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Money-Hungry Music Label Companies and the Search for a “New” BTS

Image Courtesy of BTS Official Facebook

By Katie Van Lew 

No one could have possibly imagined the success Korean pop group, BTS, has been capable of culminating. Nearly a decade ago, the group was compiled of seven, charming yet unknown individuals. They were merely a boy band, like the many boy bands such as NSYNC and Fall Out Boy that rise and fall throughout the years. 

Except BTS was different. Since their emergence in 2010, the boy band has skyrocketed in popularity and listenership worldwide. On the streaming service, Spotify, BTS has 27,390,804 monthly listeners, and a whopping 29,374,524 followers…and counting. 

Most recently, the power group’s latest single, “Dynamite” has acquired 701,020,684 streams, while their music video for the single has amassed 866 million views in as little as 6 months.

With their immense popularity and massive success, comes a fat check for music labels like Big Hit Entertainment. In 2020, the major record label for BTS generated a 507.9 million dollar revenue. With such a loyal fanbase, it is no surprise that fans are more than willing to buy any and all content the band pushes out, including tickets to live shows, merchandise, and limited screenings. In 2019 alone, BTS accumulated 130 million dollars in sales off of their merchandise store alone. Their limited screenings, Love Yourself in Seoul, generated 11.7 million dollars worldwide, whereas the other screening, Bring The Soul: The Movie grossed 24.3 million dollars worldwide.

Yet it seems as though BTS’s larger-than-life success is not enough to quench the thirst of money-hungry executives. 

In early February 2021, Big Hit Entertainment and Universal Music Group announced that the two labels would be collaborating to search for a new Korean-pop boy band. The two mega music companies are joining forces to create a television competition show, similar to that of The Voice and American Idol, that will focus on seeking out a Korean boy band that will take the global music industry to the next level.

“We will strive to secure competitive platform leadership and develop a top group of artists through the close partnership between our two companies, enabling K-pop to transcend all borders and languages,” said Lenzo Yoon, CEO Global & Business of Big Hit Entertainment. “This project is especially significant as it will apply Big Hit’s ‘success formula’ established over the past 16 years to the US, the center of the global music market.” 

With the music and entertainment industries being among the most lucrative businesses, it is not surprising that UMG, which has produced American superstars such as Lady Gaga, would want to collaborate with the powerhouse that produced BTS. The two companies claim that their intent in a live singing competition show that highlights Korean talents is based on their wishes of “innovation” in the global music industry, yet it is moreso believable and entirely evident that these powerhouse companies are seeking a great and steady financial promise.

Singing competition shows have been around for decades, so there should be no surprise nor controversy in wanting to find the “next big thing;” yet the notion that there is undiscovered talent out there that can do it “better” or be “bigger” than BTS is a lie in itself. The harsh reality is that music industries use and abuse their clients until the money runs dry, or until these labels predict a plateau in revenue. Although it is quite valid to ascertain that BTS can not keep up record-breaking revenues forever, the music industry proves time and again to be “innovative” when they really just invalidate their musicians. Simply put, it should not be about who can be “bigger” but who can do it differently.

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