Broadway’s K-pop musical showed how hard it is to create internet fame

F8 (pronounced like “fate”) is an eight-member all-male K-pop band signed to RBY Entertainment. Check out their official Instagram page, where the group can be seen performing in concert, posing for a photoshoot, and smiling from rooftops in eclectic but color-coordinated outfits. The group advertises the upcoming show and expresses its heartfelt thanks to fans in what it dubs “F8 Nation.” It looks an awful lot like scrolling through the Instagram pages of many other K-pop groups that fans might stumble across.

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Except: F8 is not real.this is a fictional band Hallyu, A musical that opened on Broadway on Nov. 27 will now close in just two weeks due to mixed reviews and lackluster ticket sales. In the month leading up to the opening and the weeks after, Hallyu Already marketing their characters through social media, K-pop’s biggest stars use some of the same tools and strategies to go viral. Unfortunately, HallyuThe fictional group has not had the same success. It turns out that creating internet followers is hard to do.

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F8 members in Hallyuopening night.
Photo by John Lamperski/Getty Images

Hallyu — A musical that revolves around a fictional South Korean boy group F8, a girl group RTMIS, a solo artist named MwE, and the drama that ensues as they prepare to perform in New York — in many ways. is unique and groundbreaking. It is the first Broadway show featuring an Asian female composer, and a total of 18 API artists made their Broadway debuts. It also takes a particularly interesting approach to its social media marketing. The team tried to create fans, not just of the show, but of the characters on the show. It creates a social media presence for the group it portrays and promotes them in a way that a hashtag might market real artists.

Before HallyuOpening night featured the official Instagram profiles of F8, RTMIS and MwE. The team behind them used photo collages (where multiple posts create one large image on the account’s feed), a technique that real teams use a lot. The photos look an awful lot like what you’d see on a real artist’s page, from the scenery and styling to the bilingual descriptions.

Elsewhere, the groups performed TikTok dance challenges to each other’s songs (the numbers they performed on the show) and challenged viewers to follow along. They name their fans—”F8 Nation” for F8, “Demis” for RTMIS—just like real groups. “You’re always there for us and cheering us on. Every time we perform, you give us strength,” F8 wrote in a recent Instagram post. “Thank you for your endless love and support, my very special fans,” MwE wrote in another post. The moment the F8 first appeared on stage was a momentous moment in the performance I saw, with dramatic music followed by a pause of cheers and applause. Although viewers have never seen this fictional group before, we should already know them.

As a K-pop fan, I admit I’m impressed by the authenticity of the social profiles and their creators’ clear understanding of today’s online K-pop scene.although i can only guess Hallyu Given the mindset of the team when it came to their social media strategy, I imagine building a fan base for their fictional group seemed like a great way to introduce the show to an extremely online audience. So why not? It works for many real groups – why can’t it work for imaginary ones?

I currently have a playlist of just BTS stuff from the past few weeks and I need to catch up, including V’s latest concept movie, Instagram photos from RM’s album release, RM’s small tabletop concert, J-Hope’s New dance practice videos, and various TikToks from the #RunBTS dance challenge. For many of today’s best-known K-pop artists, social media is a core element of their brand. To be a K-pop fan is to keep tabs on the constant stream of online content.

While a plethora of media may require an artist to produce a lot of work, the rewards can be huge. BTS was responsible for the most retweeted and second most liked tweet of all Twitter last year, which was actually a selfie. The Instagram created by BTS member V broke a series of records last year, becoming the fastest profile ever to reach 10 million followers. BTS isn’t the only group following this playbook. Many modern bands are more active on social media, especially on TikTok. There are certainly K-pop fans who discover their favorite artists through their music, but I know just as many people who discover music through social media content — TikTok dance challenges, behind-the-scenes interviews and viral variety shows — and after the fact.

