To say that Bangtan Soneyondan – better known as BTS – is a popular band is a massive understatement. In the US alone, BTS has landed 26 songs on the Billboard Hot 100, 6 of which soared all the way up to #1, with one song (Butter), managing to stay #1 for 10 consecutive weeks. It would seem like BTS is an All-American classic, except for the fact that they’re from South Korea!
And that’s just the US. In 2022, BTS filled up all 15 spots on the World Digital Song Sales Chart – something which practically never happens. It seems like every time BTS speaks, their voices reach more hearts, more minds, and more souls. This band is dynamite and they’ve had an enormous impact on the music industry.
BTS isn’t just a boy band, but a group of seven really talented individuals whose distinct look, musical diverse style, and unmatched passion have positioned them to take over the music industry. Their brand has managed to do what few can: constantly evolve and yet remain consistent.
If you are a member of the BTS Army, then you’re going to love this article. But if you are a skeptic, still read it. These guys know what they’re doing, and you can learn a lot of marketing lessons from BTS. And yes, they are relevant to your business!
Listing all the reasons why BTS is successful would take forever, so I’m going to focus on four reasons:
- Each member of BTS has built a cult of personality.
- BTS are ridiculously skillful singers, dancers, musicians, and self-promoters.
- BTS constantly embraces change, and therefore doesn’t go stale.
- They have created a ton of music, giving them lots of chances to succeed while K-pop as a whole became increasingly popular in the West.
What exactly is BTS?
BTS is a South Korean boy band that started creating music in 2010. It consists of seven members – Jin, Suga, J-Hope, RM, Jimin, V, and Junkook. Along with their record label, Big Hit Entertainment, an industry leader that shares BTS’ commitment to forging new paths.
If you know them for one thing, it’s probably their hit single “Dynamite.” But if you’re more of a fan, you know them for their charismatic interactions, ability to talk about just about anything in their music, and their constant experimentation with genre.
But this is talking about BTS as a band. If you want to understand BTS as a massive social phenomenon important enough to speak at the White House, then you have to talk about the individual members first.
Every single member of BTS is charismatic – and there’s seven of them!
With seven members to choose from, if you’re even somewhat familiar with BTS, you’ll eventually start to find one of them really relatable. This is part of the magic of the group. It’s like watching a group of friends in school. They genuinely seem to get along and like each other, and it’s just a blast to watch.
You cannot understand the appeal of BTS until you know a little about the group’s seven members. Their personalities and their interactions really set BTS apart. The details matter a lot here, because it’s the infinite small details of BTS’ life and backstory that fans love to memorize. This is a large part of why they have such a big cult of personality.
RM: Kim Namjoon “Rap Monster”
Kim Namjoon was born on September 12, 1994 in IIsan-gu, Goyang, South Korea. Whether or not he was born with the rap skills needed to be called “Rap Monster” RM is unknown, but it sure seems like it.
RM is basically the leader of BTS, in addition to being a dancer, songwriter, singer, and unbelievably fast rapper.
RM was the first person to be recruited into BTS and he has led them ever since. He debuted in South Korea under the stage name Rap Monster, but ultimately started going by his initials, which he sometimes says stands for “Real Me.” He’s known for putting his spin on songs and has collaborated with different hip-hop genres and indie artists, including Primary, Don Mills, Gaeko, MFBTY, and Wale.
Rap Monster usually does the majority of the talking in BTS’ English-language interviews. This is because he became very proficient in English after teaching himself the language while watching Friends.
He even gave a speech at the UN, where he discussed the organization’s collaboration with UNICEF on the “Love Myself” campaign.
Jin: Kim Seokjin
Kim Seokjin was born on December 4, 1992 in Gwacheon-Si, South Korea. He is the oldest member of BTS, and he refers to himself as “Worldwide Handsome.” He is known for making dad jokes, as well as winking and blowing kisses at the camera. Some fans just know him as the funny, caring “mother” of BTS.
