CHINA Podcast: Story in the Story (10/21/2019 Mon.)


Podcast: Story in the Story (10/21/2019 Mon.)

People's Daily app

01:41, October 21, 2019


From the People's Daily App.

This is Story in the Story.

A report from an entertainment industry observer estimated that China's idol market will be worth $14 billion by next year, with fans contributing about half of the total through consumption of products and services related to their idols.

The fan economy is considered to include all fans in the entertainment industry, but the meteoric rise of a new generation of idols explains the sector's recent boom.

The sheer number of participants sets China's fan economy apart from its counterparts overseas and makes it a highly lucrative business.

However, many Chinese fans feel their oftentimes overzealous support for their idols is grossly misunderstood by many people.

"The media today totally do not understand the new generation of young people," said Ding Jie, CEO of fan services app Owhat.

“The people managing the media were born in the 1970s and '80s. They do not understand how to satisfy the consumption habits, needs and minds of young girls,” Ding said.

Today’s Story in the Story looks at China’s idol industry boom and how devoted fans are driving this emerging entertainment market.


Supporters celebrate pop idol Wang Junkai's 18th birthday in September 2017 in Beijing. (Photo: China Daily)

It all began early last year, when Zhang Xiaolun started watching Idol Producer, a talent survival program produced by online video platform iQiyi. She soon became aware of a contestant named Cai Xukun and quickly became a devoted fan.

Through her participation in several show-related events, Zhang met the founder of KUN's Fan Club, which is devoted to Cai, and after giving it some thought she decided to join.

Now, as a registered club member, she keeps herself busy with a range of responsibilities; discussing with other members how to split the workload for events, managing the official account on micro-blogging platform Sina Weibo, organizing charity activities and communicating with external partners about collaboration. She juggles all those duties with her job in the finance industry.

Despite her hectic lifestyle as a fan club member and not receiving any financial benefit from all the work, she does not find it the least bit bothersome, as support for Cai's career is what matters most.

"We fans always use this phrase 'Generate sparks for love'," said Zhang.

The ardent support of his fans is part of the reason Cai is one of China's biggest breakout stars. With his suave looks and confident performances on Idol Producer, he finished in first place, garnering more than 47.6 million votes in the finale. From then on, the bilingual singer-songwriter's career soared.

Cai’s rise in China's entertainment landscape, particularly the idol scene, has brought lots of love and admiration from fans, but his success is also representative of the booming fan economy.

"The time and money we spend on supporting our idols is the same as people spending their time and money on their hobbies or having a meal with friends," Zhang said.


Fans line up to buy goods advertised by actor Zhu Yilong in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, in June. (Photo: China Daily)

Ma Zihan, a 19-year-old student at Beijing Foreign Studies University, feels the same way. "Even though some people criticize us as suffering from 'brain damage' as fans, chasing idols is definitely very satisfying," she said.

As Cai and a new bunch of idols burst onto the entertainment scene last year through talent survival programs, their appearance marked the second wave of idols making a stir in the fan industry.

Owhat has also seen fan activities grow in favor of homegrown stars, from 30 percent when its operations began in 2014 to about 60 percent currently, reversing the popularity foreign stars once enjoyed in China.

Ding said the fan economy does not currently exist, because the sector is still in the early developmental stages and there are not enough idols in terms of quantity and quality to drive it. 

Unlike fan culture in Western countries, where fans are more individualistic and private in their support of their idols and pop stars, fan culture in East Asian countries is collectivist in nature.

Members split duties to handle activities such as collecting and publishing information about their idols' schedules, concert details and news conferences on social media, taking photographs and videos at various events, and organizing the purchase of items such as light sticks and headgear to be worn at concerts.

The idol concept has value, and idols have proven to be entertainers who can communicate with young people in proximity to them. Hence, despite the problems currently facing the idol market and fan economy, there are indications that the sector will continue to grow.

"Fans should do what good fans do, businesses should do what good businesses do, and together we can make the development of the idol industry even more vigorous and positive,” said Ding.

(Produced by Nancy Yan Xu, Lance Crayon, Brian Lowe and Da Hang. Music by: Text from China Daily and Global Times.)

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