K-Pop Streaming Culture and How Social Media Helps To Organize it

October 26, 2021 4:02 pm || By

Introduction

2012 was definitely the year of cultural reset in the history of the K-Pop industry. It was the year where PSY‘s Gangnam Style hit 90 million views and made around $870,000 as it became the most popular YouTube video of all-time, the year where fans of K-Pop realized that there is power in streaming a music video through YouTube, and it was since that year too that fans have been slowly changing the way they support their idols. Before 2012, when online streaming wasn’t a thing, there were several ways to enjoy and to show support for their idols. For those who could afford, they were willing to buy albums, magazines, posters, and other kinds of expensive merchandise. But for those who couldn’t, downloading the newly released songs from a file-sharing platform was considered to be enough. Not only that, when the internet was not as accessible as now, some even downloaded the music videos and were collecting them on their devices. But this era has come to an end since the internet has become more accessible . Nowadays, people can just go straight to YouTube and stream the music video if they want to watch their favorite idol group. 

One of the things that can be learned from PSY’s Gangnam Style era is how streaming can bring both the reputation and the recognition that he truly deserves. It seems like this idea is taken seriously by K-Pop fans, that subsequent targets are gradually set to break records — and by looking at the total number of views on YouTube, it seems like some of these kpop fans successfully achieved what they have planned in the very first place. Just like any other situation, there are those who support this streaming culture and those who stand on the contrary side. Some would argue that streaming doesn’t require much. If you cannot help your idol to gain recognition by buying expensive merchs or albums, then streaming becomes the bare minimum for fans to show their support as it does not require much effort and cost. On the other hand, many kpop fans are starting to see this as a toxic culture. They believe that people should stream because they want to genuinely listen to the music, not because of the targeted numbers.

But, regardless of how fans see this idea differently, there is one particular topic that is interesting to be discussed. As the streaming culture has grown big throughout the year, it is then essential for us to also acknowledge what it is that keeps the culture going strong. Therefore, this research aims to investigate how exactly K-Pop fans organize the party by using Twitter as their platform. 

Data and Methods 

The data being used in this research is primarily taken from Twitter search results based on a built query list. The following steps are performed in the data collection:

1. Build Twitter query by identifying related keywords and set a time frame. The final list of the query keywords is as follows:

(NCT 127 OR NCT OR Sticker) AND (streaming OR Stream OR YouTube OR Goal OR guidelines)

The time frame of the data collection is from 14 September 2021 to 3 October 2021. The dates were chosen based on 3 days before the start of NCT 127’s promotion period for “Sticker” to the end of it. 

2. Scrape search results of the built query using Twint (Twitter scraping tool written in Python). The types of interactions included in these results are both direct mentions and engagements (reply to, user to mentioned user, and quote retweet; likes and retweets excluded). A total of 40,920 tweets were obtained from scraping the built query within the time frame. 

3. Filter out irrelevant data by dividing it into 3 subsets using a list of keywords. The final list of each subset’s keywords is as follows:

  1. (streaming OR stream OR lets OR let’s)
  2. (analysis OR prediction OR goal OR target)
  3. (giveaway) 

By using these specific keywords, we have filtered 40,920 tweets into 7,062 relevant tweets.

Result and Discussion

Not only does the internet make it easier for the fans to stream on YouTube, it also makes it easier for fans to find their own community through the presence of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. That is why when you try to find your idol’s name on a social media platform, so many fanbase accounts will appear and provide you with the information you want to know. These fanbase accounts are definitely aware of how powerful social media platforms are, especially in gathering the mass they need to gain more votes and stream for their idol. They make use of social media platforms to the fullest to show their dedication towards their idol. They make sure to let you know how to support the idol properly such as by voting and streaming so the idol can get the achievement they truly deserve. It is safe to say that these fanbase communities are the backbone of the streaming culture. 

Music Video Streaming Guidelines were starting to be spread by official fanbase accounts days before the MV released. 

https://twitter.com/NCT127_STRM/status/1438336844140138496

After collecting the data from 14th of September to 3rd of October, there are more than 40,000 tweets about NCT 127 who just had promotion of their newest album called STICKER last September. From the data, it is shown that even 3 days before the music video was dropped on the 17th of September, so many fanbase accounts had already started mass tweeting in order to remind their followers regarding the upcoming NCT 127’s comeback. Based on our data, some of the tweets contain several ways that can be followed by K-Pop fans so that their streaming party will succeed, such as: recommending to follow accounts that remind them to stream, vote, and hype the comeback once the music video is dropped; counting down the day to remind the fans that the comeback day is really near; reminding to also keep streaming the music video teaser, setting up a goal for the teaser’s view count; and starting to spread the streaming guideline for everyone. 