I’ve been involved in various fandoms that use technology to connect with fans. (Remember One Direction’s Twitcam live?) Over the years, as tools like Instagram and TikTok became bigger and bigger drivers of fame, I’ve heard a lot of conversations about the formulaic nature that such online environments kids these days even care music or artistI hear my generation lament — or are their musicians just the ones with the best Instagram game?

By utilizing the tried and true K-pop formula, Hallyu may have inadvertently designated its fictional artist as a control group for this experiment. Could the K-pop machine known for building fame — or, rather, a Broadway musical trying to emulate the K-pop machine — create a fandom for artists that don’t actually exist?

Watch or enjoy shows without knowing Korean

The answer is no, or it won’t be in that short window Hallyu be given. At the time of writing, MwE has 284 followers on Instagram, RTMIS has 374 and F8 has 661. That’s not zero, but it’s overshadowed by the many followers of the actors who play these fictional artists – the very talented Luna, who plays MwE is a true K-pop icon with 1.5 million followers.

For one thing, these are very new Instagram profiles. On the other hand, they can reach a larger audience than most new Instagram profiles. HallyuIts cast includes Broadway and K-pop veterans, and has millions of followers on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok, who widely promote its content. I have no doubt that these profiles found their way into K-pop circles and K-pop fans — but they didn’t find a foothold there.

RTMIS is in Hallyuof the opening.
Photo by John Lamperski/Getty Images

As a longtime K-pop listener and avid drama lover, I’m at the top of the musical’s target audience.i see Hallyu during preview. It has some very catchy songs. I wasn’t prepared to see what it’s like to see an all-Asian and Asian-American cast take a bow on Broadway. Contrary to what some reviews claim, no knowledge of Korean is required to watch or enjoy the show.I have a question Hallyupacing and character development, but that’s by no means the fault of the great performers.

But to me, part of the social media hype just isn’t real.I think some of this may be inherent Hallyustatus as a Broadway production.

On the one hand, this is confusing. It’s never been clear to me whether the TikToks and Instagram posts were meant to portray fictional bands or the actors who played them—whether I was being addressed as if they were actual fans, or if I was witnessing characters speaking to fictional fans. The fact that many of the actors are significantly older than the true early career icons, who usually debuted in their teens, may disillusion that illusion even more. (Again, not criticizing actors who do a good job.) In fact, some of the performers (presumably those who are not native Korean speakers) have mostly English lines in their songs and performances – which, rather a perfectly understandable creative choose Hallyu Teams, not something you usually see in real teams.

Some social media feeds are not real

These are perfectly reasonable choices, and audiences might suspend their disbelief in an apparently fictional Broadway musical. It can be a tougher sell when a work is trying to transfer a fictional story to a real fandom and appeal to die-hard fans who are intimately familiar with every convention of the genre the work is portraying.

Luna who plays MwE in Hallyuopening night.
Photo by John Lamperski/Getty Images

But I’ve also found — and I can’t speak for all K-pop fans here; this is just my personal experience — an element of personality that’s missing from the social media personas of F8, RTMIS, and MwE. It’s not just the strengths of TikToks and Instagram posts that create celebrity, even if the content is extremely well-produced. One need only look at Luna’s own profile, which is more popular than her fictional character’s profile, which includes pictures with friends, pictures with pets, pictures in bed, and declarations of love for her co-stars, and Group photos and publicity for the show.

This is where I believe Instagram and TikTok skeptics can take comfort. Social media seems to have changed the concept of celebrity since the days of the Jonas Brothers and Twitcams. but for me, Hallyu has become a reminder of how much remains the same.

It’s not just the deluge of online content that makes top K-pop artists so internet-savvy — it’s the people who exist within that content, and the ways people connect with others online.That’s what shines in the online content of groups like BTS, even in a simple selfie Take the kissing face as the title. That kind of eccentricity, humor and vulnerability is hard to replicate for any fictional character — and it may be part of what sets today’s more popular social media stars apart. At the end of the day, technology alone is not enough. Artists still need connections.

I encourage everyone to listen HallyuCheck out the upcoming cast album, and snag tickets to whatever projects its top performers are up to next.


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