What’s funny about Jin is that despite being the oldest, he’s also the most easily startled. When he is terrified, he can also be highly dramatic, which provides fans with a ton of excellent memes and videos share. He’s also one of the band’s best chefs, and his “Eat Jin” video series chronicles his culinary explorations.
Jin has previously revealed that the reason he joined BTS was order to make his family proud. And it’s this big heart of his that endears him to the younger members of BTS both on and off-stage, where he is exceptionally kind. RM has even admitted that Jin gives him a lot of comfort when he feels worried during interviews, which only highlights Jin’s more vulnerable side.
Despite his self-assured demeanor and open heart, he’s also a hard worker. He’s demonstrably improved in his singing and dancing skills over the years.
J-Hope: Jung Hoseok
Jung Hoseok was born on February 18, 1994, in Ilgok, Gwanju, South Korea. J-Hope is his stage name because he wanted to bring hope and happiness to his fans. He’s even been called a “literal sunshine angel.” Within the band, J-Hope has became a talented rapper, songwriter, and dancer.
J-Hope enjoys making people laugh and having a good time, and is known for being amicably ridiculous pretty much everywhere he goes. If you listen to him talk in interviews, he will undoubtedly begin by saying, “I’m your hope, you’re my hope, I’m J-Hope.” If you’re ever in a foul mood, all you have to do is watch some J-Hope videos, and your day will instantly improve.
J-Hope has a take-charge attitude in dancing practice. He’s very serious about perfecting his performance. When he’s in dance teacher mode, he can be a little intimidating to those who look up to his dancing abilities.
J-Hope is also known to enjoy fashion and shopping in addition to dancing. He’s not afraid to experiment with new looks and enjoys using bags as accessories.
J-Hope is also very concerned about his friends and family, and he even wrote a song called “MAMA” in honor of his mother. J-Hope misses his family a lot, and at times, considered leaving the group for that reason. (We’re glad he didn’t!)
What’s interesting about J-Hope is that he didn’t know how to rap when he joined BTS. The other members helped train him. He is also constantly improving his musicianship and has become increasingly confident in the later part of BTS’ discography. He recently wrote the majority of “Dionysus,” a fan favorite from BTS’ album, Map of the Soul: Persona. He also released his own mixtape, Hope World, which has received millions of streams on services like Spotify and he intends to drop a second mixtape.
Suga: Min Yungi
Min Yungi was born on March 9, 1993, in Taejeon-dong, South Korea. The second oldest of the members, Suga is a good dancer, songwriter, and singer. He’s somewhat salty, slightly sweet, and almost always sleepy. Some regard him as the group’s sassiest member, particularly for his witty comments.
He is well-known for working long hours in his studio, yet when he has to take time off, he enjoys sleeping as much as possible. Suga has been honest about his difficulties with mental health in the hopes of encouraging others to do the same. He’s also made numerous statements in support of the LGBT community, although it’s a taboo subject in South Korea and has previously donated to orphanages.
He has released solo albums under the stage name Agust D, writes/produces music for BTS, and won the Hot Trend award at the 2017 Melon Music Awards for his work as the producer on singer Suran’s “Wine.” More recently, he produced a track for Epik High, whom he idolized growing up, titled “Eternal Sunshine.”
V: Kim Taehyung
Kim Taehyung was born on December 30, 1995, in Bisan-Dong, South Korea. V, also known as Taehyung, Tae, or TaeTae, is the latest addition to the group.
He hadn’t intended to audition for BTS’ record label, Big Hit, but rather had accompanied a friend for moral support. It was actually a staff member who persuaded him to audition. He is from a farming family and has stated that if he hadn’t joined BTS, he would have ended up doing the same thing.
The character of V may be described in one word: unique. His soulful and deep tone instantly distinguishes him from the other vocalists in the group. He enjoys experimenting with clothes and has a strong interest in art. Photography is one of his favorite interests, and he also appeared in the Korean historical drama, Hwarang: The Beginning. Despite his warmth and friendliness, V naturally prefers to keep most of his personal life private. As a result, little is known about his family or his childhood.
