[K-changers] Targeting a niche market, growing ‘Step-dol’ Dreamcatcher
Reporter Oh Yu-gyo
Re-debut after disbandment, idols of longevity
A unique concept popular in the west
Promoting K-pop through continuous overseas tours
Nowadays the domestic music industry is becoming less romantic. Idols backed by the capital power of large entertainment companies are on the rise, while popular groups from small- or medium-sized companies are hard to find. Recently, FIFTY FIFTY, from a small company, gained popularity, but soon after they became entangled in a bitter legal battle with their company.
Dreamcatcher is a rare girl group to see during these times. They debuted in 2017 with the company Dreamcatcher Company and have been quietly contributing to the spread of K-pop. They have not only been holding out. Last year they were the first K-pop artist to be invited to Spain’s international rock festival “Primavera Sound”. At the time when their flight was delayed, the organizers sent a private jet. Fans sang along at their performance that was safely held as scheduled.
Dreamcatcher’s nickname is “step-dol” (t/n: combination of “step” and “idol”, as in making progress step by step).They did not stand out from the start, but their continued and steady growth is why fans use the nickname. Last year they got 1st place on a music show for the first time 1924 days after debut. Their first week album sales, which were 4,200 copies at debut, grew to 72,900 copies, a 17-fold increase. They also conduct overseas tours at the “hall level” (around 3000 seats) every year. You can count the number of girl groups who have continuously gathered this many overseas audiences on 10 fingers.
Large numbers of western fans attracted by unique concept
Dreamcatcher is a 7-member group. Five of them are originally from the group Minx that debuted in 2014. Minx was not able to stand out with their cheerful concept and songs with an innocent feeling. Indeed they flopped. Dreamcatcher Company added two members and put out a new girl group in 2017. That was Dreamcatcher. With a unique concept for K-pop idols, they targeted a niche market.
Compared to Minx, they were completely different from head to toe. Rock and metal genre-based music and dark concepts became the main focus. Their makeup, hair, and outfits were drastically changed to match the intense vibes. Reactions came from overseas first. After seeing their music video, a Brazilian performance agency contacted them. Confirming their potential to succeed, Dreamcatcher went on a world tour 8 months after debuting. They visited Japan, Brazil, United Kingdom, France, Germany, etc touring 9 countries on 3 continents. Starting then, they have since done 9 world tours.
MD marketing and active use of platforms
Getting into something is called “deokjil” (t/n: English equivalent would be “stan”). It’s a term commonly use by K-pop fans. Dreamcatcher’s MD (merchandise) is popular with fans who enjoy unique designs and products. A representative example is their lightstick. It is famous for being the longest among idol lightsticks. It can be combined and separated into 3 parts and reaches 78cm when all 3 sections are connected. The design is in the style of medieval fantasy. It was so popular that the first release sold out. Their robe that matches the concept was also popular. There are even times when MD sales exceed their ticket sales. Normally they have MD booths set up near the venue on concert days.
Their early entry into ‘Weverse’ also helped increase the fanbase. Weverse is a fandom platform created by HYBE in 2018. It is a community where artists can directly communicate with fans. Dreamcatcher joined in 2020. At the time, it was in the early stages of release, and there was almost no one outside of HYBE artists on the app. There were also cases where fans joined Dreamcatcher’s community after coming to the app for another artist. That is because Weverse has grown into a fandom platform app that has reached 100 million downloads for the first time in the world. As of the 24th, Dreamcatcher’s community has 458,800 fans.
Company and members sharing the same dream
Earlier this year, Dreamcatcher surpassed the obstacle of contract renewal, something that is not easy for idols to overcome. After surpassing “step-dol”, Dreamcatcher now dreams of becoming “elevator-dol”. One of the ways they plan to do that is an English album. In the second half of this year, they plan to release an English version remake album of their existing songs.
Along with the release of the album, they plan to expand the fanbase in the North American market through a North American tour. Dreamcatcher Company also plans to focus on attracting external investments in order to support Dreamcatcher’s activities. Dreamcatcher’s director, Cho Dong-hyun says he “is still surprised to see the response of Western fans and to see the number of fans grow every time they go on an overseas tour” and “wants to contribute to the spread of K-pop in the future”.
Source: Naver News 아시아경제
Translated by 7-dreamers irshu
Please do not take translation without credit