Welcome to a special edition of Money Diaries, in which a dedicated BTS fan details the expenses that she incurred while attending concerts worldwide throughout 2019. She explains why BTS means so much to her and shares the highs and lows of her experiences as a concert-goer.
Editor’s note: All prices have been converted to SGD.
Age (then): 23
Occupation (then): University undergraduate
Salary from part-time jobs (then): ~$1500/month
I was a private tutor for three students ($28-40/h) and I also worked as a sales associate for a renowned international beauty brand on the weekends when there were events ($10/h).
Allowance (from dad): $800/month
Fixed Monthly Expenses
Phone Bill: $100 (tied to home WiFi)
Apple Music: $4.98
Dental: $200 for braces
Allowance (to younger sister): $100
An excerpt from my diary, written in November 2018:
In 2013, BTS would’ve never dreamed of becoming the number one artist in Korea who tops American charts and break barriers. Their only dream was to debut successfully and they did.
In 2014, BTS visited America and held a mini concert for their fans. They were nobody and had to pass flyers on the streets and sing from door to door to get noticed. They somehow managed.
In 2015, BTS cried when they got their first-ever win on music shows with “I Need You”. They also received some awards like bon sangs. They continued to focus on making music like they’d always done. Slowly, they were getting there.
In 2016, HYYH marked a new beginning and they gained new fans. Songs like “Run”, “Fire” and “Blood, Sweat & Tears” played on radios and on the streets. South Korea’s Ministry of Culture awarded them with an Order of Cultural Merit. The general public was now familiar with BTS and they weren’t nobodies anymore.
In 2017, BTS flew all the way to America for their first-ever BBMAs nomination. Jimin didn’t even know what it was about. BTS started to get worldwide recognition, having entered Billboard’s Top 100. They were named the most influential people on social media and held a successful tour. In South Korea, they were seen as world stars.
In 2018, nearly 5 years have passed since BTS’ debut on 13th June 2013. What have they achieved? Love Yourself was a groundbreaking success which became the first-ever foreign language album to land the No. 1 spot since 2006 and it was the first K-pop act to top BB200.
From having an uncertain future to becoming global stars who inspire people in a span of 5 years is truly remarkable. What’s more, BTS’ sole wish was nothing more than to debut in order for people to listen to their music and stories.
Nothing comes easy. But with teamwork and passion, their dreams came true.
The most groundbreaking part about them getting to the top was that they stayed true to their roots and didn’t make any songs in English.
Back then, [Namjoon] said a line that stayed with me for a long time, “방탄도 팬 여러분도 시작은 미약하나 끝은 창대할 겁니다!” (To BTS and our fans, our beginnings may be humble, but may our end be prosperous!)
In Namjoon’s first ever fan cafe post back in 2013, he expressed his nervousness in being the first member to officially post and that his hand was trembling as he did so. Back then, he said a line that stayed with me for a long time, “방탄도 팬 여러분도 시작은 미약하나 끝은 창대할 겁니다!” (To BTS and our fans, our beginnings may be humble, but may our end be prosperous!)
He was so down to earth and yet, so full of hope. He said there were so many people they didn’t want to let down and so, they worked harder. Look at them now, charting in markets they had never even dreamt of reaching.
BTS is really a group of people who, no matter the prejudice, will always come out stronger. I’m really proud of where they are now and I’m glad that there are so many people who support them. BTS never took anything for granted and they always made sure the fans know their love for us.
BTS really inspires people to become better. Not with empty talks but through their actions and strong will to go through it all, despite the criticisms and hate that they had gotten. This is the major reason why I’m still here as a fan. I could’ve left the fandom, but I didn’t— they complete me.
For this concert, my friends went through a lot of trouble to get the tickets on the 27th of October in 2018. We could only buy a maximum of 8 tickets per pax and as a group, we managed to get 20 tickets in total. We had to sell those that we didn’t want after keeping the good ones for ourselves.
It was so difficult to get tickets even if you queued overnight because they were doing the ticket sales at Sports Hub and all the SingPost branches. So, all the servers were engaged. I wished there was a better system in place.
In the end, my friends and I got second-hand tickets from other people so that we could be nearer to the front of the stage. My final queue number was 297 and I squeezed my way to the front, between the second and third row of the mosh pit.
I was pretty excited since it was BTS’ first concert of the year and the first one in Singapore after four years. The concert started at 7pm but we were not allowed to join the queue after 12.30pm. We had to queue in the mosh pit from 4pm and I wanted to give up at one point but I thought, “No, I can’t, I paid so much for it”.
I usually don’t bother wearing makeup when I’m unwell and since I was feeling a little under the weather that day, I wore all-black (a basic bomber jacket with a hood) as well as a mask. I was so tickled to hear some girls saying loudly, “I think she’s a fansite owner!” (I’m not). Halfway through the concert, someone from the back even told me to put my hood down because I was blocking their view and I obliged.
Concert Ticket: $550
Monthly Total: $550
The tour in Hong Kong took place on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday but I couldn’t get tickets for the weekend shows. I tried my luck to get second-hand tickets at the very last minute but they were on sale for – wait for it – a cool $1000 for each day, so I was resigned and decided to forgo them.
It was nearing the end of the university semester (Week 9), so there were a lot of submissions due. On the first day of the concert, my group mates were having a Skype call right smack in the middle of the concert. I had AirPods in one ear so I could still be part of the project meeting. Talk about multi-tasking. Since it was a seated venue, the atmosphere was much more relaxing than their other concerts and I could multi-task with relative ease.
On the second day of the concert, Park Bo Gum was seated right behind my friend and she even took a video of him. Cheap thrills!
