The reaction on BTS’ new album LOVE YOURSELF 承 ‘Her’ is most likely worldwide. BTS became the first Korean singer entering the Billboard Hot 100 chart and Billboard 200 chart at the same time. They are acclaimed to expend their market in the US stable by setting the highest records: no. 67 on the Hot 100 chart and no. 7 on the Billboard 200 chart. BTS realize the success in the oversea market, especially in American market that all Korean agencies attempted including SM, JYP and YG.
▲ K-pop artists’ manual 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 for entering American market
K-pop has been steadily knocking on American market. Rain in 2006, BoA and Seven in 2008 were benefited from media. Their strategy is considered as the 1st generation manual for targeting American market. The strategy was to promote them as celebrities in Asia and receive American media’s spotlight. Rain appeared in Hollywood films and BoA entered the Billboard album chart. They achieved what they hoped-for but that didn’t last long.
Wonder Girls in the US in 2009 is considered as the 2nd generation targeting American market. Their strategy was being totally localized/Americanized’. Through the local agency and promoter, they appeared on the opening stage of the most popular artists at that time like the Jonas Brothers. They appeared on local radios, magazines and TV programs for promotion. They worked as a ‘rookie’ partnering with the local agency. Through this format, Wonder Girls ranked no.76 on the Billboard Hot 100 with ‘Nobody’.
The trend of expanding the market to abroad in the past few years shows the elevated status of K-pop. The 3rd generation strategy is the active networking including the collaboration with local Popstars. CL of YG entertainment promoted herself by featuring Diplo’s track before debuting in the US. Not only networking with musicians, she is raising her popularity showing her friendship with a world-class designer, model and actor/actress.
▲ The 4th generation era of targeting American market: ‘Did BTS never debut in the US?’
Technically, BTS never expended their market to the US. BTS’ agency, BigHit entertainment doesn’t have a corporate body in the US, unlike SM, YG or JYP. Before winning at BBMA, they didn’t have an opportunity to appear on a local show through a local agency. Naturally, they couldn’t expect to use the network of American artists. Their promotion in the US is more like American fans imported BTS to their home country. By tremendous requests from American fans, BTS hosted a concert in the US consistently and these actions led their win at BBMA. That is the reality of BTS in the US.
As known, BTS could succeed globally and successfully entered American market because they utilize social media platforms actively and focus on genuine communication. They are very active and good at using social media such as Twitter and Facebook, video platform like Vapp and SoundCloud where they release unpublished songs. Through social media, their fandom gets formed, strong and expanded. However, their success in the US can’t be evaluated as the result of using social media actively. Seriously, is there any Kpop singer who is not fully active on social media?
♦ “We will do our music steadily just like now rather than have a goal entering American market.”
In last May, BTS held the press conference celebrating their Top Social Artist winning at BBMA. All attention was focused on their plan for American market. However, the answer from Rap Monster was unexpected. “We are grateful and happy. However, we believe doing music steadily just like now and communicate with fans is our way and ourselves rather than have an ambitious goal like entering American market. Our confidence in telling the story that only we can deliver is bigger than making a good result in the US” said Rap Monster.
BTS success is not from social media and YouTube, it is from their music, performance, and contents of communication through social media and YouTube. The contents they polished are the key, not the method or format. Most of all, their belief and viewpoint in music are the core of success. Their sharp social conscious and highly relatable message is the critical element making world audiences to expand and reproduce their music.
“The story only BTS can deliver”, Rap Monster’s answer to the question about targeting American market is in the end, the confidence in their contents. For them, delivering good music and contents takes priority before a strategic marketing plan with huge capital. They could succeed in the US because they kept the musician’s principle. Their fandom which is formed under BTS’ distinctive and sincere communication raises the group’s sustainability to another level. Above all, BTS know more than anyone that the people they need to be the closest are not a local agency, media nor oversea celebrities but the public.