K-Pop has always seemed like it’s catered to younger, typically teenage fans. Idols debut during their adolescent age, majority of those years spent on performing and interacting with fans. It’s not surprising that they’re also marketed toward the same age group. Years later, they typically would grow out of the fandom and leave their concert-screaming, performance-streaming, and album-buying habits behind.
But what happens if they don’t? What happens to older—if not-adult—fans?
Two things: they’re either admired for their dedication to their idols or judged for not having grown out of their “fan life” phase.
So … is K-Pop for young fans only?
No. While it is marketed toward younger fans, to start with, K-Pop is music and anyone can enjoy it. Just like any other interest or hobby, its consumption isn’t limited to a single group. It’s for everyone.
We have seen and heard of adults as K-Pop fans. Some of them have been fans for at least half a decade, others even longer. There are also some who are just new to the fandom, taking “baby steps” toward K-Pop appreciation. Just like younger fans, they regularly check social media for updates about their idols, watch shows featuring their biases, and, of course, attend concerts and fan meetings. But what makes adults admirable is how they balance adulting and fandom.
Is there a difference between an adult fan and a teenage fan?
There is not much difference because, at the end of the day, they are still both fans. Although they do have two differences: time and money.
Many, if not all, younger fans are students who mostly rely on an allowance. They would have to save their allowance or to ask their parents for a concert ticket in exchange for doing well in their studies. As an alternative to buying physical albums, some would stream music videos and songs instead, especially during comeback period. It can even be a full-time fandom work if the comeback takes place on a school break.
On the other hand, adult fans don’t have the luxury of time for the most part. Time is pretty much more abundant for younger than older fans. As fans grow older and responsibilities begin to pile up, they could no longer dedicate the time and energy to support their idols as much as they did in their younger years. They have bills to pay, families to support, and live the responsible adulting life.
While time may not be the most that they have, they step up their game financially because, obviously, they have the money. Comebacks and concert tours are not much of a struggle for adults, especially those who earn more than what they needed. In fact, some of them are more than ready to shell out hard-earned money to see their idols and help win awards!
Dedication-wise, both are still the same. Younger and older fans alike support their idols as much as they can. There is no “better fan” just because they have more time or more money than the other.
The social expectations
From the perspective of adults, being a K-Pop fan is not just balancing fandom and personal responsibilities. There is the social expectation that one has to grow out of their “teenage passions” and focus on things that “matter more.”
But this is not necessarily true. Growing up does not necessarily have to let go of things that make you happy. If an adult chooses to remain a fan, that is their choice. Just because something is aimed at a younger demographic doesn’t mean it’s no longer suitable for older people.
Again, K-Pop is music. If it’s something people enjoy and if enjoying it doesn’t harm anyone, there’s no reason to make fun of them for consuming it.