K-Pop 101 is an occasional series from Soompi filled with tips and tricks on K-popping in Korea.
For the first edition of K-Pop 101, we’ll be providing an in-depth guide on how to apply and attend weekly music shows in Seoul. The application process can be confusing, and at times frustrating, but it’s all worth it in the end. Recordings are some of the most interactive ways to meet idols, and one of the best for seeing them up close. Let’s get to it!
As of December 2015, the currently weekly K-pop recording schedule is as follows:
Sunday: SBS “Inkigayo”
Monday: Arirang “Simply K-Pop” (recorded every other week)
Tuesday: MTV “The Show”
Wednesday: MBC “Show Champion”
Thursday: Mnet “M!Countdown”
Friday: KBS “Music Bank”
Saturday: MBC “Music Core”
So how do recordings work? Broadcasting stations begin recording during the early morning and shoot content until the live broadcast later on in the afternoon. As a fan, this is important because there are two ways to get into a recording: through a pre-recording or through the live show.
Pre-recordings take place earlier in the day with an individual artist or group filming only their song. This performance later gets edited into the live show, so a large majority of the artists aren’t actually performing live when you watch the show on TV! This is done not only so that artists can get a perfect recording, but also to make it easier for broadcasting stations to setup and breakdown sets during the live, which has a very tight time frame.
Below, we’ll focus on the general application process for pre-recordings, since they’re a lot easier to get into than the live show. Personally, I also find them a lot more fun because artists will interact more with their fans during pre-records.
Please note that the application process for every group is different, and while this guide covers the most common application process, it won’t hold true for all groups. Also, although attending recordings without knowing any Korean is possible, having a basic grasp of hangeul (the Korean alphabet) and numbers will make life a lot easier.
The first thing you will need to decide is which group you would like to attend a prerecording for. All artists have required goods that fans need to bring in order to determine order of entry. In addition, official fanclub members always get priority over non-fanclub members.
For example, for INFINITE‘s lastest promotions for “Bad,” the order of entry was as follows:
1. Official Fanclub Members with the following items:
- INSPIRIT 5th Generation I.D. + Personal I.D.
- INFINITE 5th Mini-Album “Reality”
- Proof of Purchase of the digital single “Bad” and user information
2. Non-fanclub Members with the following items:
- INFINITE 5th Mini-Album “Reality”
- Proof of Purchase of the digital single “Bad” and user information + Personal I.D.
3. Fans With None of the Above
On the day of the recording you will be ranked in tiers and given an appropriate entry number based on the things you show up with. For example, if a fanclub member shows up with everything but the proof of purchase of the digital single, they will be moved to the back of the fanclub line; if a non-fanclub member shows up without proof of purchase they will be moved to the back of the non-fanclub line, etc. It is important to bring as many things as possible or else you may get moved too far back and get cut from the recording.
Slogan towels, if demanded, can be bought at the venue day of the recording. However, some artists only sell these during their first two weeks of promotions, or until they sell out.
Proof of a digital purchase of the lead single off the album (음원 구매 확인서, eum-won-gu-me-hwak-in-seo) can be purchased off of any Korean music website (MelOn, Mnet, etc); iTunes does not work. You must print your user information along with your purchase history so that they can confirm it’s you.
SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment, and JYP Entertainment list all recording information on the Korean version of their websites. Other artists list the goods required for entry on their Daum Cafe. Look for the words 공방공식 (gong-bang-gong-sik) to find recording information.
Depending on the fanclub, pre-recording information can be released as early as a few days before, to as late as the night of the day before. Most Korean fanclubs have moved to the official list method. This means that companies will directly pre-accept people through application on the fan cafe, so that fans already have a confirmed number of entry for recordings. However, SM Entertainment still uses the old application method, where fans act as the middle man and curate the list for order of entry, and then submit it to the company.
Official List Method
Most companies will post information on their official fancafes the day before, with information regarding the number of people they will accept, along with recording time (사전녹화 시간, sa-jeon-nok-hwa si-gan) and check-in time (인원체크 시간, in-won-che-ku si-gan).
In addition to this, the notices will also note the application time (신청게시판 오픈, sin-cheon-ke-shi-pan o-pun) along with the number of people being accepted (~명, myung) and the information required for application.
