Even before BlackPink, MonstaX, NCT and other K-pop artists placed themselves in the American market, the genre was interested in America. But then why is it that when Americans think of K-pop they automatically think of BTS? How did this 7-member group that debuted in 2013 make such a big impact in the West despite the fact that many other groups like Wonder Girls and Girls Generation failed? The simple answer would be their massive fandom, but there is so much more to it.
Bang Si-hyuk, also known as “Hitman” Bang, the CEO of BigHit Entertainment was always interested in America. After the LA KCON and the positive reaction of the “Dark & Wild” Album, while BTS were getting into the Japanese market, he was analyzing what the American fans needed. The answer to his questions became the breakthrough for BTS in the form of the album “The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Part 1.”
The album was one of the first to show what a modern Korean pop group would look like. Through the music they created, BTS tells a story with all albums and songs connecting to one another. Each album has a message behind it that BTS’s members want to express. Usually, each album for a group is individualized and there is nothing constant. This is not the case for BTS, every album is connected to create a sort of universe that is slowly expanding. This idea is what got Western fans hooked.
Since the beginning, the group has had a very strong connection with their fandom known as ARMY. This connection is through their social media: they were one of the first K-pop groups to have a Twitter account. They also post vlogs on their Youtube channel BANGTANTV. On V Live, a Korean platform where Idols can talk to their fans, they post behind the scenes, short films, Run BTS episodes (the group’s own variety show) and much more. Now the company created their own social media platform called Weverse so the fans and the group can communicate with each other.
With BTS providing their fandom with all this content, the fans give back by breaking music records and helping them in any way possible. ARMY also use social media as their base to hold campaigns for the group. The fandom translates the videos that BTS make and analyzes the music videos trying to find how they are connected. This network has now become a sort of political force here in the U.S. due to BTS’s influence, known to be social activists, giving donations to different causes.
BTS created a story through music that got the fans’ attention. The attention created the large fan base that is known as ARMY. ARMY is technically the largest, most passionate group of followers. In an industry where numbers speak more than anything, this group is making BTS the most watched boy band group in the world.