Original Content
Posted by exocomebaek AKP STAFF Monday, May 20, 2019

[OP-ED] How did BTS get so big?


[OP-ED This post reflects the opinions of the author and not those of allkpop.]

Before I start this article, I just wanted to start by saying that this is in no way supposed to disrespect BTS because even though my user is exocomebaek, I am an Army too! BTS was the first group that got me into this wonderful world of K-pop. Now with that out of the way, this article is an analysis of how BTS got to the level of fame and success they are currently at now. In this article, I will be looking at various reasons such as the marketing strategies taken by their entertainment agency, the good timing they entered the western market and the way they are presented to explain how they got to where they are.

Firstly, BTS has always aimed for a global market and they were one of the first K-pop acts to gain huge success in the Western part of the world. This is not meant to discredit other pioneer K-pop acts such as Psy, Big Bang, Wonder Girls, and Girls' Generation. While other groups may have been able to break into the Western markets, no other group has managed to get the same widespread popularity as BTS currently has. One key point in their career would be their performance at the 'American Music Awards.' BTS was the first K-pop group to perform at an American award show, which was then broadcasted to a global audience. It was this performance that caught the eyes of many international fans. As many countries around the world actually rely on Hollywood for their prime source of entertainment, BTS’ performance on a widely broadcasted program really skyrocketed them to fame as they were many fans’ first encounter with K-pop.

Adding on, the reason why BTS managed to breakthrough into the Western market and gain rapid popularity there would be the global outlook the group and Big Hit had from the start. BTS was one of the first groups to fully embrace and even attempt to understand and assimilate into Western culture. This is not to say that BTS is not in touch with their Korean roots, but to emphasize how they were extremely accepting of the difference between Western culture and culture they were familiar with. They appeared on the program 'American Hustle Life', very early on in their career (2014, when they were just one year in) and through the program, even though they were unfamiliar with the different way of life in America, they were not afraid to ask questions and try to understand why things were different. This is unlike any other K-pop group I have seen because while most groups are accepting of cultural differences, I have never seen a group go to such lengths to understand the Western culture and embrace it with open arms. I think their global mindset right from the get-go was one of the key points to their success.

Next, this is a small point but something I found interesting to bring up. I think the timing as to which BTS entered the market was very beneficial to BTS because they came at a time where there was little competition in the boy band market in Hollywood. What I mean is that there were no other prominent groups/bands at the moment and that is why they immediately caught the attention of fans when they broke into the scene. BTS was in Hollywood’s spotlight in 2017 because of their 'AMA's' performance. At this point, many popular bands of our generation such as One Direction, Fifth Harmony, 5SOS, and Little Mix were all either taking a break to work on their new album or on a hiatus. This left many fans waiting for the return of their favorite groups without any no new content from their bias groups. Seeing that BTS is a talented group with very likable members that share a warm family-like dynamic, BTS won the hearts of fans that were previously fans of other groups prominent in Hollywood at that time. (Please note that this is based on my discussions with other international fans, what I observed as I saw many fan accounts of these bands starting to become fans of BTS at that time and my own personal experience.) I think BTS came at a good time because, in a way, many fans enjoy being a fan and enjoy having a group to follow, stan and look up to. BTS bursting into the scene at the right time solved the problem of us not having a group to stan since most of our favorite groups were on a break at that time.

Also, to add on, since BTS was many people’s first exposure to K-pop, I think it opened up the eyes of many since their way of performing is so different from other Western acts. While BTS showed the standard that almost every single K-pop group adheres to, this wowed many people because most Western acts don’t put up elaborate performances complicated choreography as K-pop groups do. Of course, there are exceptions, like the queen Beyonce, Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, and many more artists. However, there are a lot of Western artists who keep their performances simple because it is difficult for them to dance while singing if they are a solo act or mainly a vocalist. I think the biggest difference is that BTS is not just a bunch of singers and rappers on stage. They are a group of performers and that is why their performance blew so many people away. They showed great balance through strong singing, rapping, dancing and stage presence. While this is common in the Kpop industry because many K-pop idols go through years of training before they debut, this is less common in Hollywood where talents are scouted, groomed within a few weeks or months before they are already performing on stage. This difference is one reason BTS managed to catch attention and gain recognition when they had their appearance on the 'AMA's'.