Check out this notice for one of INFINITE’s recordings:
Around application time, a separate sub-board will open for applications. There are separate boards for fanclub members (공식, gong-sik) and non-fanclub (비공식, bi-gong-sik) members; you should apply by submitting a comment in the board with the information required. Don’t forget to hit the lock key on your comment to make it private. Non-fanclub members are only accepted if there are spaces left after all the fanclub members have been processed.
Later on in the day a notice will be posted on the fancafe with the full list of names for the recording; your number on the list is your entry number. Some cafes also reply to applications with a comment instead of posting a separate list.
Please note that some clubs (such as BEAST and BIGBANG), do not allow pre-applications/numbering for non-fanclub members. For those clubs you just have to show up at the check in time and hope there are empty spaces.
As a sidenote — YG singers and JYP singers use this format, but applications are processed through their own fan websites. The application process is a bit different, but the basics of applying at a certain time and getting an entry number remains the same.
Fan List Method (SM Way)
Fan lists for pre-recordings are, in essence, entry lists first put together by fans, which then are turned into the official company staff prior to recording. The company then uses this list for official entry numbers. This used to be the preferred way of entry for most groups, until companies started prohibiting fanclubs from staying overnight at recording sites. SM Entertainment still prefers using this method.
As soon as recording notices are put up on the official website, a member of a large fansite will usually travel to the broadcasting station and post up a sign with recording information for that particular artist. It is important as soon as you see the notice to travel to the venue ASAP and find the fansign.
You will then have to take a picture with the sign and text it to the number written. The person managing the sign will text back with your entry number, and the check-in time. Keep in mind this number is not final, numbers get shifted around when official fanstaff arrives and begins checking for goods.
Depending on the artist, there can sometimes be multiple check-in times for groups before the “official” check-in time in the morning. However, for others, the fan staff just require a morning check an hour or so before the official check in.
Double check your check-in time and make sure you are on time.
If you applied through the Official List method and are late to the check-in time, but in time for the recording, you will often times be let in but just moved to the back of the line (since you have a pre-confirmed number). If you have a pre-confirmed number, you do not need to show up early for check-in; just come a little before it starts.
If you are applying through the Fan List method and miss the check-in time, you may not be able to get in.
The first thing to do is always find your group. Look for fans holding your CD, or even better, the fan staff. Fan staff usually wear tags around their neck with group names or pictures.
Fanstaff will begin checking goods/names as soon as the check-in time begins. Have your goods out and ready as to not hold up the line. As soon as you get a number you’re good to go! Usually the fan staff lets people scatter and come back at a later time, so make sure you pay attention to the return time and don’t be late.
If you are lucky enough to be in the front ~20 numbers, you will also have a good chance of getting into the live show in the afternoon. Again, if your number is good enough pay attention to the staff when the pre-recording is over and they will tell you what time to return at for the live.
Also, if you don’t get a number via online application don’t worry! If you’re determined to try to go it’s always worth it to just show up and ask. There are always anywhere from 20-60 fans who don’t show up to the recording day of. Most clubs have penalty policies in affect to prevent fans from skipping out, but it still happens.
Keep in mind that usually 2/3 of a recording is waiting around, so please be patient. Pre-recordings, from check-in time to finish, usually last around 3-4 hours and are definitely worth the wait.
Time: Sunday, 1:15 p.m.
Location: SBS 등촌동 공개홀 (SBS Dongchon-dong, Broadcasting Hall)
How to Get There: Take the Metro Line No. 9 to Gayang Station (가양역), exit out of Exit 10 and go straight two blocks.
“Inkigayo,” along with “Music Core” usually take the most amount of people for pre-recordings (300-400). Pre-recordings are usually held in a large hall with the first ~100 front-numbered fans getting to stand in front of the stage, and the rest sitting in seats in the auditorium. Pre-recordings for “Inkigayo” also tend to be extremely early, since the show it broadcast live in the early afternoon. It isn’t unusual to have a check in time or 4 a.m., the latest is usually around 7 .am. or 8 a.m. Although “Inkigayo” and “Music Core” accepts the most amount of people, they are also the shows that get the most amount of applications due to the weekend slot.
Recording Time: Every Other Monday, All Day
Location: Arirang Tower (Arirang Tower 2351 Nambusunhawn-ro (Seocho-dong), Seocho-gu, Seoul)
How to Get There: Take the Metro Line No. 3 to Nambu Bus Terminal (남부버스터미널) and exit out of Exit 4-2. Walk until you reach the end of the road and turn right and walk straight until you reach Arirang; along the way you will pass the Seoul Art Center.
