OMG can we trade?: An in depth exploration of Kpop culture!

Are you or a friend gaining an interest in K-pop? Here you’ll find an in-depth rundown of things you’ll see when exploring the culture of Kpop!

A lot of K-pop groups tend to frequently release singles, EPs or mini albums, rather than full albums as this gives more exposure to the groups and companies. In an EP/mini album, you’ll typically see around 4-7 songs, and in a full album 7+.

Photocards & Inclusions
When buying albums you don’t typically see just a jewel case with a CD and some fancy print. Typically, companies will add inclusions to make the experience more fun and boost sales!

Those inclusions may include (but aren’t limited to): a photobook, photocard(s), poster, stickers, postcards, and a CD.

Stan Culture: Trading, Streaming, Cup Sleeves, Concerts
Many stans like to collect the photocards of either all or some members of groups. In order to accomplish collecting full sets of a member or group, some may sell and/or buy photo cards online, group order (buying albums in bulk, organizing the photocards, and reselling albums with the photocards that may have duplicates to others that participate in the order), or trade.

When buying or trading photocards some people may add in freebies to add a little bit of a cute touch to their packages/letters. In fact, I’ve received some photocards packaged in handmade cards from the photos inside of the photobook that comes with the album!

Cup sleeves
At cup sleeve events, K-pop fans will have the opportunity to trade photocards, receive free items provided by the holders, and/or buy official or handmade merchandise from people that have small businesses. K-pop fans have the chance to meet new people and just have a good time.

Typically cup sleeve events are held at local coffee or boba shops, they’re called “cup sleeve” events because usually people will have customized cup sleeves made for whatever occasion is happening. These events are usually held to celebrate group/member anniversaries, birthdays, debuts, and/or a mini pre/post party if a group has had a recent concert, as well as listening parties where K-pop fans can listen to a new release of a group and have fun.

Giveaways are usually held online. Some Twitter or TikTok fan accounts hold their own giveaways or bigger accounts/companies like Hello82 will partner with K-pop groups to giveaway/sell signed items or merchandise.

Streaming is considered very important in the K-pop community no matter the artist or group. It isn’t something that’s required (in fact none of these things are required in order to enjoy K-pop music) however you will see many people emphasizing the importance of streaming online, whether it be YouTube comments or your Twitter feed. This is because the K-pop industry is very competitive and gives awards to groups based on album sales, streaming, and popularity (ex. Rookie of the Year, Song of the Year, or Album of the Year).

I’d have to say, concerts and preparing for a concert can be the most stressful and fun thing about being a K-pop fan. It all starts out by trying to find tickets to the upcoming concert that you want to go to. Usually, you have to go through a whole pre-registration process and this usually works better if you have a fan membership of that group.

For example, when trying to get tickets for the Ateez concert last year, I was able to register for the presale. I was going for VIP tickets, however, there were two types of VIP. One was the ATINY VIP which allowed those who had the fan membership to get more perks and the highest priority seats. The second VIP (which was the one I got) was the SECTOR VIP ticket, which allowed me to get the second highest priority seat. I was only able to get the SECTOR VIP ticket because I didn’t have the fan membership.

After the pre-registration process comes the actual ticket buying, whether it be the presale or general sale. Typically the presale comes one to two days before the sale for the public. This process can usually take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour or more depending on how many people are in the virtual waiting room.

Actually getting the tickets can be hard due to fast buyers and scalpers. Some people buy the tickets and resell them for a much higher price, so it’s usually a matter of whether or not you can move quickly enough or if you get into the ticket-buying process fast enough. Once you’ve gotten your tickets you can finally get excited because everything afterwards is the fun part.

Outfits! Many K-pop fans like to dress up for concerts, whether it be a nice outfit they’ve put together themselves or if it’s an outfit from a member of a group that they’re trying to imitate. The latter is what you’ll usually see. People can be really creative! It can be really fun pointing out and recognizing all the outfits you see on the members of the groups (especially when they recreate the outfit almost perfectly). Creating a super elaborate outfit isn’t something you need to do but it can be a little something to prepare for to keep yourself busy while waiting for the concert date to arrive.

Once you get to the concert, prepare yourself to stand in a very long line at least an hour before the concert (with parking/traffic, you’ll probably need it). Don’t worry about standing in life for a long time though because time will pass quickly, especially when most people like to pass out freebies. These freebies can range from unofficial photocards to keychains and bracelets! Before you know it, you’ll be walking into the venue in no time!