BTS is not only a k-pop phenomenon in Asia, despite hailing from Korea. The seven-member all-male group is also popular in the U.S., rare for an Asian music group. BTS was the most tweeted musical group in the U.S. in 2017. When they descended upon Los Angeles to perform at the 2017 American Music Awards, Ellen Degeneres described the scene as if “the Beatles were here.” How did BTS become such a huge global sensation?
How BTS Began
The group is made up of Suga, J-Hope, RM, Jimin, V, Jungkook, and Jin and they got their start in 2010. Kim Nam-Joon, also known as Rap Monster or RM, first met Bang Si Hyuk, the group’s executive producer and CEO of Big Hit Entertainment in 2010. Bang thought RM had potential as a rapper and lyricist. Kim Tae-Hyung, known as V, might have become a farmer had he not been scouted.
Companies such as Big Hit Entertainment have different ways of recruiting talents whether it’s online or in real life. Suga was discovered in an online auction in the fall of 2010, while Jungkook was recruited by talent agencies after auditioning for “Superstar K”.
Boot Camp Training
As with other K-pop groups, BTS became trainees when they were only teenagers. They were coached on dancing, singing lessons as well as acting and media training. Jungkook, who is now 22, started when he was only 14 years old as a trainee and debuted a few months before turning 16.
The trainees spend about 3 years training to become superstars. But only about a person is selected from a dozen trainees. For instance, a total of 80 people may have auditioned for BTS, but only RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, V, and Jungkook passed the test. Big Hit Entertainment auditioned members for BTS for over two years and they debuted in 2013 as Bangtan Sonyeondan, which means Bulletproof Boy Scouts. Their first album is titled “2 Cool 4 Skool.” At that time, the bandmates were living in a cramped house sleeping in one room.
Achieving Success as BTS
BTS’s initial sound was closer to rap but in 2015, they began to create more upbeat dance tracks. Soon, the group took off with their 2015 album with the hit single “I NEED U”, and they were invited to K-pop music festivals in the U.S. and Europe in around 2014 or 2015.
Their fame extended to South America. A 2017 concert held in Chile was sold out in two hours with ticket sales surpassing $2 million. Revenue has been doubling for Big Hit Entertainment since BTS debuted in 2013 and the company was even considering an initial public offering.
BTS music typically includes messages about social issues for fans. When BTS debuted, it was rare for K-pop groups to use their music for explicit social commentary. The group has continued to shatter records with their album “Map of the Soul:7” being their fourth No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart.
Most notably, BTS broke a Guinness World Record for most viewed concert live stream in a virtual concert that was viewed by over 700,000 fans globally.