With the exception of their controversial 2014 hit “Marionette”, STELLAR haven't had much luck on the charts. However, the girl group has miraculously managed to survive in the cutthroat world of K-pop after turning to crowdfunding in the last year to pay for their albums.
Using the popular MakeStar platform, the girls offer everything from signed albums to personal phone calls and dinner dates in exchange for financial contributions. Their latest project - their third so far - has already exceeded 500 per cent of its original goal, pulling in an impressive $44,000 USD (and counting!) with approximately 40 days left until the donation deadline.
This isn't the first time STELLAR has crushed their crowdfunding goals. For their mini-album “Sting” (easily one of last year’s best releases), the girls raised $35,500 USD (421 per cent of their goal), while follow-up project “Crying” did even better with $53,600 USD (532 per cent).
It's a remarkable achievement for the group, who rarely make it onto variety shows and have often struggled to break the GAON top 100 chart since their debut in 2011.
Many of STELLAR’s female contemporaries have followed their lead by teaming up with MakeStar to stay afloat. Berry Good, Brave Girls, Badkiz, TAHITI, Momoland, A.DE and Wa$$up have used MakeStar to fund the production of new albums. They've all reached their goals with relative ease so far, but have come nowhere near exceeding them to the level that STELLAR has.
Brian Kim, MakeStar’s chief product officer, singled out STELLAR in an interview with KultScene last November, crediting their willingness to try new things when it comes to crowdfunding as a reason for their popularity on the platform. Kim also says that it was STELLAR’s early success on MakeStar that inspired many other artists to jump on board.
“We’re really focused on what the fans want,” Kim told KultScene. “We’re trying to make new opportunities for fans to have their voices heard a little bit more by the industry.”
Australian STELLAR fan Peter Millane, who spent $168 AUD between the group’s first two projects with MakeStar, said his decision to donate was partly out of a love for their music (which has always done well critically, just not commercially), and partially out of sympathy for their poor performance on the Korean charts.
"I really liked ‘Vibrato’, and they were really struggling," he told SBS PopAsia.
"I also really like the idea of crowdfunding. It feels nice to think you’ve helped them actually make the album."
STELLAR have been open about their struggle to make it big, and have admitted to almost disbanding on more than one occasion. The first time was in 2014, right before their controversial “Marionette” comeback went viral and extended their lifespan, and the second was last year, when they said disbandment was likely if “Crying” flopped. Well, “Crying” did flop, but the girls are still standing thanks to MakeStar and their fans. Crowdfunding is clearly the future for STELLAR, and who knows, perhaps for future Asian pop bands.