When star worship becomes a kind of commercial cooperation and forms a mature commercial industry chain, how does this industry chain operate?
“I sometimes feel that I’m not a fan anymore, but a staff member of a star”, says Ka Su. “Stars have recognised my face at the airport or on the scene, and they will deliberately find my camera to make expressions or some handsome gestures”.
Ka Su is a professional fan who has a Weibo account with 100,000 followers and posts pictures she takes of that celebrity at events or public functions such as airports. And when appropriate, they are made into photobooks and peripherals merchandise for sale.
“We don’t usually think about copyright because all the stars and all the fans are doing it, the law does not punish numerous offenders.” says Ka Su when talked about copyright. “We have 30 to 40 fanclubs in our fan community, not including the newly created ones, and some stars even have a couple of hundred fanclubs.”
merchandise attached, which can be sold at an average of two hundred dollars a set, and she usually sells two different sets to boost sales.
“I used to chase Korean stars, and I learnt this method from Korean company. The money from selling Photobooks is the bulk of my source of benefit. I can probably make three or four million a year. Some Fansite administrator with more followers can sell more. But the cost we invest is the same, so the bigger the fanclub gets, the more money it makes.”
“Actually, it has been a part-time job for me. Although it’s not nice to say that, but it is true. I don’t have much love for this star I love anymore, but the income I can get from this part-time job is really high.”
But at the same time, she also needs to invest a lot, for example, she needs to pay for tickets to events, she needs to buy a lot of products endorsed by the stars to show her “loyalty” to her followers, as well as doing some big-screen support promotions for the stars on their birthdays, which in turn promotes more sales of Photobooks.
“It’s not enough to sell photobooks. I also take photos of other celebrities at events and sell them to their fans and some Fansite administrator that can’t get there. That’s one of the sources of my earnings.”
Meanwhile, the brokerage firms use these professional fans for publicity as well as for fan orientation. “Many professional fans have more than just one person behind the fanclub; they are usually a small team of three or four people. One or two of whom are responsible for shooting in the scene, while the others are responsible for publishing the copy and guiding the fans,” explains Xiaoxiao Bai, the leader of official fanclub.
“The fanclub created by Fansite aiministrator is very similar to ours, but our internal section is more detailed and has more members. The live pictures we post of the stars are usually provided by the artist’s team, and we have a direct leadership role in the fan community.”
“The celebrity teams usually have little claim to copyright, but when it comes to third parties such as broadcasters, they are always not happy to their material being published in advance. But they usually don’t sue us for copyright infringement either, as we don’t distribute it on other broadcasters and they have no jurisdiction over the images taken on scene.”
“Nowadays, many brokerage firms have emerged with positions like fan operations, and most of the time we need to match work with them to release pictures or cooperate with them to do some promotional work. ” explains Xiaoxiao Bai “because sometimes professional fans are not that obedient and they have limited energy to meet the requirements of the agency for guiding fans.”
“For example, we push fans to buy virtual flowers on Weibo, which cost two yuan a piece, buying them and giving them to a celebrity’s account. We out his name into the top of the popularity list, which increases his flow and attention. Weibo will also not limit their exposure rate, because we’ve spent enough money.”
Different social platforms make huge amounts of money through the same model, and all they need to do is simply not do anything extra.
As mentioned above, the agencies benefit partly from the cost of free publicity and partly from guiding fans to spend money such as buy the celebrity endorsement. They do this by communicating with official fanclub and Fansite administrators that have a large fan base to reach their pre-determined sales through copy, peripheral gifts, crowdfunding, etc. Showing the star’s business value and achieving resource upgrades and cashing the flow.
“Sometimes, the voice and power of fans can help a star get some endorsements or roles.” Wenting Zuo, who works for a celebrity agency as a promoter, says, “sometimes a TV series has not yet been cast but there are a lot of press release online about which star is confirmed to appear in the role, often accompanied by positive comments. That because his team wants to take this role, but the producers can’t settle on it , then they use this way to do a potential push.”
“In terms of online monitoring of stars, we don’t usually care too much about the copyright of the images posted by the fans. We focus more on the artist issues in the pictures, for example, if the star’s skin is in a bad state today, we will contact the publisher to remove to prevent these pictures from playing a negative impact.” On the issue of copyright, Wenting Zuo did not give a positive answer to the question of copyright.
“When a star’s endorsement or the magazine company they are shooting for has sales requirements, the artist’s team will then post the requirements in our chat-room. And then we will guide the fans to buy them, such as posting some emotionally provocative tweets or we will subsidise the one for each one of the items they buy, to promote sales and thus reach the target which posted to us by the star’ team. ” Xiaoxiao Bai said, “so they can get the final payment or have data to talk about more follow-up resources.”
Wenting Zuo says this phenomenon is common when merchants choose spokespeople or promotions. “If you don’t have a satisfied record, you are easily eliminated when it comes to selection, and sales are the most important thing for businessmen.”
Yao Wang, who works for a PR agency as a publicist for a mobile phone brand, says they usually refer to lists such as the celebrity spending power marketing list, the celebrity activity list and some dehydration data when listing the chosen endorsers to the company.
“At the top of the list is definitely a priority for us, because these people represent the choice of the youth of today and they have a strong ability to bring in goods and can give a perfect achievement list to the company as well as us at the end” Yao Wang explained “It’s not that people who are not chosen aren’t good enough, but we don’t want to take the risk of poor sales, which is essential not only for the merchants, but also for us.”
China’s star-catching industry chain is gradually maturing, from professional fans to social platforms to agencies, all finding ways to maximise their respective interests. If there were very strict restrictions on the copyright of celebrities, this balance would be upset and this interest would no longer exist. This is one of the reasons why stars’ teams remain silent about the rights of their stars.