HOW TO: Get up close and personal with your idols
Sure, you and your friends have a blast listening to the live and lip-synced discography of your favorite K-pop group at their concert, but if you're more interested in seeing the details of their face, you'll have more luck at a music show. And here's how you get there.
Every Korean musician has to make the rounds at the Korean music shows, namely SBS Ingigayo, KBS Music Bank, or M! Countdown. Luckily for fans, all of these shows require adoring fans to provide the cheer track of background noise on their live broadcasts. The Korea Tourism Organization has information on attending each show here, but their information is cursory at best.
This past Thursday, I attended M! Countdown, and since the best English resource I could find was a blog from 2011, I want to pass along a little wisdom to my fellow K-pop fans.
First, choose your starting track:
1. Fan Club
You are a member of the fan club for one (or more) of the acts currently promoting a new song or album.
As the member of a fan club, you pay an annual membership fee that allows your certain benefits. One of these benefits is the chance to see your idol perform at M! Countdown. But wait! - it's not that easy. The head/president of the fan club will receive a certain number of "tickets" to M! Countdown. They will hand these out to members of the fan club the day of the show on a first come first serve basis. And by that I mean, take the first subway train (around 5 AM) to the CJ E&M Center and be ready to pass the test, whatever it may be - showing that you've bought the most recent CD or perhaps proving that you've memorized the fan chant.
Given the more specific nature of a fan club, you may be able to find more information online pertaining to your specific group.
You live outside of Seoul/Korea and/or you would like a guaranteed entry.
The age of international fans is upon us - every year, it gets easier to be an English-speaking fan of the Korean music scene. From English subtitles on MNet's YouTube videos to dedicated travel packages, Korean entertainment companies are struggling to keep up with the growing international fan base.
This means Chinese, Japanese and English-speaking fans can purchase "tickets" to M! Countdown on Viator, through SM and at the CJ E&M building itself the day of the recording, which is the cheapest option - if they haven't sold out.
These tickets get you a tour of the CJ E&M building and guaranteed entry into the music show, although your order is decided by a game of rock, paper, scissors between the Chinese, Japanese and English-speaking groups.
3. Try Your Luck
You're not trying to spend any money.
As the KTO page will tell you, M! Countdown is a free program where the live recording can be viewed by the first 200 fans that show up to the broadcast. So technically, there are no "tickets." But between the fan clubs and the ticket holders, your chances of getting in for free really depend on the popularity of the groups performing that day and how many fans show up. So if you don't feel like paying, you can take your chances!
Once you get your ticket, here are some tips for when you get there:
1. Get there early
M! Countdown films at 6PM and the tour is at 4PM. Unless you chose the fan club route, you don't need to be there ridiculously early. However, your spot in "line" is decided on when you pick up your ticket, not when you purchased it. So if you want to be in the front of your group, try to get there early (3PM would be plenty early).
2. Set your expectations low
Then they can only be surpassed! First of all, there is always the possibility that your idol prerecorded their performance. This can be for a variety of reasons - scheduling conflicts, etc. Sometimes the idol will still come out to see the fans as their prerecording plays (as Taemin and Winner did this past Thursday), but try to not be too upset if not everyone on the schedule shows up. If your group is new or less popular, they're more likely to be there.
Even if you are the last, last, last person to enter the room you are going to be way closer to your idols than you would be at the average concert. The entire room is roughly the first 10 standing rows at a concert, and the stage is only a camera set away from the front row. There's not a bad seat in the house.
For the record, fan club members of the MCs go in first (they stand behind the MCs and face away from the performers), then ticket holders and then fan club members.
There are absolutely no photos or videos allowed once the programming begins. You can risk it, but in such a small room security is tight. They will give you death eyes if they catch you with your phone out, or pushing the crowd. Take the opportunity to revel in your idols and don't worry about snapping the perfect Instagram.
Have you been to M! Countdown or another music show? What was your experience?