BTS: Is The Western Music Industry Willing To Accept Them?

Since they made their debut in 2013, BTS have slowly but surely been breaking down barriers and making their way into the Western charts. Now, 5 years into their career they are solidifying themselves in the Western music industry with millions of loyal fans worldwide. However, the question that is on a lot of people’s minds remains, is the western industry willing to accept BTS?

BTS have catapulted into the US chart since 2015 where their mini album ‘The Most Beautiful Moment in Life part 2’ became their first entrance to the Billboard 200 and have only climbed higher and higher, now becoming the first Korean artist to top the chart and the highest charting album by an Asian artist with the record-breaking ‘Love Yourself: Tear.’ Whilst they have achieved these incredible achievements and have continuously broken down these barriers for themselves and potentially future Asian artists, they have not gained the full respect of the industry that they are becoming a part of.

Award Shows

BTS made their US television debut last November at the American Music Awards 2017 with their single ‘DNA’ and despite this becoming a major moment for not only BTS but for Asian representation in the West, it appeared to not focus on the artist. The televised performance shifted the focus away from the boy group with an obscene amount of pan shots of the audience and fans enjoying their US debut stage, which does not work within the KPOP performance due to the intense choreography. Likewise, at the Billboard Music Awards 2018, where the world debut performance of their single ‘Fake Love’ was unveiled, the same instance occurred again where fans felt that the boys’ efforts went amiss with viewers at home due to the cameras focus being on the fans rather than BTS themselves. It is evident that these award shows are fuelling BTS as a phenomenon rather that serious artists, as no other performances had such heavy audience footage at either award shows.

Radio Play

Despite being the highest charting Korean group and having numerous Billboard Hot 100 entries and even a Top 10 hit with ‘Fake Love’, it would be expected that BTS would have been a regular play for many radio stations. However, this is not the case as most of their airplay thus far has stemmed from mass request projects made by fans to even get a one-off spin for their singles.

The situations continues across the pond in the UK also. After making history as the first and only Korean group to enter the UK Top 40 with current single ‘Idol’, the radio play to aid their longevity is just not appearing despite such an achievement. Songs that are significantly lower charting or even not appearing on the Top 40 whatsoever are receiving much more air time than BTS ever have. A viral tweet showed that even on MTV’s Official Chart run down they refused to play latest single ‘IDOL’ stating that it ‘didn’t have a music video’ only seconds after discussing they how broke Taylor Swift’s 24 hour record for the most viewed music video.  It is appearing that maybe these stations are not ready to make the jump to having a foreign language artist as a regular play for their audiences despite matching the criteria perfectly.

Now while the majority of this article is showing the negativity attached to BTS’ stance in the western industry, we do need to focus on the positives. They are becoming regulars at the Billboard Music Awards, they have sold out a stadium in the US which many artists can only dream of doing and are about to host their first ever European tour which is completely sold out. Their US sales are on par with the top artists in America at the moment and only appear to be going up. Whether people want to accept it or not, they are becoming prominent figures in the music industry despite not having English songs because their fans feel the connection through their lyrics and the boys themselves.

So to answer the question, is the western industry willing to accept BTS? For the time being, it seems like they are viewed as a current phenomenon that is blowing the public’s minds but it can only be hoped that the industry that they are making their mark in can view them as serious artists rather than a fleeting phase.

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Written by Ellie Nicholas

A 22-year-old UK-based graduate.
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