Pop Star Merchandise: Are They Really Worth the Splurge?

The music, TV, and film industries are pretty creative in their marketing strategies. They don’t just promote their material through ads, teasers, or any other visuals. Instead, they produce merchandise, from T-shirts to electronics.

Merchandise from the Harry Potter films is one of the most expensive yet collected ones ever. When you visit the Warner Brothers Studios in London or the Universal Studios in Orlando, you’d see hundreds of Potterheads sporting their House uniforms, wands in hand. Some known Potterhead YouTubers also show off their extensive Harry Potter collection, which consists of the books’ different editions, prop replicas, and unofficial merchandise from subscription boxes.

But now, another fandom seems to have beaten the extensiveness of the Harry Potter merchandise: K-pop bands.

Avid K-pop fans are proud of their collection, which is often made up of CDs, photobooks, photo cards, and fan lights a.k.a. light sticks. But what’s more interesting is the price they pay for all these. According to a recent study by iPrice, K-pop fans spend over $1,000 on merchandise.

Considering that most K-pop merchandise collectors are teens, why would they spend that much money? Are they using their parents’ savings to buy their stuff? If you’re wondering what makes any pop star merchandise sell so well, these are the possible reasons:

Being “True Fans”

In a panel entitled Grammy GPS: A Roadmap for Today’s Music Business, an illustration was presented showing four different types of fans. Each type of fan has a different reason for buying merchandise.

The illustration was of an inverted triangle, with the bottom representing friends, family, and core supporters of an artist. These “fans” buy merchandise by way of supporting the artist. They often use bumper stickers or any simple merchandise bearing the artist’s name.

Above the first type of fans is the local concert goers. They buy merchandise to have a souvenir for a concert they attended. They prefer event-specific items, and they’re not likely to buy online, since their intention is to experience the concert first-hand and have a token of remembrance.

Next is the public. This type of fan can be more invested in an artist than the local concert goer. They also buy concert merchandise, but they’re more interested in collecting CDs and a variety of other merchandise. They buy them online or from a physical store.

At the very top of the inverted triangle is the “true fans”. They are the ones who buy all types of merchandise and are willing to splurge on authentic signed memorabilia. Memorabilia, in fact, is their main reason for buying merchandise. They prefer exclusive, expensive, and limited edition packages.

fans at a concert

Getting a Sense of Identity and Community

All of us can relate to objects in a way. Everything we own reminds us of something or someone. Fans are exactly the same with their merchandise. But besides relating to the objects, they also gain a sense of identity and community with their merchandise. For them, it symbolizes their fandom and allows them to connect with their fellow fans in their community.

If you don’t collect merchandise, you may see the act of collecting them as shallow and wasteful. While that can be true in some cases, some fans actually appreciate the cultural and social value of their merchandise more. Simply put, it’s not about the items themselves, but the stories behind each item that they share with their community.

The Verdict: Should You Collect Merchandise?

At the end of the day, it’s your money, so only you can decide how you’d spend it. Still, there are some things worth considering before buying merchandise.

First and foremost, of course, is your budget. Fans who spend over $1,000 dollars on merchandise may look like the perfect example of a fan, but it is really necessary to imitate them? If spending that much money won’t delay you on your bills and other payments, then it would be fine to collect. Otherwise, you should budget first or focus on more important merchandise, like CDs, since it directly supports the artist.

If you’ve got enough budget, consider pre-ordering, because that’s usually a bit cheaper. It also comes with perks, like posters or photo card sets.

And lastly, make sure you’re buying from legitimate stores. If the prices in official retailers are too high, look for legitimate online sellers; they often mark down their prices. Find a seller near your area to save on shipping fees.

Buying merchandise is a fun way to support your favorite artists. But don’t let it become an addiction. The items may make you happy now, but after some time, their novelty will wear off. So stay self-aware every time you get tempted to buy.

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