BTS is one of the biggest music sensations in history. Here's a look back on their meteoric rise to stardom. (2023)

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BTS is one of the biggest music sensations in history. Here's a look back on their meteoric rise to stardom. (1)

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  • BTS is a seven-member K-pop group that has become a global sensation.
  • They were originally discovered in 2010 and released their first album in 2013.
  • BTS fans call themselves A.R.M.Y., which stands for "Adorable Representative M.C. for Youth."
  • From their thoughtful lyrics to fans' digital activism, Insider chronicled BTS's meteoric rise with insight from K-pop and music industry experts.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

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BTS might be the most popular boy group the world has ever seen.

With record-setting views for their YouTube music videos and album purchases along with their money-making star power — the group brought in $130 million in 2019 sales from merchandising alone, according to The Hollywood Reporter — the seven-member K-pop group has become a worldwide sensation.

Insider took a look at BTS's meteoric rise to stardom and how the members have transformed the music industry with insight from K-pop and music industry experts as well as a recently published Harvard Business School case study that analyzed the band's success.

The BTS members were first discovered in the fall of 2010.

BTS is one of the biggest music sensations in history. Here's a look back on their meteoric rise to stardom. (2)

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BTS members were first discovered in 2010 by their current management company Big Hit Entertainment, a South Korean entertainment company.

Entertainment companies like Big Hit have a few different ways to recruit talent whether it's online or in real life, according to a recent Harvard Business School case studythat analyzed the global success of BTS.

For example, BTS member Suga was discovered through an online audition in the fall of 2010 while Jungkook told a Korean talk show that he was discovered by talent agencies after auditioning for "Superstar K," a Korean show similar to "American Idol."

Before they became a band, they started as trainees for Big Hit Entertainment.

BTS is one of the biggest music sensations in history. Here's a look back on their meteoric rise to stardom. (3)

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After being discovered, the new recruits become trainees who received coaching to prepare them to be superstars. This includes dancing and singing lessons as well as acting and media training.

"Think of it like college," Bang Si-Hyuk, the founder and Co-CEO of Big Hit, said in the HBS case study.

Many of these trainees are young teenagers between the ages of 13 to 15, according to the study. The boy group's youngest member, JungKook, now 22, was 14 when he first started as a trainee for Big Hit before debuting a few months before turning 16. He shared his journey dating back to his beginnings as a trainee in his single "My Time" that was released in BTS' album "Map of the Soul: 7" this past February.

Training to become a K-pop band can take up to three years, according to the case study.

BTS is one of the biggest music sensations in history. Here's a look back on their meteoric rise to stardom. (4)

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Trainees prepare to debut as K-pop artists after about three years of training, according to the case study.

It's a pretty cut-throat process — according to the Harvard case study, there are around a dozen trainees for every person that makes it. That means upwards of 80 people may have auditioned for BTS, but RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook are the ones who made it.

As for this rigid process of talent development, Bang told scholars of the study that the concerns of "manufacturing" groups, at the cost of individuality, is valid. He says the company strives to "strike an ideal balance between the efficiency of the system and respect for each artist's individuality," according to the study.

(Video) Baby filter on BTS's video

BTS was originally envisioned as a hip-hop group, but the band pivoted to the "idol model."

BTS is one of the biggest music sensations in history. Here's a look back on their meteoric rise to stardom. (5)

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Initially, BTS was going to be a hip-hop crew focused on rappers. In the HBS case study, Bang said that the company shifted away from this pure focus on hip-hop and eventually pivoted to the "idol model."

Youngdae Kim, a Korean music critic best known for his book "BTS The Review: A Comprehensive Look at the Music of BTS," told Insider that idols usually refer to K-pop artists who combine singing and dancing in their performances.

BTS debuted the band's first album in 2013.

BTS is one of the biggest music sensations in history. Here's a look back on their meteoric rise to stardom. (6)

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BTS officially debuted as a seven-member K-pop idol group in the summer of 2013.

