The Korean boy band BTS released a new version of the album ‘BE’ today. An album that is guaranteed to sell like hot cakes again. The group has millions of fans worldwide, but what appeals to them about BTS? We let the fans explain it themselves.
BTS is currently the biggest boys band in the world and they didn’t become that overnight. The group has been around for nearly eight years, during which time they have grown from a group of moderate popularity in their home country to the first K-pop group to receive a Grammy nomination. But how did seven guys from South Korea manage that? We asked the people who know best, their loyal fans.
Growth in the West
Although BTS is now a global phenomenon, the group started in their home country of South Korea. There they had a small, but loyal fan base since their debut on June 13, 2013. But there are also some fans from the very beginning in our country. For example, our survey shows that 36 respondents (6.9 percent of the total) were fans of the group in 2013.
But in our figures it is also very clear that BTS became more popular in our regions from 2017. In 2017 BTS’s Love Yourself series started in which they scored some of their biggest hits such as DNA, Fake Love and IDOL. In total, 66.1 percent of those surveyed became acquainted with BTS in the period from 2017 to now. In 2017, 18.9 percent of those surveyed became fans of the group, in 2018 that figure grew to 23.7 percent and in 2019, another 12.9 percent of those surveyed were added.
The corona year 2020 was also a successful year for BTS. Many fans (10.6 percent of our respondents) got to know them during the Carpool Karaoke in The Late Late Show with James Corden or by their monster hit Dynamite.
For nearly 60 percent of those surveyed (59.2 percent), BTS was the first K-pop group they met. Almost half of the fans (48.7 percent) discovered BTS via Spotify or YouTube. Something we also saw with the fans of K-pop in general. In addition, many people (27.4 percent) also became acquainted with BTS through a friend or family member who recommended the music to them.
Nearly half of BTS fans say they’ve already participated in the group’s fanbases. The best-known example of this is #MatchAMillion. That action was in response to the million dollar donation BTS made to the Black Lives Mattermovement. Fans also collected a million dollars to deposit in 24 hours Black Lives Matter. In addition, promotions are also organized for members’ birthdays, in which fans donate money to organizations that are committed to matters that are close to the heart of the members.
“The secret behind the success”
Millions of loyal fans who are even willing to do their bit for a good cause, you don’t just collect them. So we asked the fans what makes BTS so special, what is the big secret behind their success.
Sincerity and authenticity
A first answer that often returns is the sincerity and authenticity of the members of BTS. RM, Jin, SUGA, j-hope, Jimin, V and Jung Kook share a lot of their lives with their fans. They do this via social media or in live streams, but also in the various reality series that the group has. So there is BTS Run that appears almost every week, Bon Voyage in which the members travel abroad and recently also In The Soop whereby the seven relax in nature for a week.
The members are always candid and dare to speak about their own insecurities and mental problems, subjects that are often seen as taboo in South Korea. This creates a close bond between the members of BTS and the fans.
“They give us the honesty, the hard truth sometimes. They let us know that it is okay to feel what we feel, to be insecure, to be sad, and they encourage us to get through it (!) With them. I think that’s really the best thing you can do as an artist. ”
“They are seven guys who are themselves and where everyone recognizes themselves in one of the members.”
“They are incredibly talented men, who are funny, compassionate and passionate and who still remain as modest with their incredible success. That does them. I think the openness to their fan base through all kinds of media channels, Twitter, Facebook, Weverse, VLive, Instagram… does a lot. As a result, their fans take action through the same channels. They need their fans and their fans need their funny, serious, reassuring interaction. They give that and that makes them great. ”
“The music is so sincere and personal that you feel a personal connection. This is further enhanced by their presence on social media where interaction with the fans is possible. It’s also really clear that they really care about ARMYs, it doesn’t seem forced or acted out. The fact that Jung Kook had ARMY tattooed on his hand says enough. They love us as much as we love them and you feel that as a fan too. Several songs have been written for the fans that are also very emotional. You feel that their appreciation is real for us. ”
Started from the bottom
Another reason that is often cited is the history of BTS. When BTS started in 2013, their Big Hit Entertainment agency was on the brink of bankruptcy. In their early years, the future of BTS was therefore anything but rosy and it was thought several times to quit.But the seven members of BTS persisted, becoming world stars and turning their agency into South Korea’s most profitable entertainment company.
Through that troubled past, BTS has cultivated a mindset that nothing is just thrown into your lap and that you have to work hard to achieve anything. According to many fans, that is the reason why they still work passionately on their music today.
In addition, the close friendship between the seven lives of BTS is often cited. They have been living and working together for more than ten years now and have grown into a kind of family during that time.
“The fact that they were the underdogs in their early years, but despite everything they never gave up and kept believing in themselves. Started from the bottom, now they’re here. ”
“BTS is also known for them underdog story, they debuted under a small organization in a very competitive industry and managed to outstrip everyone. I find that inspiring. ”
“Because of all the setbacks that BTS has experienced at the start of their career, they have a sober view of their success. You can tell by how they still thank their fans for every award or how they still give everything on stage and in their music. They never floated and realize that they owe everything to their fans. ”
Another, and not to be underestimated, aspect of BTS’s success is their international image. They mainly owe this to leader RM, who is fluent in English. As a result, the group was soon able to get foreign interviews, so that fans abroad were also introduced to the personalities of the members of BTS.
“BTS was one of the first groups to also go to international fans. They did this, for example, by using English subtitles in their content. ”
“BTS has also been able to use RM who can speak English. You notice in the groups that are stronger abroad that almost always someone can speak English and with new groups much more attention is paid to this. I think foreign media are slightly more inclined to invite groups where communication is a bit possible. ”
The fact that the members of BTS participate in the production of their songs is also an important reason for the success of the group, according to many fans. That way they can bring up topics that they themselves consider important and that are also meaningful to their fans.
“All members of BTS are very talented and because Big Hit gives them a certain creative freedom, they can come up with more special and unique themes. As a result, you can really hear and feel in their music that it was written by them. I think that’s something that hasn’t happened very often in K-pop because not many other groups and artists were given a lot of creative freedom like BTS. ”
“BTS is genuinely passionate about music. This coupled with their talent for copywriting, singing, dancing… ensures that they can touch listeners. BTS’s music is so good because it has emotion, and is not just written to bring in money and do well on the radio for three months. Fans are seeing this and are eager to give back. Thanks to the efforts of the fans, who see how genuine BTS is, they are so successful. ”
“I think it has a lot to do with the messages they convey with their music. They sing and rap on topics that are not discussed even by Western artists. In their music, they often criticize society, the school system, they talk about mental health, loneliness, feeling lost in the world, having no dreams or aspirations, losing your passions, moving on, there are also songs that LGBTQ + fans get a lot of support from because they queer coded and can be interpreted in certain ways. They also write their own songs so you know that the lyrics are often very sincere and personally written. They want to convey personal messages in their songs. Things that everyone can identify with but that no one else seems to sing about. ”
In addition, many fans also quote the fandom themselves. The loyal group of fans also ensures that the fans have a close group of friends. Many of those fans have also made new friends through their shared love for the group, sharing their findings, experiences and emotions through social media or group chats.
“BTS has, I think, something of a”perfect societyCreated among the fans. Of course our fandom is not perfect and it is whole toxic sometimes. But we are also a fandom who donates, who supports, who is honest, who is sweet, who gives our heart for everything and everyone that is good, and I like the idea of this “family“Just really beautiful.”
“Through BTS I got to know a whole new group of people, a community of which you are a part. A community that is very inclusive and that was certainly able to offer a lot of support during the lockdown. You feel that you are part of a greater whole together with like-minded souls. ”