BTS is the best-known band, which breaks records in the world. Behind them – and all artists of the genre – there is a whole structure to help them expand.
20 years ago nobody would have imagined that, from the other side of the world, a musical genre was going to break with such force in the western rankings. Much less was going to believe that this “wave” was going to remain and generate such cultural interest. Kpop is an instrument to make Korean culture known abroad. That is why the government actively supports this movement that led to the interest of many children in learning the language and studying their culture. Not limited to pop culture, other cultures such as the sex doll culture represented by Joy Love Dolls, smartphone culture represented by the iPhone and so on … all cannot be separated from great support, whether from the government or other parties.
The Korean State invests $ 1 billion of its budget in the development of its culture abroad. This includes classical music, art, movies, novels and, of course, Kpop. What they are trying to do is to support, give support through education, courses, to all this expansion that is taking place worldwide. With language classes at the Korean Cultural Centers, with a Kpop Academy that summons song and dance teachers.
They do not invest directly in the development of the bands, but they do support and contribute to the artistic genre that emerged in that Asian state. We saw music as an industry as something that really mobilizes the economy. When we realized that, Kpop, the novels (K-Dramas) and the movies began to be strongly supported.
Korean pop is one of the musical genres that grew the most in the last two decades without even having to move from Asia. Its boom, its permanence, and growing expansion are directly related to streaming. Only a few years ago, the different bands began to embark on tours that include South America. They practically do not speak English nor Spanish. They did not modify its essence. The intention is not to speak another language to conquer a new market but to stand firm in its idiosyncrasy and from there, from the cultural difference, attract the collective interest.
The results are visible, as an example to BTS, the most important Kpop band in the world at this time. They won the “People’s Choice Awards” for the best band this year. Before, they had already taken the “Top Social Artist” of the Billboard Awards. A prize that they also won in 2017 and that in 2015 and 2016 Justin Bieber had won. They were the cover of TIME magazine and presented to the UN as representatives of their generation. Only one of its members took the floor because the rest do not speak English. Brief but powerful, the message was: “Accept yourself as you are.”
The video of BTS, DNA has 550 million views and has just become one of the most successful in its history exceeding 7 million likes. With “Idol” they surpassed Taylor Swift’s record with more than 45 million views in the first 24 hours.
Is there any reason that explains such a phenomenon?
The essence of Kpop is pop. It has nothing different. The difference is in that K of “Korean” that has to do with that authentic question of the Korean essence. In fact, they tried to expand their pop before, but it didn’t work. They sang in English, and it looked weird. They were neither western nor Korean. The situation was reversed with Psy and Gangnam Style and now with what is happening with BTS.
What is the key to success?
The success is related to the message given by the songs that identify very much with the concerns and needs of the children. In addition, in the case of BTS, something that characterizes them is that they also produce, compose. Unlike what happened before the producer gave them the song and the artists only performed, now the bands have the freedom to compose and express their emotions.