Have you had trouble getting hold of your favorite group’s lightstick at a fair price recently? You may be surprised to learn it’s all part of a wider problem in technology right now.
Even though in-person concerts and fanmeetings are only just starting to make a return post-COVID, lightsticks have always been one of the must-have merchandise items for any K-Pop fan. From BTS‘s ARMY Bomb to BLACKPINK‘s Hammer Bong, each unique lightstick represents one of the best ways to support your favorite—so much so that many international fans buy lightsticks even when they have no chance of seeing their idols in person.
But recently, many fans have noticed that the price of a lightstick seems to be increasing; some, meanwhile, haven’t been able to get their hands on one at all. Why? It’s all down to a technology issue plaguing companies in numerous industries: the semiconductor shortage.
Semiconductors are silicon microchips used to make almost any device with an internal computing component, including cars, appliances, and cellphones. Also referred to as the “chip crisis,” the current semiconductor shortage hit last year when lockdowns drove up demand for electronic devices, and despite their best efforts, regulatory bodies and manufacturers are struggling to get production back on track.
As you may have now guessed, another type of device which uses a semiconductor is the lightstick. Lightsticks use these chips to power a variety of features, from battery management to Bluetooth pairing. Without semiconductors, manufacturers simply can’t produce lightsticks at a fast enough rate or at the usual cost.
ARMY is just one fandom that felt the squeeze this month when HYBE‘s Weverse Shop announced that the price of an ARMY Bomb would be increasing from $57 USD to $59 USD because of the “persistent global semiconductor shortage.” The price of a SEVENTEEN lightstick, meanwhile, has increased by $3 USD.
And for many groups, lightsticks are nowhere to be found at all. SM Entertainment‘s Global Shop, for example, recently announced that lightsticks for groups like EXO and SHINee are currently sold out, and the same seems to be true for BLACKPINK at many retailers.
Ashton Jungmin Choi, the co-founder of Korean lightstick production company FANLIGHT, revealed he bulk ordered semiconductors in advance with the hope that live, in-person events would be making a return. However, the manufacturing wait times have gone from two months to six months, shipping fees have tripled, and even the chips themselves now cost 30% more than they did last year.
As groups like TWICE and BTS announce their upcoming post-COVID tour schedules, many fans can now only hope that they’ll be able to get their hands on a lightstick in time.