Concert Tickets: $326.63 x 2
Round trip flights (Singapore Airlines): $380
Accommodation (Holiday Inn Mongkok): $775
Monthly Total: $1802.26
I could only take a short weekend trip to Bangkok because it was nearing the end of the academic semester (Week 12). I flew there on a Friday and returned to Singapore on Monday morning. I went straight to school after going home and putting my luggage down.
The first thing that comes to mind when I think about this trip would be that Bangkok was so hot. The second thing would be the fact that the concert venue was very far from the city center. By the time I wanted to book the hotel next to the stadium, it was already fully booked. I had to book a random hotel that was supposed to be less than 10 minutes away by car. But the jam was so bad that it was going to take an hour for me to get to the stadium, realistically speaking. Out of desperation, I hailed a motorbike by sticking my hand out by the side of the road. Being a passenger on a motorbike was so damn fun and I can’t wait to do it again the next time I find myself in Thailand.
My friend was supposed to attend the concert with me but had to cancel at the last minute so I had to sell the ticket to someone else. I attended the concert with the buyer — see, this is how BTS brings people together!
On the second day of the concert, I went to the venue early to try to buy merchandise. But the queue was so long that I gave up and went back to my hotel. When I returned for the show, I realized that I was ten rows from the main stage and that’s where the water guns were at. My friend told me that I would definitely get drenched and I was not looking forward to it. Lo and behold, it rained during the concert so everyone got drenched.
At this concert, I used my phone to film the screen while using my compact camera (to film the main stage since the quality is still great after zooming in). Compact cameras were not allowed and I almost got caught by the security. I hid it on me and the security didn’t pat me down so they let me go back to the concert. Having black electronic devices and wearing full-black outfits to concerts is a great way of making sure nothing stands out.
It was the last concert for the Love Yourself tour because in the following month, they went on a new tour, Love Yourself Speak Yourself. It’s simply an extension of the previous tour since more than half of the setlist was the same and the only difference was that it included the new mini-album.
Concert Tickets: $307.36 and $326.74 respectively
Accommodation (Hotel in Bangkok): $130
Monthly Total: $944.10
Since I was heading to Europe for my graduation trip, I decided to catch their concert in Paris. For the Love Yourself Speak Yourself tour, they brought the solo performances up a notch with more elaborate stage props. Jimin was an alluring fairy who appeared in a bubble; Jungkook flew in the sky like an angel; Jin had a piano onstage.
I was excited because I finally got to see them perform “Boy with Luv”, their new song, live. On the first day, Jungkook couldn’t fly because it was too windy and cloudy. I was disappointed because I really wanted to see it live. But Halsey made a surprise appearance (!) and it was the only day that she did so. That totally made up for it and I left the first show feeling very contented. Being able to witness the small variations in the shows makes me glad that my FOMO is so severe that I go for multiple days of the same concert.
On the first day of the concert, I befriended a male fan from Paris. The following day, I had a blast with a Vietnamese girl who studies in Milan and found out that she travelled to Paris just for the show. These connections that I made taught me that BTS’ music does not speak to one gender, ethnicity or nationality but to everyone.
Concert Tickets: $266.25 and $153 respectively
Disclaimer: I won’t be adding the costs of my accommodation and flight tickets to the monthly total since the expenses were not solely because of BTS.
I flew to Busan for a fan meeting and I was so excited since it was my first. To attend fan meetings, I had to enter and win a draw and then, pay for the tickets.
Since Jimin and Jungkook – I have a soft spot for them – were born in Busan, it felt extra special to watch them have their first solo performance in their hometown. Previously, their performances in Busan were always part of combined concerts.
The difference between concerts and fan meetings is that there are more talking segments in the latter. Since I’m quite proficient in Korean, it was very enjoyable. They also performed older songs and had more interactions with the fans.
Then I took the KTX to Seoul for another fan meeting because two is better than one.
Fan meeting tickets: $110 x 2
Flight tickets: $700
KTX tickets: $140
Accommodation (AirBNB): $450
Monthly Total: $1929.25
October was a sad month because I didn’t get the tickets for the concert Love Yourself Speak Yourself: The Final through the new raffle system. It has been three months of not seeing them. I bought a second-hand ticket from a Korean and sent half the payment through PayPal. On the day of the concert, I was stood up by the seller. I managed to get a refund eventually.
I had told myself not to spend more than $200 but I eventually decided to buy a ticket that cost $600 because I knew it might be the last time that I could see them for a very long while.
The concerts in Korea are truly on another level. The fireworks were insane and they went on forever. They used drones for the concert’s effects too. Oh, and every concert-goer was given a customized BTS x Fila blanket because the weather was cold.
I cherished every moment of this concert because it was the finale of the extension of Love Yourself tour and the end of a series. I also knew it was the last concert that I was gonna watch for the year, and possibly, for a long time since I will be working full-time in 2020.
Concert Tickets: $600
Accommodation (AirBnb): $900
Monthly Total: $2350
Grand Total for 2019: $7575.61
Of course, my mom does not approve of my ardent support of BTS and thinks I should save the money instead. Most of the time, I do have second thoughts but only because I have to give up spending on tangible things like luxury clothes and designer bags.
But there will be new seasons for fashion and it’s not like I’m going to buy every new bag out there. The way I see it, these concerts only happen once. The entire concert experience is personal, a memory that only I will be able to have, and it is something that will stay with me for a long time.
The concerts differ across countries, from the fan cultures to the queuing systems. While every single concert is very memorable and equally important to me, I definitely forget some of the specifics over time. I guess, after an entire year of attending their concerts, seeing BTS has become second nature to me.
Yet, every time I see them live, it still feels like the first time.
All images by the contributor