Things are getting interesting once the music video was finally released on 17th of September. According to the data, we found three categories of activity in streaming culture that are mainly used by NCT fanbase accounts to get more fans to stream the music video.  

I. Encouraging a Streaming Party 

After the music video was finally released, the word “streaming” can be found in almost every tweet related to NCT 127 on that day to encourage more NCTzens — NCT’s fandom name — to stream the music video. There are approximately 6850 tweets from 17th of September to 3rd of October that indicate encouragement to stream the music video. This means that at least 403 tweets of encouragement had been tweeted everyday for two weeks. But still nothing can beat the first day as there are 2657 tweets of encouragement found on that day — 5 times higher than the average tweets of encouragement per day. 

https://twitter.com/SM_NCT_BACKUP/status/1442051320081379334?s=20

Oftentimes, streaming party schedules are being made by some official fanbase in every promotion period so that the fans can stream the music video together in order to achieve their goal. 

https://twitter.com/jhmrkfiles/status/1438664446470078464

One of many NCTZen fanbase accounts that encourage its followers to keep focusing on streaming the music video instead of involving themselves in any possible fan wars that might occur during the promotion period. 

https://twitter.com/haechanslap/status/1439524320686968834

Not only tweets from official fanbase accounts, some funny tweets by fan accounts also helped encourage people to keep streaming. An example of this would be a tweet by @haechanslap that gains 12.8K likes, 3.150 retweets, and 281 quote tweets.

II. Setting Goals 

Besides scheduling a streaming party and encouraging fans to stream, a fanbase will also set their goal for streaming numbers on several music platforms such as YouTube. The purpose of setting a goal is not only for a ‘mere reason’ of beating other idol’s records, but more importantly, because nowadays music competitions such as The Show, Show Champion, M Countdown, and Music Bank are also considering the number of views on music platforms as one of the scoring criteria to win the show. 

https://twitter.com/onlyfordoie/status/1441366539467251718

In setting up the goals, fans will create an analysis to predict the possibility of the idol’s chance to win the show. For example, this is a prediction analysis done by @KshowAnalysis and tweeted by user @onlyfordoie to see how many more views needed to win the competition. 

https://twitter.com/NCT127Union/status/1438745103024025601

https://twitter.com/NCT127Union/status/1438906730985897988

During the promotion period, the goal is often gradually increased by the official fanbase accounts once the previous goal is achieved.

III. Merchandise Giveaway

The fact is, there are fans out there who are willing to sacrifice anything to make more people stream their favorite idol’s newest music video to increase the number of views. Some of them, for example, spend their money to hold a giveaway event. From the data we have collected, there are approximately 160 giveaway events held during NCT 127’s Sticker promotion period. The gifts provided by these fans, such as physical copies of the album or any other expensive K-Pop merchandise, are tempting enough to attract more people to join the giveaway. Some fans also prepared a YouTube premium account as a gift so that it can be used to stream the music video.

https://twitter.com/leesamoyed/status/1438717919509172225

https://twitter.com/ncthingsph/status/1438860024852344832

Two examples of the giveaway events held by fans. As we can see, this technique is used in several countries with pretty similar requirements, one of them is to reply to the tweet with a proof that one has already streamed the music video. Both tweets received so many replies: 3854 replies for @leesamoyed’s and 952 replies for @ncthingsph’s. This proves that so many fans put their best effort in streaming the music video.

Conclusion

Based on the analysis we can conclude that even before the MV was released, official fanbase accounts had already started preparing several ways to make their idol’s comeback successful by boosting the number of views on online music streaming platforms, especially on YouTube. Twitter is one of the social media platforms that is commonly used to spread awareness about the streaming party. Among 7,062 tweets that we have analyzed, there are three main ways used by K-Pop fans to encourage each other to do the streaming party such as tweeting encouraging tweets, making an analysis of prediction to see any possible chances of winning the competition and to make it easier for fans to see how many more number of views they need to get in order to win, and the last one is holding giveaways to get more people to stream their idol’s music video. Therefore, it is clear that despite having both pros and cons, streaming culture supported by the presence of social media will remain an important part of K-Pop in the future.

Author: Zakiah Fadhila
Editor: Josia Paska Darmawan
Data collecting and processing: Nadia Elaesiana