Some people may think that getting into a fan sign is the most impossible of all the fandom activities in Korea. However, in terms of effort, getting into a fan sign might be the easiest. But, they are also the most difficult.
Unless the group is still just starting out, all fan signs are run as a lottery. This means that if you go to a certain record store, for each CD you buy, you are given a ballot to fill out to get one entry into the fan sign. The more albums you buy, the higher a chance you have for getting in. Depending on the location of the fan sign, and the group, sometimes buying only one album is enough to get into a fan sign. But even for mid-level artists, fan signs are competitive enough that fans can begin spending hundreds of dollars on albums just to get enough ballots to ensure a spot.
There are two major chains that run fan signs in Korea: Hot Tracks and Synnara. They’re both very similar in how their fan signs are run, though there can be slight differences from store to store. There are other chains as well, including Evan Records, but many tend to go with a set couple of regular locations.
Fan signs will be announced in two places. The first place will be in the official cafe for the group. If you are looking for all the fan signs on one specific group, becoming familiar with their official Daum or Naver cafe is essential. While you don’t need to be able to understand Korean, being able to read the Korean alphabet is very helpful in this case, because many of the words for fan signs are the same in English and Korean, like “schedule” and “fan sign”. These postings on the cafe will have all the details on each store location, city, and the time window on when you should buy the CDs.
If you are not picky on the group you want to see, or you’re in Korea for a short window of time and want the fan sign experience, it would be wise to also keep an eye on the notice boards for the main book stores and record stores. On these pages, they will post all of the upcoming fan signs within their stores in Seoul. This is also where they will post the results for the fan signs.
Once you have found the fan sign that you want to take part in, you need to go to the store during the time they have indicated. There should be posters up to promote the fan sign as well, in case you’re not sure if you’re in the right place.
Now you need to decide how many albums you want to buy. As I said, most fan signs are a lottery system. For every album you buy, it gets you a ballot into a draw for one of the spots into the fan sign. For smaller groups, it might only be necessary to buy one or two albums to ensure a spot. However, if you are trying to get in to see a major group, be aware that there are fans who are actually buying dozens of copies of the CD, just to get into fan sign. For mid-level groups, buying around 10 albums can usually get you a spot. We have heard of fans for groups like DBSK and Super Junior who buy over 100 albums per location just to get into a fan sign. So know your competition.
For some of the locations, there is a science to knowing how many CDs you need to buy to be safe. If you buy your CDs on the last day, when you are handed your ballots, some of the locations have the ballots numbered. What you can do from that number is take the number on your ballots there, and divide it by the number of places available in the fan sign.
For example, if you buy a CD for a fan sign, and your ballot says you are number 2000. The fan sign has 200 places.
2000÷200 = 10. You would need 10 CDs to get into the fan sign, statistically speaking.
However, if you buy a CD on the same day and the ballot says you are ballot number 800, and the fan sign has 200 places, you’ll need much less.
800÷200 = 4. If you get 4 CDs you should be fine.
In some cases, for very new groups, they won’t use the lottery system. Instead, it will be the first 100 CD purchases or the first 200 or so. In this case, you should be respectful, and only buy one CD per venue. These types of fan signs are to help drive new fans, and to let as many people as possible get to meet the new group. While some stores will allow people to purchase multiple CDs, you shouldn’t. However, if there are fan signs like this at multiple locations, and you want to support this group, getting a signed copy from each location is a great way to get to support the group.
How can I afford a fan sign?
The first thing any fan in Korea will tell you is that supporting a group through comeback is really difficult. Not only is it a really time draining experience, but it can be a financial burden because you want to make sure that they are selling well. If you are just arriving in Korea, you might find the fan signs financially overwhelming.
One of the best ways to help finance a fan sign is through doing a bulk sale. Not only will you be able to purchase more albums for your ballots, but you will be helping international fans with target album purchases. While international fans like to pre-order their albums for a comeback, their sales numbers don’t line up at the same time as when the local fans are buying the majority of their physical CDs. If you are really wanting to attend a fan sign, and know of fans overseas who want to order CDs as well, you can offer to do a bulk buy and can probably offer better shipping prices than some of the websites.
Fan signs are one of the best moments in being a fan in Korea. If you get the opportunity to attend one, be it in Korea, or through the new initiatives at concerts being brought to North America, do your best to attend one. Getting to connect with your idols is a rare and wonderful opportunity.