V also wrote solo songs including “Winter Bear,” “Sweet Night,” and “Singularity.”
Jimin: Park Jimin
Park Jimin was born on October 13, 1995, in Hoedong-dong, Busan, South Korea. Like others in the group, he is a talented dancer, songwriter, and singer.
Interestingly, Jimin had the shortest time as a trainee before BTS debuted and almost didn’t make the cut. Despite being a formally trained dancer, he had little experience with singing and had to continue to work hard on his vocals over the years. He appears to be much happier with his abilities these days, and he has no trouble hitting all the appropriate notes live.
Along with being affectionate, he is deeply concerned about the other members. If one of them becomes upset on stage, Jimin is usually the first to run to their side to console them. He is usually selfless and appears to prioritize others before himself.
The performer is also well-known for his successful solo work. He became the first Korean solo artist since PSY (of “Gangnam Style” fame) to have many songs do well on streaming services. Jimin set a Spotify record for three tracks with over 50 million plays each, which he has now surpassed with over 100 million streams each.
Jimin has recently become increasingly interested in composing music and writing songs. In his spare time, he also enjoys traveling and shopping.
Jungkook: Jeon Jeongguk
Jeon Jeonkuk is the youngest member of BTS, born in September 12, 1998 in Mandeok-dong, Busan, South Korea. He’s known on stage as Jungkook, and has also earned the moniker “the Golden Maknae” because he appears to be good at everything.
Jungkook is athletic, artistic, and handsome, in addition to being a good vocalist and dancer. Jungkook initially left his hometown at a young age to compete in a talent event for kids, and he was quickly spotted by various entertainment agencies. As previously said, he ended up joining Big Hit after being impressed by RM.
In particular, he was the only trainee sent to America for dancing training before their debut. He was only 15 years old when BTS debuted. Jungkook frequently says that because he left home at such an early age, the other members raised him and had a significant influence on who he is today. He’s also recognized for his video productions under the brand G.C.F (Golden Closet Films) and is fascinated by cameras. He enjoys filming and editing other members’ stuff materials in his spare time.
Also, Jungkook had breaking records with his solo music, including “Euphoria” and set a Billboard World Digital Sales record.
BTS worked their way up the Korean pop charts by being really talented in a number of ways
A big part of why BTS is so successful right now is their sheer charisma. Seven members leaves a lot of room for personality! But that’s not the only reason BTS worked their way up to worldwide superstardom.
South Korea has a thriving industry of agencies and companies that produce artists, especially in the music industry. These companies are always running auditions and looking for youthful trainees who are talented in a number of skills. The idea is to take raw talent and to train them to be superstars.
This means the music industry in South Korea is extremely competitive. So how did BTS manage to break through in their own home country, let alone the world at large?
The answer is simple but important: every single member of BTS is passionate, loves music, and works really hard to hone their skills. On top of that, most of the members joined with refined music talent in the first place. There are no slackers on BTS. Every single member is ridiculously talented.
BTS started when RM first met Bang Si Hyuk, the executive producer and CEO of Big Hit Entertainment in 2010. In its earliest form, BTS was built by Big Hit Entertainment running auditions in 2010 and 2011, with the initial lineup being finalized in 2012. That’s how Jungkook, J-Hope, Jimin, and Suga got involved. V and Jin ended up joining later.
These five guys all stayed in a single cramped house and slept in one room while they were recording their early music. The first album in their school trilogy series, 2 Cool 4 Skool, dropped in 2013. It caught on like wildfire, immediately positioning them as one of the hottest acts in South Korea, winning several New Artist of the Year awards.