Moving back to my point about BTS being very likable boys, I just wanted to note how all 7 of them are presented extremely well. The image BTS is very wholesome and proper and they genuinely seem like nice boys who stand for amazing things. From donating money to charity to speaking at UNICEF to rally for change, BTS has always promoted good messages and good core values that people should get behind. Even through their music, the songs they produce often come with beautiful and inspiring lyrics that not only encourage but motivate their fans to treat others kindly, want to do better, always push themselves to their fullest potential and most importantly, love themselves. BTS has always stood for powerful messages and they are a group that kids, teens, and even adults can get behind because they stand for things that everyone can and should support. I think this is one of the reasons why they are so (deservingly) loved by any and everyone around the world.

Next, I will move onto the entertainment company that manages them, Big Hit. I think that Big Hit does one of the best jobs at protecting their artists and promoting them. Seeing that Big Hit was a smaller company, the managers of the company and even their CEO/ producer of the company, Bang PD, seem to have a close and formidable relationship with the boys. I say that because of the interactions that are seen between them, from how the boys can even joke around with Bang PD himself. Big Hit has always been smart about the way the boys are promoted, giving them many outlets and opportunities to showcase their charms and talents to fans. BTS is the K-pop group with one of the most amount of content for their fans with programs such as 'Run BTS!’, ‘BTS BON VOYAGE’, ‘BANGTAN BOMB’ and even special V lives that they film for their fans. This is extremely good marketing on the part of Big Hit as it gives fans so much content that we actually feel like a personal connection to the boys. Through many small snippets of the boys’ lives seen from the many different types of content they put out like ‘Eat Jin’ where Jin talks to us while he does his mukbangs, clips of RM talking about his music and what songs he enjoyed producing and videos of their daily lives with them interacting with one another, many fans fell in love with the boys because of their cute antics and down to earth personalities. BTS also aids this with their amazing presence on social media, like on twitter or fan cafes, as they frequently express their thoughts and emotions online to give fans small updates on their lives. Through the amazing marketing that gave them a huge online presence, we feel like we know the boys personally and this makes us want to root for them and support them even more.

When speaking about BTS’ success, I think one important factor to consider would be the members themselves. I think BTS is a group full of talent and there is no one member that is lacking in any way. However, I do think that there is one particularly important member and that is their leader, Kim Namjoon also known as RM. (I honestly think he deserves more credit) The reason why I say this is because, without Kim Namjoon, there would be no BTS. The group was formed around him and while there many amazing K-pop leaders, I think it is safe to safe that RM is one of the best in terms of leadership. RM not only brings the group together but the way he carries himself and presents himself and his group really make BTS stand out. He is also the bridge between BTS and the Western world as he is the member who is most fluent in the English language. When they first made their debut in Hollywood, the reason why BTS managed to express themselves well in America without the need for a translator is all because of RM. Despite being the most fluent member, he is seen to always try his best to encourage the other members to try to give their input even though they weren’t that confident in the language. Though RM himself is sometimes uncertain about some English phrases that the interviewers use, he never seems embarrassed to ask and learn more about it. This is another reason why I say BTS fully embraces the western culture because they even immerse themselves into the English language and they are fully willing to question and learn more when they don’t understand it. RM’s amazing leadership really brought BTS to where they are today and he is a prime example of how having a good leader can bring a group to success. 

