How BLACKPINK Booked a North American Arena Tour Before Playing a Single U.S. Show

“The dedication is heartfelt,” says Goldenvoice's Susan Rosenbluth of the K-pop group's North American fans.

Just how big is BLACKPINK getting in the States? Big enough to book multiple headlining arena shows as their first proper shows in North America.

Last week, the South Korean girl group announced a six-date live run for the upcoming spring kicking off on Apr. 17 at the Forum in Los Angeles, with tickets going on sale today (Feb. 20). Produced by Goldenvoice and Powerhouse, presented by YG Entertainment and sponsored by Kia, the tour will kick off in between BLACKPINK’s Coachella performances on consecutive weekends in April, and bring the group to Chicago, Ontario, Newark, Atlanta and Dallas/Ft. Worth over the course of three weeks.

BLACKPINK, which formed in 2016 and consists of the members Jisoo, Jennie, Lisa and Rosé, became the highest-charting K-pop girl group in Hot 100 history when their combustible pop-rap track “DDU-DU DDU-DU” debuted at No. 55 on the chart last June. Four months later, BLACKPINK signed to Interscope Records in the U.S. as part of a global partnership with YG Entertainment, and were then announced as part of the Coachella lineup in early January. Yet the recent tour announcement arguably represents the clearest sign to date of BLACKPINK’s burgeoning stateside popularity: the quartet was able to secure arena dates in multiple markets without any track record as a live artist within the continent. (The group is currently on tour in Asia, where it has been playing arenas since July.)

“We’re in a modern era where people find their music and their [favorite] artists on the Internet, and people who follow pop and K-pop music are finding that music all over the world,” says Susan Rosenbluth, Senior VP, AEG Live/Goldenvoice. Rosenbluth adds that she had been paying attention to BLACKPINK since “when they first came on the scene,” as had Goldenvoice president and Coachella co-founder Paul Tollett.

“There’s definitely a following, and it does not follow along ethnic lines,” she says. “K-pop is not specific to Asian [fans] at all.”

Of course, with 3 million Facebook fans, 15.7 million Instagram followers and 19.2 million YouTube subscribers, BLACKPINK already has a global social following to rival plenty of U.S. arena acts. It’s part of the reason why Rosenbluth says there was zero hesitancy about booking arena gigs for BLACKPINK, despite the group’s inexperience in North America. “YouTube is certainly a factor,” she says. “I think that some of their casual fans will become more fanatic. One of the things I love is when fans watch a music video and learn the dance moves and do it themselves as a group. I love the social interaction that comes with that.”

Earlier this month, BLACKPINK played Universal Music Group’s annual Grammy Artist Showcase in L.A., and the group performed on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and Good Morning America last week. Rosenbluth says that her team closely monitored the televised performances -- the screaming fans looking on included -- and were pleased with the surrounding fervor.

One day before BLACKPINK’s arena show tickets went on sale, BTS announced additional stadium stops to their own world tour, after selling out their first U.S. stadium show in minutes last year. BTS has become a global phenomenon over the past two years — and in many ways, the group has come to embody the current opportunity for live K-pop in North America.

As the BTS boys have morphed into superstars, setting chart records and becoming staples at American music award ceremonies, other K-pop artists have made similar (if smaller) stateside leaps, with acts like EXO and GOT7 playing arena shows and KCON, the annual Korean pop convention, growing into a bicoastal, multi-day extravaganza. On Wednesday, Monsta X was announced as one of the first performers at the 2019 iHeartRadio Music Festival in September; in April, BLACKPINK will become the first K-pop girl group to perform at Coachella.

It’s unfair to saddle a group like BLACKPINK with BTS-sized expectations, but Goldenvoice and their upcoming tour partners hope to witness a similar type of passion from the group’s fans on its inaugural North American run. “The dedication is heartfelt,” says Rosenbluth. “The artists that are the most successful in these situations are artists who really are authentic… and along with the music, there’s a certain amount of authenticity to BLACKPINK that I really love.”