LYSN- Intimacy Built on Money
Communication between artists and fans and the creation of a seemingly intimate interpersonal relationship is vital to the Kpop industry. It is in this atmosphere that Kpop Fanclub apps started to rise, providing different services and a medium for fans and artists to communicate with one another. Companies often make use of fans’ interest and desire to get closer with the artist to develop features that require membership or subscription. LYSN, an app created by one of the largest Kpop companies, SM Entertainment, is a notable example of how app regulation is used to generate profit in the Kpop industry.
Like any other app, a major component of LYSN is its free service- Kpop group communities. Each group under SM entertainment would have an online community for its fanclub where fans can enter to either communicate among themselves or with the artist.
(Screenshot by me)
This is a completely public feature open to anyone who downloads the app. Within each community, the app divides its services into three categories. The first includes announcements and updates on upcoming albums or promotions, making the platform more of a communication medium between the company management or administration and the fans. The second category includes spaces designed for fans to express their emotions, thoughts, and feelings, oftentimes words of support towards the Kpop idols. These two categories are both free and accessible to anyone who consumes or uses the app because essentially, they do not offer services different from other public social media platforms such as Twitter or Instagram, where fans can also express their feelings and be updated on any news.
(Swipe above to see comparison between the public platform and the ONLY Ace page; screenshot by me)
The third category is what makes the fanclub special as it involves more direct interaction with the idols. As demonstrated in the pictures, the “Only ACE” and “From NCT 127” tabs are not open to anyone and offer exclusive content such as pictures or videos that have not been posted anywhere else about the behind-the-scene stories. The artists themselves would also use this forum as a safe space to chat with their fans about their day-to-day lives and have more casual and longer conversations. This is a place for them to be relaxed and not worry about broadcasting restrictions or censorship elsewhere and for fans to get to know them more. In other words, this app attempts to break the distance between the artists and the fans through active communication to create a sense of intimacy and real interpersonal relations.
Considering the appeal of such intimacy and virtual proximity to fans, the app sets up 2 different levels of regulation, the first being the requirement of membership to have access to exclusive content. Fans need to pay an annual membership fee to be able to enter tabs like “ONLY Ace” and “From NCT 127”. As shown in the image, my personal membership level is at 2 and thus I am able to use these tabs. At this level of regulation, a payment wall is set up and a membership fee is required. However, in the second level of regulation, the membership fee is a prerequisite, a necessary condition but not a sufficient one. One of the tabs of the community is “Event Application,” where fans apply to have a chance to go to events like fansign calls, where they can meet with the Kpop idols one-on-one. For event application, only members would be in the pool of consideration but the fans would still need to pay extra money for each respective event.
Another service of LYSN besides online fanclub communities is the personal chatroom, a place where fans can receive messages, pictures, videos, and sometimes audio messages from their favorite idols. The display of this service is specifically designed to make fans think that they are having a personal, one-on-one conversation with the artist, once again contributing to this construction and maintenance of intimacy or engagement. Separate from the community tabs, this is an independent service that does not require fans to be a member but only demands monthly subscription fees, granting more flexibility and freedom to consumers as they can stop using the service whenever.
The different levels and types of regulation on LYSN can probably be seen in other Kpop fanclub apps as well where payment walls are set up for more exclusive and interactive content. In other words, with the regulation system, these Kpop companies are saying: the more money you pay, the closer you can get to your favorite artists. They fabricate this sense of intimacy on the basis of money. When fans comply with such regulations and do participate in membership and subscription services, their use of the app becomes more comprehensive and exciting, leading to a higher sense of satisfaction and a sense of community associated with their consumption. The fanclub app itself thus becomes a representation of a safe and happy virtual space filled with personal memories and marked by active engagement.
Dear U Co., Ltd. “LYSN.” LYSN, Version 1.2.16. https://apps.apple.com/us/app/lysn/id1425722238.