Moving on to the final reason why I think BTS is able to get to this level of success, it would be because of their fans, Army. BTS has one of the most dedicated fandoms to ever exist. Armys just simply love and want the best for BTS so they work hard to get BTS seen and recognized. Armys are also one of the best fandoms at voting and streaming because of how organized fansites are at dispersing information to the fans to get them to vote and stream for the boys. BTS came from a small company but Armys never ever let that fact prevent the boys from being unseen or unheard. BTS will always be a success story of how underdogs of the Kpop industry rose up to be one of the top groups of our generation and this is because their fans loved them and did their best to make sure the rest of the world saw and recognized their talents as well. So one of the biggest reasons why BTS is so famous right now would be because of their extremely devoted fans who rooted for them, right from the start.

To end off, I think that there are so many talented and visually appealing idols out there. Don’t get me wrong, BTS has one of the strongest rap lines, their dance is amazing and the vocals suit their songs extremely well too, not to mention they always have amazing stage presence as well. BTS is full of amazing performers and good looking boys but I think what sets them apart is really everything that they stand for, the message they promote and just being seen and supported by the right people at the right time. BTS is a success story and they are so deserving of all the fame and success they are currently receiving. They, along with many other K-pop groups in the past, have really paved the way for K-pop. They opened doors for K-pop in the global market and allowed K-pop to be exposed to more areas of the world that previously had no clue to what K-pop even is. I hoped I managed to present and explain the reasons of why I think BTS made it so big well through this article. Here is to hoping the boys get even bigger so that they can continue spreading their positive messages to more people around the world and continue opening more doors for K-pop in the future!

  1. BTS
  2. V
  3. Jungkook
  4. Jimin
  5. Jin
  6. j-hope
  7. SUGA
  8. RM (Rap Monster)
  9. OP-ED
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Indigo_Palmyra1,584 pts Monday, May 20, 2019 7
Monday, May 20, 2019

Meh... Many Kpop artists have appeared on US tv and most Americans had their first exposure through Psy. Marketing through social media?? It helps but by that logic, many groups should have had success long before BTS. They marketed to the West but no more so or less than any other group. In a way, they catered less to non-domestic audiences because (unlike most other 3G groups) the boys are all Korean and they remain radically Korean. I do appreciate your efforts and agree with some; it's well thought out but...

You’re asking an incomplete question, my love! If you ask incomplete questions, you’ll never come to satisfactory answers. All music is subjective, filled with conceit and inspiration alike. Most pop music throughout the world is a sad lump of childish vanity; lots of people like to not think much and their investment is minimal. Other pop music attempts to move us beyond ourselves; lots of folk like that too and they work to shore up the levies of their heart. There’s also an in between ground. Simply put, fans develop a relationship with a performer based on how that performer speaks to their soul, identity, and needs. The degree of that relationship may be as deep as the sea or as shallow as a puddle. The question is this: Why is BTS so deeply special to so many? I’ve got 13 reasons why….

1 - The Inside Man & his Vision. Hitman Bang who saw the best of what the industry could be, found the courage, and saw it through.

2 - Upstart. Big Hit was a small company; they couldn’t compete with the big boys in Korea much less the global pop scene. Adaptation and innovation that challenges global pop norms rest at the heart of BTS. One can see it in the members and hear it in the music; BTS are made in the image of no one.

3 - Artists First. BTS are artist driven, not company driven. Most pop music is generated by the same producers/companies, following the same heavy handed patterns, predetermining standards based on an algorithm, overproduced and over engineered with a layered wall of sound lacking sincerity and breath, overplaying it until it sticks, and relying on adolescent themes. In a world where music is consumed like fast food, BTS offers a home cooked meal.

4 - Farm Fresh & Organic. Most pop music throughout the world is a commercial package; intensely manufactured or born of studio culture. But BTS’s imperfections are their strength; they’re not polished through regimen, conformity, and control; they’re human through their own creative efforts and expression. “But BTS also has commercial elements!!!” Yes… commercialization has always been a part of the music industry but can the product not be so ridiculously mercenary? See #3.

