Idol worship hits fresh highs as new generation rises

By Christine Low | China Daily | Updated: 2019-10-11 09:55
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Fans take photos at a concert by singer Raymond Lam in Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, in June. [Photo by Xia Wenning/For China Daily]


A report by Entgroup, an entertainment industry observer, estimates that China's idol market will be worth 100 billion yuan ($14 billion) by next year, with fans contributing about half of the total through consumption of products and services related to their idols.

In a broader context, 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 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," Cai Xiaolun said.

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.

Their thoughts are also reflective of the business perspective, according to Ding Jie, CEO of fan services app Owhat, who said the needs of fans are not well understood.

"The media today totally do not understand the new generation of young people," she said."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."

Unlike pop stars from a generation or two before, the interaction between idols and their fans has significantly increased through social media. In China, the use of micro blogs has narrowed the gap between idols and fans, helping to push forward closer communication between them and changing the fans' expectations of their idols.

They eagerly await selfies, music video teasers, magazine photo shoots and daily updates from their idols' micro blogs.

As almost every idol has his or her own official account, Ding said fans will directly ask them for updates on their work or songs by leaving messages on their page.

Ding added that with constant communication being a key part in the idol-fan relationship, idols are like fast-moving consumer goods. That means they have to continually update their social media accounts by showing different sides of themselves and producing works of value to give fans reasons to continue to like them. If not, their fame can be very short lived.

"Fans have high demands and expectations of their idols or bands, because fans know how to appreciate," Ding said. "What they see on the web are world-class stars, not just Chinese stars, and fans will compare them.

"They only choose what they feel is a better thing. They don't say that they only like Korean stars or Western stars. If the quality of Chinese idols improves, I believe (more) fans will also like Chinese idols."

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