Given how incredible BTS‘s concerts are, it should come as no surprise that they take a lot of work to plan and execute. In a new interview, the group’s concert director—Kim Sang Wook—discussed the production process from start to finish.
Developing a passion for the music industry at a young age, Kim Sang Wook (also known as Kevin Kim) founded his concert direction company, PLAN A, back in 2010. His skills went on to earn him the opportunity to direct multiple BTS concerts from 2013 to 2019, including the group’s widely successful LOVE YOURSELF: SPEAK YOURSELF tour.
Of course, while concerts provide fans with just a few hours of bliss, they take far longer to put together. Kim explained the process in a new interview with The Korea Times ahead of the launch of his new book, A Show Director’s Logbook in K-Pop Wave. First, Kim Sang Wook revealed that preparations can take anywhere from two months to a whole year before a concert actually happens.
The first step is to meet with the artist and their agency to discuss the overall concept. K-Pop concerts are often known for going big when it comes to stage design, setlists, and theatrics, so it stands to reason that concepts need to be laid out before any more work can take place.
Kim Sang Wook in particular revealed he puts a strong emphasis on narration. As such, conceptualizing a BTS concert also includes writing a script to create a unique storytelling experience.
‘Produce, direct and write’ is our company’s motto.
— Kim Sang Wook
Once they have a concept in mind and a venue size to plan for, Kim and his team make a project proposal and get to work. The director revealed that the overall stage design and setlist come first, with the latter taking a lot of consideration. For instance, it can’t all be based on the music itself; Kim also needs to take the idols’ stamina, the concert’s storyline, and the flow of the setlist into account.
We have to take a lot of things into consideration ― for instance, we should not let the singers perform powerful dance tracks for 15 minutes straight because this can be physically strenuous for them.
— Kim Sang Wook
Once the most important aspects are decided, the PLAN A team can start working on the small details that make a big difference. Rather than handling everything in-house, the concert direction company contacts experts in fields like lighting, styling, and special effects, ensuring that every factor gets specialist attention.
All of the tasks require the utmost delicacy.
— Kim Sang Wook
As an example of how much detail goes into a BTS concert, Kim called back to the iconic leopards from “Dionysus”, which were inspired by the leopard the Greek god Dionysus wears in mythology. “We had to decide on their color and size among many other factors,” said Kim, “Before getting hold of experts who could actually make them.”
The same went for the aerial lift Jungkook used for his “Euphoria” performances. First, PLAN A had to figure out where to buy a lift to begin with. Then, they had to hire expert engineers who could plan out Jungkook’s take-off, landing, and flying duration—and all this work doesn’t even include the extensive rehearsals that have to take place.
That said, despite how hard Kim and his team have to work to pull off a concert, it’s all worth it in the end. During the interview, Kim revealed that he’s at his happiest when he hears the audience screaming with excitement at the beginning of a show.