The BTS ARMY is already one of the most powerful fandom groups on the internet. Now, members have a new place to virtually mobilize, share content, earn rewards and sell each other fan-made merchandise through HYBE-backed fan engagement startup Fave.
Based in Switzerland, Fave is a social platform designed to give superfans a place to fan out while helping music artists leverage the passion of their biggest supporters. On the app, which is organized by fandom, superfans can create profiles, post photos and videos, compete in competitions to unlock prizes and — perhaps most notably — sell homemade merchandise in the Etsy-eque Fan Marketplace. Fave takes 10% of revenue generated by the marketplace, as do participating artists, giving them a passive, incremental revenue stream.
Each fandom has its own dedicated hub on the app, and Fave is onboarding those fandoms one-by-one, having started with Taylor Swift‘s Swifties in the spring. Wednesday (Aug. 18), the ARMY becomes the latest addition.
The ARMY launch has been a long time in the making. Fave founder/CEO Jacquelle Amankonah Horton, a former Google product manager whose experience growing up as an Eminem superfan inspired her to create Fave, says that the company spent months “gut-checking” the launch with actual members of the ARMY. In fact, she even hired an ARMY member to make sure every detail of their plan was up to snuff.
“We’re gut-checking with them, like, ‘Do you think this will meet expectations? Which one [of these things] is more important to you to have first?'” Horton says. “We partner with them to understand what the inside jokes are, what they want out of the fandom, what they are interested in.”
Those conversations resulted in a packed slate of kick-off week events on Fave, including virtual celebrations for the one-year anniversary of BTS hit “Dynamite,” virtual karaoke nights and a celebration for BTS member Jungkook’s birthday on Sept. 1.
In Horton’s view, the music industry’s knee-jerk reaction to strike down anything resembling copyright infringement has prevented artists from capitalizing on fan-made merch, which she says is “heavily undervalued.” She says the Fan Marketplace was a big reason why BTS entertainment company home HYBE participated in Fave’s $2.2 million seed funding round in May alongside Warner Music Group, Sony Music and others.
“Through its investment in Fave, HYBE plans to seek new opportunities in the fan-to-fan platform business while expanding synergy in the fandom business,” current HYBE COO Kim Tae-Ho said at the time. “We expect Fave, which has know-how and technical skills in the U.S. fandom platform market, to bring synergy to HYBE’s platform business.”
Finally, Horton says that Fave will help artists navigate the sometimes “daunting” process of engaging with and cultivating a superfan base by giving artists actionable analytics. For example, artists will soon be able to use the app to instantly add the top fan-made merch item to their own official merch store, or to share it across their social media accounts. The objective is always to make sure superfans feel seen.
“I was a superfan — I memorized every music video, every dance move — so I understand that mindset,” Horton says. “[Fave] really came from knowing there’s a user need here, because I went through it.”