Their first album "2 COOL 4 SKOOL" saw a fair amount of success, placing tenth on a monthly Korean music chart a month after release. The album's title song, "No more dream" can be interpreted as a commentary on the pressures of growing up as a teenager in Korea.

Their music often carries messages around social issues, which has become part of the group's musical identity.

BTS is one of the biggest music sensations in history. Here's a look back on their meteoric rise to stardom. (7)

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BTS music typically includes a message about social issues for fans.

"The whole company's philosophy is to make music that matters," Tamar Herman, a Billboard K-pop correspondent, told Insider. Herman said that she believed BTS's music delved into K-pop's "early roots" where idol groups like H.O.T. grappled with social issues in Korea.

Around the time BTS debuted, however, Herman said it was "pretty rare" that groups used their music for explicit social commentary.

One fan told Insider that she was drawn to the group's music that consistently shares messages that collectively come together as an "overarching storyline" that follows the group's growth as well as her own.

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"A lot of their songs are interlinked with each other, so their lyrics aren't in a vacuum," Jiye Kim, a fan of BTS who is well known in the BTS fandom community for her English translations of BTS content, told Insider. "I'm able to grow alongside them."

BTS also strongly embraces their identity as Korean artists in their music.

BTS is one of the biggest music sensations in history. Here's a look back on their meteoric rise to stardom. (8)

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Youngdae Kim told Insider that BTS's music is centered around their identity as Korean artists, which he says was rarely seen in the industry previously.

The group incorporates social commentary on issues local to Korea, includes Korean dialects in their music (their song "Paldogangsan" is literally a rap about Korean regional dialects, dubbed "Saturi"), and wears traditional Korean Hanbok clothing (Suga dressed in Hanbok for the music video of his latest single "Daechwita").

"In the beginning, BTS embraced their Korean identity, because they wanted to share narratives that were authentic to them, as Korean citizens," Youngdae Kim told Insider. "Now, I think they see it as a responsibility — they're the largest K-pop group right now, and they're not going to hide their Korean identity... because that's who they are."

While Korean heritage is an important part of the group's musical identity, Jiye Kim told Insider that for fans, it's been an "uphill battle" to see coverage from people who understand Asian and Korean culture.

Around a year after their debut, fans formed an official fan club called "A.R.M.Y." to support BTS.

BTS is one of the biggest music sensations in history. Here's a look back on their meteoric rise to stardom. (9)

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Around a year after BTS debuted in 2013, their official fan club came together. The fan club, called "A.R.M.Y.," is short for "Adorable M.C. for Youth."

Jiye Kim teaches at a high school in Sydney, Australia, during the day but volunteers her time — sometimes up to 15 hours a day around an album release — to translate BTS content in English for fans around the world. She says she's forged many friendships from interacting with other fans through social media and feels that volunteering her time to translate content is a way of giving back to the community.

"I translate not for BTS, but my fellow fans who through BTS find a sense of comfort or joy," Kim told Insider.

"A strong alliance between the artists and the fans is a fundamental part of K-pop fandom culture," Ju Oak Kim, an Assistant Professor of Communication at Texas A&M International University, told Insider. Many other K-pop groups such as BLACKPINK also have official fan clubs that support them.

BTS fans have grown their presence in the age of social media.

BTS is one of the biggest music sensations in history. Here's a look back on their meteoric rise to stardom. (10)

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BTS and other K-pop fans have become a movement unto themselves online.

Most recently, BTS fans have received national attention for their viral digital activism such as matching the K-pop group's $1 million donation to the Black Lives Matter movement. K-pop fans also said they reserved thousands of tickets for President Donald Trump's rally in Oklahoma before not showing up (rows of seats remained empty at the rally though it's unclear if the viral campaign by K-pop fans was the reason why).

