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Sound Secret #1 Fanart in Music is art that has been created by fans of a group or artist. The medium can reach from traditional visual arts like painting or drawing but especially in Kpop often in the form of performing arts like Dance Covers or Cover Songs. 

Here are a few inspiring pieces of different forms of fanart. Please support and follow their socials:




Dance Covers:

This form of art refers to art that has been created by someone other than the artist itself to send them a form of appreciation and help them gain more popularity often also leading to increased popularity and sometimes fandom building of the fan creating the fanart. I would like to introduce the term fan-driven marketing for this purpose. Marketing that happens because of a determined fanbase creating related art that makes an artist gain more visibility instead of by the artist itself. Fan-driven marketing in Kpop can often go as far as designing a whole airplane or subway campaign for the birthday of an artist (see pictures below).

BTS Jimins Fan-driven Marketing Campaign
BTS Subway Fanart

Fanart through the lens of Gamification

In Gamification terms, fanart is a Sound Secret placed in the realms of Octalysis Core Drive 3 – Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback, 4 – Ownership and Possession, and 5 – Social Influence and Relatedness. Check this article by Yu-kai Chou if you are not familiar with Gamification or the Octalysis Framework. Because the fans of an artist or group feel a strong relatedness and belonging, they create a sense of ownership towards their favorite artists. Based on that sense of belonging, they want to creatively express their feeling of belonging, community, or appreciation through fanart.

Sleepless in Seoul

When I was living in Seoul, I would constantly find fanart while exploring the city. I would walk around Hongdae, a young and vibrant area in the city, well known for busking and Kpop dancing. There are even dance challenges where people dance to random popular songs. Here is an example from Hongdae for you:

These random dance challenges have found their way all across the globe and are now an important part of the international Kpop community to show Kpop to the public. 

Traveling through Seoul, I also experienced the power of fan-driven marketing firsthand. A lot of the advertisement space in subway stations and inside subways was taken by posters, videos, or even fully redesigned spaces celebrating idols’ birthdays. Inside cafes, fans or cafe owners would usually give out cup sleeves and photocards to celebrate birthdays as well. 

Fountain of Love

The most incredible experience was BTS member Jungkook’s birthday in Busan though. On Jungkook’s birthday on the 1st of September, ARMY (fans of the boyband BTS meaning Adorable Representative MC for Youth) created a whole fountain show dedicated to Jungkook playing songs from Euphoria to Truth Untold while moving the water with the melody and raising it with the volume. The water was colored in deep purple, representing BTS’s signature color purple, the last color of the rainbow, which according to member V means he will trust and love ARMY for a long time. I even met some ARMY and we exchanged presents. She gave me a fan and album and I gave her a plushy and photo card. Gifting (Sound Secret #23) is a typical gesture in-between Kpop fans and symbolizes the shared love for the artists bringing them closer together as friends and family.

Spore Love

In Singapore, I had the great pleasure that my friend Jo, who was my neighbor in Seoul (a story for itself which I will tell you another time) would take me to a BTS fan cafe event where we could trade photo cards, buy fanart, receive cup holders and mingle with other fans. I vividly remember how everyone was singing and dancing and talking to each other. I remember how it felt like a family reunion of people that genuinely liked each other, even though we didn’t know each other yet. Everyone was welcoming me with open arms. I also remember that I entered a lottery and won a BTS album. I was so excited and happy and the people that I won it from were celebrating with me! One of the best days in my life for sure, thanks, Jo!

Taiwan Dream Cafe

In Taiwan, my ARMY friend Yvette showed me around the city and we visited a hidden BTS cafe (Sound Secret #93) with beautiful decorations and even BTS coffee prints. Literally, the whole cafe was fanart. An adventure I will never forget, thank you, Yvette!

Love Yourself enables you to Love Others

Another story that’s very close to my heart was my journey to Japan. In my travels to Japan, I once sat in a Starbucks trying to buy concert tickets for BTS in Seoul. We also call it the BTS “Hunger Games” (Sound Secret #38) because it is almost impossible to get a seat and once you have one selected, the page usually blacks out or the payment doesn’t go through. After 48h of clicking on a button with just 2h of sleep, two ARMYs sat next to me asking me if I was searching for BTS tickets. With heavy, watery eyes, I shook my head and said yes. I couldn’t miss that concert! Some of my friends even came from the states for the concert, I told them with teary eyes. That’s when one of the girls started searching for something in her bag. With a big smile on her face, she grabbed a pin of Jungkook, one of the members of BTS: “This is for you! It will bring you good luck!” At that moment, the lack of sleep or the fact that I was in a foreign country with nobody I knew didn’t matter. I felt home, loved, accepted, and supported. Fandoms can really be part of your family! They can comfort you when you feel lonely or frustrated, they can make you feel at home when you’re not. And like the music of the artist, fanart is able to express this feeling of appreciation, belonging, and support.

Fandom is where you make friends for life, not dependent on where you come from, where you are or what ethnicity, gender, or background you have. What keeps fans connected is the love for the music and the artists that created it. 

As an artist or label, you can learn from the nature of how these artists create a bond with their fandom, how their message moves people to co-create with them out of intrinsic motivation rather than forcing them down a marketing funnel. If an artist creates relatable art, people will start feeling ownership and a meaningful connection towards the music and will drive the marketing process themself. This is an opportunity especially for new artists that are trying to find their roots. Rather than spreading out wide, it helps to have a solid fan base of dedicated fans that would create fanart for and with them and that would help them raise their popularity over time.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can create such a fan-driven strategy, and increase the motivation of fans with the power of Gamification, please send me a message via useradventures@gmail.com.

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