There’s been a lot of angst circling this site the last view days regarding the almighty YT views. *Let us bow our heads for a moment of prayer* I’m joking. That would be sacrilegious and silly. No one would ever give so much sway to something…., so…., oh wait.
Full disclosure: Army and Blinks - I’m going to be talking about you!!! What follows is a brief setting down of how this nonsense came to be and how we should handle it. I will be critical of my own fandom. In the interest of transparency, I’m Shawol and Army, I’m not a fan of BP. I have offered criticism (and snark that I’m not proud of) of BP in the past, but have enough sense to see they’re adorable and well appreciated by their fandom. Ultimately, my criticism is subjective and applies only to me. I welcome yours. Let’s get on with it...
1) The problem with YT. Let’s look at YT for what it is; it’s social media. The 4 big SNS (YT, Bird App, the Book of the Face, and IG) have the transparency of a brick wall and the accountability of a five year old. As I write, several governments throughout the world, including the US, are actively monitoring these 4 major SNS for blatantly allowing harmful interfering in democratic processes in Europe and the Americas. Nonetheless, YT has a leg up on the other 3 because they remain the biggest music streaming site in the world, and this is when our music gets hijacked by the tribalism inherent in social media. Despite being the biggest music streaming site in the world, there’s a reason unpaid YT views count for little on Billboard and virtually nothing for RIAA. Its global SNS status makes information coming from it nearly meaningless. YT perpetually gives fandoms misleading and incomplete information concerning ads, streams, playlists, tags, subscription value, likes, comments AND how each of those variables plays out differently in certain countries. Each recording academy has a different set of criteria that YT reports on if any at all. It’s an over complicated mess not dissimilar from the many other SNS messes nations and researchersare trying to sort through today. And yet, at the end of the day, no matter how much you felt like you did everything correctly, it all amounts to the algorithm. Make no mistake, it all comes down to a pre-programmed A.I. which deletes, adds, and recommends. This is why YT isn’t transparent; they, better than anyone, know this: The platform isn’t equal across regions and countries. No social media platform is. Giving full transparency would undermine any lingering validity they have. Using YT is like using public transportation. It’s great for the day to day monotony but if you use if for the stuff that really counts - like getting to a job interview or getting your wife to the birthing center quickly - you’re gonna have a bad time and be disappointed with results.
2) Why we perceive it matters. Entertainment media is lazy. In trying to explain BTS rise to the global stage, they simply said, “BTS has a huge imprint on social media.” Of course, every ARMY and Kpop fan knew that was sheer laziness and further proof that mainstream Western media doesn’t give a hoot and holler about Kpop. Nothing is more heartbreaking than to see an article about EXO and there’s a picture of Taemin or Jimin because some guy in Anaheim can’t be bothered. But, if you click on it, they get paid. The media knows that our fandoms will click on those articles and accuracy is not their concern. Whether you’re BTS or EXO, you don’t sell that many albums by simply being a social media darling. There’s far more at play here. By the “SNS made BTS” story line any group with a decent sized fandom should have been blowing up long before BTS debut. Here’s a truth ARMY knows: BTS is beloved by us and has established themselves outside of the Kpop fandom for a host of reasons including the genuinely beautiful music, Baepsae journey, organic presence, artistic growth, virtuosity, meaningful message, the Bangtan Universe, Han, raw visual, independent culture, dual identity, social consciousness, the magic shop, their brotherhood, and a thousand little other smiles and reflections. Afterall, judging music by the language is like judging a book by it’s cover. Yeah, SNS is part of that but it isn’t the sticking point. If anyone were to state Lady Gaga made it simply because of a huge social media presence (which she has), we’d recognize the lie. Yet, we seem to have bought this lie: Kpop can’t have huge fandoms simply for the sake of the groups and music. Nope, it’s for the sake of the social media popularity scam - our over focus on YT views perpetuates this lie by signalling to others, that, yes, that’s what we care about. So, does it really matter? Well, yeah, social media does “matter” but not as much as you think. It matters the way the menu and the local Tex-Mex dive restaurant matters. Whether it’s a chimichanga, taco or tostada, you’re gonna pour a shot of tequila on top of it and it’s gonna wind up in the same place next morning.
3) Why you should be patient and understanding. Two overdrawn bashing points were laid down to say this: YT does have it’s uses. It has great value as a means, during comebacks, to show support to artists and unity in the fandom. After seeing events over the last two weeks, I have a strong impression that both 90% of Army and Blinks take this view. They set goals and work together to achieve them in hopes of demonstrating their love and interest in their group. They have fun with it. Even as more mainstream numbers affect the view counts, we know the majority of views come from fandom streaming. Does streaming represent critical success? No. Is streaming really that difficult?? Nope. Are streaming numbers artificial? Of course! But the love that goes into those numbers isn’t. Remember, there are Army and Blinks who will never go to a concert, some don’t have the money to buy subscriptions and even if they did they live in a place where the infrastructure can’t support it, some parent had to save money to buy their child an album, some kid saved money to buy a hoodie or plushie, and some will never even have that. Free YT is really their only way to access music and express their solidarity. It’s understanding that teenagers (and yes, it’s largely that group) get upset when they feel slighted and say things they ought not say. Meet it with kindness and engage in conversation.