Ju Oak Kim told Insider that fans are no longer passive consumers of their artists' work. Kim says that today, fans are able to see the tangible impact they can make as consumers and are "empowered" to be proactive about using their social capital as a collective fandom.

For example, Jiye Kim said that she had already made several contributions to organizations supporting the Black Lives Matter movement after seeing many of her fellow BTS fans share messages of solidarity and support. She told Insider she also commissioned some BTS fan artists who used proceeds for their art to donate to the movement.

"The moment that we heard (where BTS stood), we were able to use BTS's name explicitly to muster the forces," Kim said.

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BTS has set numerous records since 2013.

BTS is one of the biggest music sensations in history. Here's a look back on their meteoric rise to stardom. (11)

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A few years after their debutin 2015, BTS came in first place on a weekly music performance show on one of Korea's three major television broadcast networks with their first single with "I NEED U" from their third mini-album, "The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Pt. 1."

Since then, the group has continued to shatter records. This past March, BTS' "Map of the Soul: 7" album marked the group's fourth No.1 album on the Billboard 200 chart. The album recorded 347,000 album sales and over 74 million on-demand streams, making it the "largest week for any album in 2020," Billboard reported at the time.

For the music video for "ON," the album's lead single, the Head of Culture and Trends at YouTube confirmed that they "set a new record for peak viewers for a premiere."

Most recently, BTS topped a Guinness World Record for most viewed concert livestream in a virtual concert that was viewed by over 700,000 fans globally.

BTS became the first K-pop artist to present at the Grammy Awards in 2019. The year after, the group became the first K-pop artist to perform at the award show.

BTS is one of the biggest music sensations in history. Here's a look back on their meteoric rise to stardom. (12)

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

In 2019, BTS became the first K-pop artist to present at the Grammy Awards. The following year, they became the first K-pop artist to perform at the award show.

However, fans on social media criticized the music show for not including the group's music in any of their nominations. Halsey, who collaborated with the group for their single "Boy with Luv," supported the group by saying that the "US is so far behind."

—h (@halsey) November 20, 2019

The sky's the limit for BTS.

BTS is one of the biggest music sensations in history. Here's a look back on their meteoric rise to stardom. (13)

Lorenzo Bevilaqua/Getty Images

BTS will likely continue to dominate the music industry into the 2020s.

Their latest album "Map of the Soul: Journey" was released in Japanese in July. The new album includes Japanese versions of a number of their latest songs like "Boy with Luv" and "IDOL," in addition to four new Japanese songs. Upon release, it dominated Japan's Oricon chart, opening up yet another region in the world for BTS to shine.

Meanwhile, "Map of the Soul: 7" became the only album released this year that sold over half-million copies, according to Nielsen Music and MRC Data's midyear report. The report also places BTS as the second most consumed genre artist, following Billie Eilish and ahead of Taylor Swift.

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Features BTS K-Pop



Why is BTS suddenly so popular? ›

They were the first Korean group to win a Billboard Music Award too. BTS are the first Asian group to be nominated and win Best Artist at the American Music Awards and first all Korean band to perform at the Grammy Awards and to receive a nomination. They were the first Korean group to win a Billboard Music Award too.

How does BTS influence the world? ›

SEOUL – Aside from being a superstar with many chart-topping hits and a global fandom, BTS has strongly influenced the world with its heartfelt messages of consolation and hope for youth and those against Asian hate crimes.

Which year did BTS disband? ›

Global phenom Kpop group BTS is disbanding so its members can undertake their mandated military service before reforming "around 2025," per an official statement Monday.

Why is BTS so famous than other K-pop groups? ›

There are many appeals to BTS. Good music that transcends genre is only icing on the cake. They're also extremely talented performers, have uplifting messages in their music, speak up on important issues, and have built an organic bond with their fans.

What song made BTS famous in America? ›

BTS journey to America

In 2015, BTS made their debut on the Billboard 200, at No. 171 from 'The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Part 2'.

