Today, we’re gonna talk about a growing music trend. The latest Kpop international phenomenon — BTS. Back in the day, I used to be a huge fan of H.O.T., ShinHwa and BoA. If you’re not familiar with those artists, they were the big hits in South Korea back in the late 90s and early 2000s. So, it’s amazing to see new Kpop acts make massive waves in the US today. Part of their huge success is actually attributed to one of ways music is changing rapidly – and that is, social media.
On Twitter, BTS has a whopping 15.2 million followers, 8.9 youtube subscribers, 11.1 million followers on Instagram. For a Kpop act, this is a pretty big deal. So, how is a Kpop act that sings almost purely in Korean making waves in the US? In today’s podcast, we’ll be covering just that. We’ll be talking about what Kpop can teach you about music marketing, specifically through the context of BTS.
First, a brief little rundown of how Kpop has performed in the US based on the Billboard Charts. Back in 2009, Wonder Girls peaked at no. 7 on Hot 100 with their single “Nobody”. Then, Psy broke the Internet drawing billions of views on his music video on YouTube, “Gangnam Style. The song also peaked at no. 2 on the Hot 100 back in 2012. This song made Kpop history, and Psy became the first Kpop act to perform at the American Music Awards. Now, BTS is selling out American arenas, has peaked no. 1 on the Billboard 200 (which is the first ever for a Kpop act), became the 6th most watched music video within a 24 hour period (beating Taylor Swift’s Bad Blood) and has an ever growing international following. And they’re doing this with non-English songs, no US promotion or gimmicks.
So, what can we learn from them?
First, I want to say they’re ridiculously talented. That’s important and I want to acknowledge that. You can’t do this without talent. Now, in the next few minutes, I’ll cover a few big observations I’ve researched that you can apply as a DIY musician.
1.) BTS is hailed as the Kings of Social Media.
In fact, they’re a world record holder in “The Guinness Book of World Records 2018” for the most Twitter engagements by a boy band. And this has done two big things to their brand: build authenticity and keeping fans connected. How can you apply this? Respond to your fans! It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it. Connecting with your fans shows you care about them, you see them, and it makes for a more authentic connection. Social media is literally a space to digitally socialize. Hence, social media. But we often forget that part and just consume content. Take time to start a conversation with your fans, retweet things they might say about you, or like their activity.
2.) BTS frequently has content for fans to look forward to.
Frequent content allows you to maintain your visibility among your fans. Both engagement and content allows fans to feel more connected with you. Some of the content that BTS creates on their social accounts include covers, dance parties, frequent updates on what they’re doing and their music, notices on planned events and even impromptu events, and even album releases on social (before they do on a formalized press tour). This shows that their fans are first in their career and their fans are valued. So, naturally, fans look forward to content they produce.
As a DIY musician, think about your own content. What kind of content can you share that helps you build authenticity and a real relationship with your fans? What about content that makes them feel important and in the know? What kind of content are you producing that keeps your fans coming back to connect with you?
Based on the example I just shared, this can include behind the scenes, casual life on-goings and thoughts, planned events (meet and greets or performances), impromptu performances (digital or live in-person), mini covers, words of encouragement, etcetera.
3.) BTS has an ARMY of fans. Literally, they’re called the BTS ARMY.
Engagement and content help to build your own “army” or “tribe”. And this isn’t just followers on a page. These are super fans that feel genuinely connected with you and adore your music so much they buy anything you put out, watch you perform when they can and even act as your street team, mobilizing your music. Super fans are pretty common for successful artists — both big and small. Taylor Swift’s fans are called Swifties; Justin Bieber fans are Beliebers; Beyonce fans are part of a “BeyHive”. Highly engaged artists have highly engaged fans that have a sense of belonging.
For BTS, that sense of belonging is like a powerful task force, fighting for the best for their idols. Hence, BTS Army. To give you an idea of how their super fandom is, check out their fan-based US website at btsxusa.com. When you enter the website, you have to identify yourself. At the time of this recording, you have a choice between two options to enter: the first is saying you understand a BTS reference; and the other is that you don’t. When you click that you don’t, it takes you to the BTS profile page that helps you get acquainted with the band as well as its bandmates. If you click the other option, it just takes you straight into the website.
This is pretty savvy, because even the fans are thinking about how to engage with traffic and ways to maximize the potential fan’s fandom conversion, so to speak. The most interesting part of this fan site is the “Army To-do”, which is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a task list for fans to do to help their beloved BTS make charts on radio stations, gain award show votes and increase their Shazam activity. The BTS Army is a serious force, with many fans working hours voluntarily to see their idols make it on their charts and succeed.
And I’m sure you’re thinking this yourself. How on earth can you possibly match up that kind of super fan? It will definitely demand a lot of time to do, but it is possible. As a DIY musician it’s important to note that there is a key difference between a passive social media follower and a committed, engaged super fan. Building that type of connection takes time and energy.
So, what can you do to build a sense of belonging and connectedness in your own social media platform? Make sure to start by building engagement, creating content that fans keep returning to, and be open with what your hoping to see without being spammy. Back in 2015, BTS said that winning an award on a show was one of their biggest goals of the year. In turn, this made fans want to see them get their biggest goals of the year.
I’d love to hear more about what you’re doing! If you enjoyed today’s podcast and you have an idea on how to build a sense of belonging for your fanbase, make sure to join the private Facebook group and share your ideas. I’d love to hear from you.