written about the subject of idols’ gruelling schedules or discover hours’ worth of YouTube compilation videos showing idols passing out or performing while sick.
It’s true that you can also find evidence of this happening to performers from other countries such as Lady Gaga. Nonetheless, it occurs far more often in the K-pop world due to South Korea’s workaholic culture and the competitive and saturated nature of the K-pop industry. Idols make multiple comebacks a year and engage in intense promotions to keep up with other groups, attract more fans and keep current ones happy and interested.
Although agencies’ reliance on fan satisfaction and interest may be one of the factors that contribute to idols being overburdened, it can also help to resolve the issue. Moomoo’s proposal to boycott Mamamoo’s planned December concerts and abstain from purchasing merchandise is an example of this. The previous demands and boycotts from V.I.Ps and iKONICs were ignored by YG. This may have implied that fandoms don’t have the potential to effect change, but this time fans were successful: RBW granted Moomoo’s main request even though the agency initially said that it was impossible.
Perhaps other fans of K-pop groups can follow suit as it’s no secret that they are also perturbed by the issue of idols being exhausted by continuously engaging in demanding activities or performing in poor conditions. A simple google search of “idols overworked” produces many results of Reddit, Allkpop and Amino Apps users discussing idols’ terrible schedules. Last month, ARMYs even took to Twitter to ask Big Hit Entertainment to give BTS a break from their jam-packed schedule, which includes 41 concerts as well as music show performances and press interviews. The fandom’s plea to Big Hit came after the agency released a statement explaining that Jungkook could not participate in the dances for the London “Love Yourself” concerts due to an injury. Then later, the agency revealed that Jimin could not attend the Graham Norton show because of muscle pain in his neck.
Although it’s great that many fans actually do show that they care about idols’ well-being, publicly showing their outrage and worry on social networks and forums isn’t enough to help change the situation — a more active stance, like Mamamoo’s fandom took, needs to be adopted. Fans are used to grouping together to achieve amazing feats such breaking records for MV views, song charting positions or voting for their favourite groups to win awards, so they can use this power to help alleviate idols’ schedules.
Some may argue that fan boycotts are drastic but how else can fandoms get agencies to listen to them if their messages and tweets are ignored? As previously stated, iKONIC’s and V.I.P’s pleas were disregarded and Big Hit has shown no signs of giving BTS a break — there is even a “More dates to come” message at the end of the tour dates section on BTS’s official site run by Big Hit.
Mamamoo’s fans were right to threaten to boycott the band’s December concerts and to refrain from purchasing merchandise, as this was the only way RBW listened to their concerns about how overworked the Mamamoo members were. Although the issue of idols’ hectic schedules won’t be resolved overnight, fan activism has the potential to improve the situation because of agencies’ dependence on fandoms. Hopefully, Moomoo’s planned boycott will inspire others to take more action regarding idols working too much as this will send a clear message to agencies that it’s time to let idols have a little bit more rest.
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