When someone says YT is being unfair, remember point #1 and meet that person with understanding but remind them that such is YT’s problem, not the fandoms. It’s also important to call out nastiness from any group. I don’t care if it’s just 5 tweets from impulsive teenagers, antis or trolls. We all know there are a lot of wolves in sheep’s clothing in Kpop; there are A LOT of antis and trolls who pollute the atmosphere and we get sucked into that - I know I have. For example, I dropped a stupid comment about Jennie’s blond wig a few weeks back. I got sucked in, I was worked up, and I regretted it within the span of about 20 minutes. I apologize for that remark; it wasn’t necessary and accomplished nothing except making me look like a fool. We all do these things from time to time. But we all know 90% of the fandoms are just here for the party. Where Blinks and Army are concerned, we all know lots in those fandoms overlap! Many have said it but, remember to stan the group, not the fandom.
4) Why it’s important to keep the perspective. BTS just sold 3+ million albums with more to come, appeared on SNL, is preparing for a stadium tour and Billboard stage, ended the first part of their Save Me webtoon (for which I will continue to live in existential angst, thanks BH). Blackpink has their own unique and exciting ventures - the biggest being an appearance at Coachella which was well received. And yet, this morning, a tweet trolling exhibition was mixed up in all of that; at the root of it was gripping over YT being unfair. Yeah, I’m sure that’s what BP and BTS wanted to see for their hard work…. As stated, YT has its uses and we should be patient to genuine anxiety, but if we don’t keep proper perspective recognizing YT for what it is, we will reduce Kpop to a popularity contest and a pissing match reinforcing lazy media biases that promote the stereotypical view of Kpop as meaningless bubblegum pop; as inferior to Western artists. We will set in motion the vitriol that could kill the wave. Who is and who isn’t the most toxic fandom? What are you even doing now?? When the fandoms are viewed as a piddling mess of high schoolers vying for Prom Queen votes, we’ve already lost, all of us. There are a ton of bandwagoners circling around BP and BTS right now; many of us will still be here long after that bandwagon has moved on. So, keep your perspective:
- YT is not transparent, it’s not equal across markets, it’s social media.
- We only think it matters because the media has engineered us to think it matters based on wrong information of what Kpop is.
- It isn’t remotely important to long term goals and fandom goals shouldn’t overshadow actual achievement by the groups. It's just one small indicator of potential success.
- But, do recognize these things are how fandoms create community through goals and express care for their artist. This is the only instance in which YT views really matter but should be framed in understanding what YT actually is, as well as what it’s capable and not capable of.
One day, BTS and Blackpink will not have YT records but good things will still come just like they do for the million of other artists who don't have YT records.
A word on BTS and Blackpink that might help. My own personal rant. They aren’t in competition with each other!! Stylistically, conceptually, musically, in message, in production, etc… they have two distinct musical and performance identities. You might like only one. You might like both. It’s ok. The only thing they do similarly is sing in the Korean language. Wouldn’t it be silly to compare Little Mix and Imagine Dragons simply because they both sing in the English language? BTS and BP aren’t even playing the same game and it’s evident at first sight. BTS are playing baseball and BP are playing tennis. You may like both sports, you may simply prefer one, you may dislike one, you may dislike both. But let’s compare the athletic virtues of Serena Williams and Mike Trout while we’re at it? It doesn't make any sense! Comparison is a thief of joy. Comparison is an act of violence against oneself.
Our connection to a performer or artist is based upon our own identity and needs. In the interest of full disclosure, I have been honest that I’m not a fan of BP. I do not prefer their style of music. I also have issues regarding their representation of female empowerment. BUT, those are my ideas and those ideas are shaped by my own identity and life experiences. There are others who will disagree with me based on their own identity and life experiences and that’s ok. Neither of us is right or wrong. We can all offer objective criticism but when it veers into comparison to others, we run the gamut of bitterness and of losing sight of what we fell in love with in the first place.
Just…, be clear in your intentions. If you dislike BP or BTS, or a song, or performance, whatever..., that’s fine but offer objective criticism on the merits alone without comparing them. A good place to start will be to see the YT race for what it is, using YT for more appropriate and meaningful purposes, and, thereby, not letting yourself fall into the fake competition that builds angst and disdain. If you like both groups, well, you’re the happiest person in the world right now, or at least you should be…, if not for the tribalism.
We all want the best for our groups. We want them to have the recognition we feel they deserve. “O brawling love! O loving hate! O anything of nothing first create.” Shakespeare was describing our human propensity to direct hatred at entities we perceive as threats to the thing we love. Luckily, in music, appreciation is not a finite resource. One gaining a foothold does not inherently diminish the other. I think this is PARTICULARLY true with these two groups given their differences. We need to be a little bit more careful in differentiating objective criticism and dislike (which should stand on its own merits) from competitive comparison which leads to…., well…, at the end of that play…., Romeo and Juliet were dead.