Arirang is the easiest K-Pop show for foreigners to get tickets to, and the smallest recording venue — you are literally sitting on the floor. I highly recommend applying if you happen to be in town when a recording is happening.
To apply visit their ticket board, they will post information regarding their pre-recording artists and their main recording artists. Read through and determine which artist you would like to see.
In order to apply for a slot you need to create an Arirang account and post on the message board. The topic of your post should be the date of the recording followed by the part you are requesting attendance for (Part 1, 2 or 3) or the main recording. You can apply for multiple parts, but create a separate post for each part. You should write down your name, email, and phone number and make sure the post is marked as “closed.”
Chosen audience members are contacted via email Sunday evening. Arirang usually puts up the announcements for recordings around Wednesday/Thursday the week before.
Please keep in mind their main recording is extremely long, as they film two weeks worth of material. If you choose to go for the main recording, you will be in the studio from around 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Time: Tuesday, 6PM
Location: 상암동 SBS프리즘타워 (Sangam-dong, SBS Prism Tower)
How to Get There: Take Metro Line No. 6 or the Airport Express to Digital Media City Station and come out of Exit 9 and walk straight ~2 blocks. SBS should be right on your left — along with a ton of other broadcasting companies.
“The Show” is one of the less popular K-Pop shows for some reason, so applications to get in are usually a bit easier. If you don’t have fanclub membership, I definitely recommend trying for “The Show.” They use an auditorium format like “Inkigayo.”
Time: Wednesday, 6 p.m.
Location: 일산 MBC드림센터 (Ilsan, MBC Dream Center)
How to Get There: “Show Champion” is the most annoying show to get to, based solely on the fact that it isn’t located in Seoul, but in the neighboring city of Ilsan. Take line 3 to Jeongpalsan Station, and exit out of Exit 1. Go straight for two blocks until you reach a large intersection and turn right; then head straight and you will see MBC Dream Center at the end of the road on the left.
Previously, “Show Champion” used to be unique in the fact that along with Mnet it was the only show that had an all-standing audience. However, as it seems the venue has changed since I last went, I believe it’s changed to an auditorium-based format as well.
Time: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
Location: Sangam-dong, CJ E&M Center
How to Get There: Take Metro Line No. 6 or the Airport Express to Digital Media City come out of Exit 9 and walk straight ~2 blocks. CJ E&M is located behind SBS Prism Hall. Walk around a little and you should find it.
Mnet used to be the one show easy for foreigners to get into the live; however, recently it’s gotten very difficult to get live tickets. Although the show does still hand them out in the morning, I’ve heard that lately they tend to only give out ~10 tickets per week for people who show up the morning of. Still, if you want to try your luck show up early Thursday morning and try lining up for the live. Early means first light!
Besides that, Mnet is one of the best shows to go for since it’s all standing, so regardless of your entrance number you’re always super close. Highly recommend!
Time: Friday, 6:30 p.m.
Location: KBS 신관 공개홀 (KBS Broadcasting Hall)
How to Get There: Take the Metro Line No. 9 to National Assembly Station (국회의사당역) come out of Exit 4 and walk straight and take the first right; you’ll find yourself in front of the KBS complex and from there you can walk to KBS Hall.
“Music Bank” is one of the harder shows to get into. They are all sitting and have no standing seats and usually only take around a hundred fans. Unless it’s a comeback or a goodbye stage (where they usually tend to take more), I would recommend trying another show.
Time: Saturday, 3:15 p.m.
Location: MBC 상암 공개홀 (MBC, Sangam Broadcasting Station)
How to Get there: Take Metro Line No. 6 or the Airport Express to Digital Media City come out of Exit 9 and walk straight ~2 blocks. Pass SBS and cross the street to end up by the MBC Building. If you walk into the complex, you’ll see that there’s an indoor waiting room right next to the Starbucks.
“Music Core” also uses the auditorium style that “Inkigayo” uses. They tend to record multiple artists at a time, so if you go in for a pre-recording, you may get to see 2-3 other artists besides your own.
That’s it for the first edition of K-Pop 101!
Is there anything you’d like to see K-Pop 101 cover next? Or do you have any questions about applying to weekly music shows? Let us know below!
harmonicar is located in the Seoul office and is a former teacher who once taught at CNBLUE’s Yonghwa’s high school in Busan. She is an avid INFINITE fan, and was once served beer by Sungyeol in Seoul.