As K-Pop groups are able to gather a larger worldwide audience, their likelihood for success increases as they can tap into the support of fans outside of their home country. For some groups, that has meant the difference between continuing as a group or disbanding. One method many K-Pop groups have been able to use to get direct support from fans is crowdfunding.
While the site MakeStar is now known for hosting exclusive events for album sales including pre-order benefits and online fan sign events, it was originally one of many that hosted international crowdfunding efforts shared by idol groups. For many groups that sometimes struggle to find success, this was the best method to continue trying to chase their dreams when their company did not have the funds to produce a new album.
Normally, a group would share their crowdfunding project, be it for a photo book or an album, with fans in the hopes of making enough money to produce said item. Fans would be able to “back” the project and would have assorted perks for donating funds that would include signed albums or even getting dinner with the group.
These sorts of perks were a huge incentive for the project, and often enough would be the first to sell out.
Many groups had success stories from using sites like these and many times would exceed their original goal by many thousands of dollars with no major issues coming about.
One of the first K-Pop crowdfunding efforts ended early, however, because of a specific perk that was offered and how it was received by the K-Pop fandom.
K-Pop group U-KISS debuted in 2008 as a six-member boy group alongside other groups like 2PM, 2AM, and SHINee. U-KISS did not achieve the same sort of popularity as their peers domestically (the group did not get their first music show win until 2015 after gaining and losing several members) and sought out the aid of worldwide fans through crowdfunding in 2013.
The group aimed to collect funds for their next comeback album and shared an official crowdfunding link with the information on their Facebook page.
Fans were able to donate various amounts from around $2 USD all the way up to around $900 USD, with assorted perks and gifts that the group would send supporters. One of the tiers quickly caught attention for its listed benefits. For around $110 USD, a fan would receive what was called a “DNA accessory.”
Fans originally assumed that the DNA accessory would be similar to SECHSKIES protein card that gave fans information about the group member’s ability to fight disease and other information about their genes. This information is could be considered invasive now, but at the time was extremely popular.
Once the crowdfunding site was shared again after initially being deleted, fans were able to see exactly what the DNA accessory was described as. The site stated that upon fulfillment of the project, they would “send accessories (e.g. necklace, ring, etc) containing U-KISS’s DNA” to all who purchased that specific level.
The wording of this tier confused many fans and led some to believe that U-KISS’s company NH Media would take things much further than previously sold “DNA” merchandise and actually send out items that contained the member’s DNA like blood or hair.
"We will send accesories containing UKISS' DNA" are they going to sned blood in it?? o.o
— A.S. ♥️ KARD (@HiddenPGZ) September 10, 2013
.. what will the fans do with Ukiss's DNA accessories that contain Ukiss's DNA?… a baby? What?
— チー (@Shinie165) September 10, 2013
The K-Pop community as a whole did not react well to the idea of this sort of merchandise being sold. This combined with the distrust and questioning why the group needed to crowdfund their comeback led to the project being canceled. U-KISS still released their next album, in spite of not having the financial support from online backers.
The group did not attempt any further crowdfunding efforts and is currently active as a three-membered group after leaving the label that offered the DNA accessory perk.
While it is easy to see how this sort of thing could have been interpreted at the time, it is nice to see that other groups are able to find support from their fans directly and continue to release music.