5 - Artistic Growth. They’re progressives, not traditionalists. This extends to the sincerity in their songs and the creation of the Bangtan Universe.

6 - Virtuosity. For my part, BTS is the most virtuosic artist in existence today. Virtuosity describes master skill in the musical arts. This covers numerous elements: Musicianship, dance, production, composition, lyricism, poetry, theater, choreography, vocal skill, spoken word skills. When I line up popular artists throughout the world, BTS is the group who meets all of these indicators - not necessarily at mastery levels - but the presence, the essence of the quality is ever present.

7 - Meaningful message and Han. Most pop artists sing songs about love, partying, faux empowerment and beauty that’s written and produced by somebody else. But BTS’s personal struggles, melancholy and joy are in their music which focuses on emotional health, existential themes, criticism of pop culture, national tragedy, and literary allusions and art themes. I couldn't peg just what, for me, made BTS different from other "idol" groups until I read a reddit post and discovered this idea of Han. They represent their people (not their industry) through their quiet musical spirit; it's what allows them to speak across language barriers. There’s no direct translation to English or Spanish but even non-Koreans can feel it across age and race demographics…

8 - Engrossing and Raw Visuals. They aren’t over-rehearsed, recycled, pantomimed or played out; you feel unrestrained energy and individualism that is not hidden behind a costumed package. Nor are they hyper sexualized or vile in expression for the sake of juvenile imaginings. The message is clean & purpose driven.

9 - Independent Culture & Dual Identity. For BTS, Kpop is only one small part of a much larger musical and human identity. Duality of identity builds balance, health and inclusiveness which has allowed them to rise above expectations and compete on a global stage transcending what Kpop could do. The receipt: “You can call me artist, you can call me idol, no matter what you call me, I don’t care. I’m proud of it, I’m free, no more irony, I was always myself”.

10 - The Human Connection. They are Baepsae, the dirty spoons, a nugu group of pretenders, underdogs, the unwanted, those the Kpop fandom ostracized as usurpers, those who weren’t supposed to make it and, by their growth, managed to speak to and for the have nots.

11 - Social Consciousness. See all of the above and place it in the context of their self proclaimed goal: To represent and protect youth from prejudice. BTS actively promote causes and priorities that better the world.

12 - Magic Shop. Melody without conjecture; only the embrace. Narrative & Connectedness. One can be still and know the ground is always beneath your feet.

13 - Inexplicable Bond. There is no measurable, data driven metric that can account for the devotion, fondness, and warmth that exists between the members. It’s born of their natural humility, empathy, and work ethic. There is self-awareness and sibling modesty in their treatment of one another that is beyond doubt; there are no one or two standout members - All are required, all are distinct. And, underneath it all, for these brothers, there is duty; there is love.

These tenants DO NOT exclusively belong to BTS. That would be arrogant!!! BTS is BTS. It is illogical to compare them to others, and futile to reason through the tribalism in pop music where fandoms perpetually fight over trophies that don’t exist. Others in and outside of kpop are not inferior or unworthy, as I said, many share some of the above qualities. But comparison is a thief of joy. Comparison is an act of violence against oneself. These 7 boys have won us all over, not in spite of their struggles or popularity, but because of their brilliance. Labels count for very little in the hearts of the people. BTS is not “like”, BTS is not “more”, BTS is not “less”, BTS is not “just”. BTS IS BTS, that is the case. 2! 3!


7 more replies


Menean1,509 pts Monday, May 20, 2019 0
Monday, May 20, 2019

I didn't even have to read between the lines to see the shade. You did have a couple decent points there, but this kind of article is exactly like the ones western media writes to downplay BTS' success and/or influence.

@Indigo_Palmyra already wrote an incredible comment about this so I won't breakdown your article, but I wanna mention that it has a lot misinformation, even if it's labeled as OPINION.



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