K-pop boy band BTS may be on hiatus, but its management company is looking to boost the superfan app the group inspired.
Hybe Co is doubling efforts to sign up new artistes to the Weverse app, seeking to draw fans from around the globe and pursue profitability. Having added rival K-pop talent firms’ artistes such as Blackpink and Riize to its offerings, the Pangyo-based Weverse Company is setting its sights on artistes from bigger music markets in Japan and the US. So far, it’s secured Japanese groups including AKB48 and US boy band Prettymuch.
The agency’s also trying to lift engagement, most recently teaming up with Universal Music Group to livestream a 12-week audition for a new girl band. Fans interacted with one another and candidates on Weverse, and hundreds of thousands logged on on Nov 17 to vote and select the six members of the new group, Katseye.
“We see many more opportunities in this growing market,” Weverse’s chief executive officer Joon Choi said in an interview. “Once we have more diverse genres and reach monthly active users of around 30 to 50 million, we can offer more profit-making models that’d satisfy both fans and artistes.” The app had 10.5TK million monthly active users in the previous quarter, according to Hybe.
Revenue driven by superfan culture has surged over the past few years, with artistes amassing loyal audiences worldwide with the help of social media. Sales have boomed as fans show their support of their favourite stars by hoarding albums, streaming songs around the clock and buying up concert tickets.
BTS’s famous ARMY fans propelled Weverse into being in 2019. The app, which has around 69 million subscribers and more than 100 channels, took off during the pandemic as tens of millions of BTS fans flocked to Weverse to livestream concerts and talk online with K-pop stars who were unable to tour overseas or perform at home. The platform has expanded since then, adding more features such as digital albums, customised goods delivery and private chat services.
“We started Weverse as a place for our artistes to communicate with fans, and it’s evolving into an open platform,” said Hybe chief executive officer Park Ji-won. “We are now building this platform with content based on various artistes’ IP.”
The company is integrating all fan-related services into Weverse, whose revenue comes from paid content, merchandise retailing and livestreaming of concerts and shows. It has plans to add in-app advertisement and paid membership programmes next year.
By far the biggest challenge is drawing in American talent. Hybe, which in 2021 acquired Ithaca Holdings – the label representing Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber – is in discussions with major record labels in the US, but has yet to snag a major pop artiste. The app requires artistes to interact with fans often, a big additional time commitment for American singers who already have large followings on Instagram and TikTok.
“Weverse is a safe and friendly place for artists,” said Choi. “It offers a holistic service that spans fan community building and ecommerce and data.” – Bloomberg