Back in 2010, I was introduced to Mr. Bang [Bang Si Hyuk], our executive producer [and CEO of BigHit Entertainment]. I was an underground rapper and only 16 years old, a freshman at high school. Bang thought I had potential as a rapper and lyricist, and we went from there. Then SUGA joined us. [Third group member] J-hope was really popular as a dancer in his hometown. We were the first three! We debuted as a collaboration between the seven of us in June 2013. We came together with a common dream to write, dance, and produce music that reflects our musical backgrounds as well as our life values of acceptance, vulnerability, and being successful. The seven of us have pushed each other to be the best we can be for the last four years. It has made us as close as brothers. BTS as a group sort of took off with the success of our 2015 album that had our hit single “I NEED U.”Interview with RM of BTS, Time Magazine
BTS has a distinct and eclectic style both and music and clothing
One-hit wonders come and go, but BTS has stuck around for years. Much of this is because they embrace change, always making a new kind of music and always changing up their appearance.
South Korean pop music is perfectionistic and creative. Just look at the choreography of the dances, the complexity of the songs, the cleverness of the video editing, the precision of the fashion, and so on. Standing out in an environment like that is hard.
Yet each member of BTS has a distinct style. They all look different and wear different clothes. If we’re being honest, no one does fashion better than BTS right now.
For the uninitiated, BTS’s wardrobes reflect their superstar status, with labels ranging from American streetwear to Parisian couture and Japanese artisan fashion. Jin, RM, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook always look good in Hypebeast sweatpants or tailored suiting, with unbridled glamour and effortless cool.
And they’re always updating their style. Always. And not just in fashion.
BTS has created music in a ton of different genres, giving them more chances to succeed
BTS started as a record-smashing hip-hop group in South Korea. But they haven’t stuck to one genre. They’ve dabbled in pop, electronic dance music, funk rap, Latin, R&B, emo rock, trap, dance-pop, ballad, country, and dubstep.
With each album, they further branch out their music style, always trying new things. Just look at this non-exhaustive list of singles, albums, and EPs that BTS has created over the last decade. Keep and mind that each of these recordings went on to sell millions.
BTS already started strong with 2 Cool 4 Skool. Then they kept publishing more and more music, often dropping multiple albums, soundtracks, or EPs in a year. Because they’ve created such an enormous amount of music over such a wide array of genres, they have had many chances to succeed.
Around the same time that BTS was creating music, K-Pop was taking off in the West
By now, it’s clear that BTS has a lot of musical talent, a relentless work ethic, a good studio backing them up, a great fashion sense, and a never-ending supply of charisma. As if this were not enough, K-pop, in general, was starting to succeed in the United States as well, right as BTS was getting started.
K-pop was a very specific niche in the 2000s and early 2010s. You can find groups like Se7en, BoA, and Girls’ Generation if you were looking for them, but none of these bands ever broke into the Billboard 10. They stayed relatively obscure.
Then, in 2012, seemingly out of nowhere, Gangnam Style by PSY became a massive hit, and still to this day remains one of the most-watched YouTube videos. Meanwhile, YouTube, Twitter, and Spotify were getting really good at pushing people to more niche music, which helped introduce a generation of Americans to K-pop.
Then a few years later, BTS got really, really big in the United States. There was a huge untapped market for K-pop in the United States, and BTS was the right product for that market.
The rise of BTS in the West
BTS first visited Los Angeles in 2014 to film a Korean reality show called “American Hustle Life.” This exposed them to the broader western hip-hop culture. According to Vogue, the group’s initial sound was closer to rap than pop. They began making more upbeat dance tracks in 2015.
Soon, the group had a hit: I NEED U. In an interview with Time Magazine, RM said, “we didn’t realize we were becoming famous until we were invited to KCONs [K-pop music festivals] in the U.S. and Europe in 2014 or 2015. Thousands of fans were calling our name at the venue, and almost everyone memorized the Korean lyrics of our songs, which was amazing and overwhelming.”
Fast forward to 2017, and BTS made $2 million on a two-day concert series in Chile, where 12,500 tickets sold out in just two hours. Also in that year, they were nominated for Top Social Artist at the Billboard Music Awards. The group attended the show for the first time and drew a lot of attention from various entertainment news outlets that were more than curious about the rising group at the time. That night, BTS won their first American award, making them the first Korean act to do so.
That same year, BTS and DNA performed for the first time at an American award show, the American Music Awards (AMA). The group’s name became common among nominees and winners at every award show from then on.
In 2018, the group returned to the Billboard Music Awards, to perform Fake Love, which had a big impact on the stage and on social media, garnering the attention of other celebrities. Taylor Swift, John Legend, Pharrell Williams, and others spent the evening getting to know the guys and taking pictures with them. Following that, BTS was invited to different TV shows, including Ellen, America’s Got Talent, The Tonight Show, and others.
BTS has landed a ridiculous amount of songs on the Billboard Hot 100
The massive success of BTS in the West became possible because they made history on the American charts. They charted on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the first Korean boy group to do so. Their songs began to climb higher and higher on the Hot 100 over time, with Fake Love reaching the top ten in 2018 and Boy With Luv reaching the top ten in 2019. The lead single from their album Map Of The Soul: 7 reached #4 on the Hot 100 chart in early 2020, and a few months later, BTS achieved their first #1 with Dynamite, their first English single.
And it just kept happening. BTS had three more #1 songs on the Hot 1000 in 2020 including Life Goes On, which is in Korean. Butter and Permission to Dance also became #1 singles, and Butter even ended up breaking Dynamite’s records and becoming in the longest-running #1 single ever.
BTS has collaborated with tons of western artists. They’ve worked with Steve Aoki in Mic Drop and The Truth Untold, Halsey in Boy With Luv, and Megan Thee Stallion in the Butter remix. They’ve even worked with Coldplay in My Universe. Other less-known collaborations include Zara Larsson, Charli XCX, and Juice WRLD.
BTS has received a ton of awards for their work too
The tiny spark that began in 2017 with their first American award has grown into an unstoppable flame. BTS recently received their second consecutive Grammy nomination for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. They’ve also won awards including “Artist of the Year” for the first time in their career – another huge milestone since their debut in the western music industry.
In total, BTS has earned over 450 local and international awards, and another 630 nominations. They’ve gotten three Guinness world records for their social media presence.
Here’s a short list of their awards:
- 33 Mnet Asian Music Awards
- 29 Melon Music Awards
- 20 Golden Disc Awards
- 20 Seoul Music Awards
- 6 Korean Music Awards
- 19 Gaon Chart Music Awards
- 5 Billboard Music Awards
- 6 American Music Awards
- 6 MTV Video Music Awards.
They were the first K-pop group ever to top the US album charts, and Map Of The Soul: 7 has reached #1 on iTunes in over 91 countries and territories. They also have over 70.1 million YouTube subscribers.
BTS broke the Guinness World Records for Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok, reaching 60,151,959 million followers on Instagram alone.
Want to succeed in your own venture? Here are some things you can learn from BTS.
These seven guys won the hearts of millions not only with their songs, but also with their dance, stage charm, looks, and even their fashion sense. With so many BTS fans all over the world, it’s no surprise that they’ve started referring to themselves as the BTS Army. As the name implies, the BTS Army is massive. Almost every country exposed to Kpop music has a BTS Army, demonstrating BTS’s power over its fans.
The secret to the BTS’s colossal success is their love for music and the number of people they’ve touched with it. They have overcome language barriers and risen to be the best in a challenging industry, and show us just how much is possible.
So what can you do to be a little more like BTS?
- Be personal. A lot of the signature BTS charisma is just the guys getting on camera and being themselves. People respond to that sort of authenticity. Don’t be a robot – be a person!
- Get really good at your job. The members of BTS had talent to start with, yes, but they also have worked hard for years on end to get better and better. If you do the same, there’s no telling how good your business will become.
- Start local, then go global. BTS didn’t set out to conquer the world at first. They started at home, and focused on rising within the South Korean music industry first. The world came later.
- Master one thing, then expand. BTS has created music in a dozen different genres now, but they started as a hip-hop group. They mastered that before expanding.
- Keep creating. Perhaps the biggest reason BTS is doing so well is they keep publishing music. More albums, more EPs, more singles. They’ve given themselves dozens of chances to succeed, and some songs took off a lot more than others.
Do these things over and over for years, and who knows – maybe you’ll build up your own BTS Army!