Why are people so obsessed with BTS? ›

BTS has become a global phenomenon. A peculiar blend of addictive melodies, choreography styles, lyrics, and production values have earned the group fans around the world. South Korean music has been gaining popularity for over two decades.

Why is BTS so inspiring? ›

With the seven members, RM, Jin, SUGA, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook, akin to household names today, BTS has been receiving a lot of love for their music, and especially their lyrics that often touch on personal and social commentary, the themes of mental health, troubles of school-age youth and coming of age, loss, ...

Why BTS is a positive influence? ›

They have supported UNICEF's Program to end violence and their education program for the less fortunate. In addition, they also participated in raising money for the Food Bank in Singapore and even raised money to help the wildfire in Gangwon, South Korea.

Is BTS quitting in 2027? ›

While the guys are indeed going to spend time focusing on their solo projects, they aren't going to stop working together as a team, and are not disbanding, Jungkook said in the livestream, noting that they will continue to be active as a group, including their current endeavor of shooting their web series Run BTS, per ...

What is the full form of BTS 💜? ›

BTS, in full Bangtan Sonyeondan (Korean: “Bulletproof Boy Scouts” or “Bangtan Boys”), also called Beyond the Scene, South Korean K-pop (Korean pop music) band that shot to international stardom in the late 2010s.

What will BTS do after disbanding? ›

The group will reunite sometime around 2025, after all seven members have had a chance to serve. BTS management company, Big Hit, also said the group's members would continue to work as solo acts during the hiatus in whatever schedule their service allows.

What makes BTS songs unique? ›

The first major difference is that BTS' lyrics focus on issues that don't necessarily represent the clean image other K-pop bands have, and their lyrics are more concerned with perception of 'wrong-doing'. Another crucial difference is that BTS are a lot more expressive with their lyrics than other K-pop bands.

What is the rank of BTS in Billboard? ›

BTS Returns to No. 1 on Billboard Artist 100 Chart Thanks to 'Proof' – Billboard.

Who is least popular in BTS and why? ›

There's no one reason for J-Hope's relative unpopularity, but some fans have speculated that it's because he's not conventionally attractive by East Asian standards. Others have suggested that his personality might be rubbing some fans the wrong way.

Who is the face of K-pop? ›

BTS' V ranks #1 as the 'Most Handsome Face of K-pop' in 2022.

Who is the most successful K-pop group in the world? ›

BTS. This seven-member boy band has taken the world by storm and are definitely the biggest name in K-pop.

Is BTS bigger than the Beatles? ›

They've also both swept up a vast number of awards, BTS with a staggering 407, The Beatles with 12, bearing in mind a lot more award shows exist now compared to when The Beatles were active.

How BTS changed the music industry? ›

BTS breaks musical and cultural boundaries by being one of the first k-pop groups to perform at major music award shows. Having such a large presence in the entertainment industry allows for more representation and diversity. It's amazing to see an entire stadium in another country sing along in Korean.

What does V not like in a girl? ›

V/ Taehyung : As Taehyung is not the serious type of guy, a too serious girl wouldn't attract him. If the girl would take herself too seriously, if she had the feet too much on earth or wouldn't be funny then she wouldn't suit his tastes. He wouldn't like a girl with no personality, a dull girl as well.

Why doesn t BTS address how toxic their fandom has become? ›

Because, first, it's not their responsibility to do that. If a fan is toxic, that's because s/he is a toxic human being. Nothing to do with the idol itself.

How many people like BTS? ›

Unexpectedly, South Korea, the boy band's homeland, ranks second. A few sources claim that the group has over 90 million fans worldwide, based on their social media accounts.

What can BTS teach us? ›

BTS' core message is of self-love. But what does it truly mean to love yourself, and in a deeper, more intentional way that's more boundaries-than-bath bombs? “Loving myself might be harder than loving someone else. Let's admit it, the standards you made are more strict for yourself.

What is BTS main message? ›

BTS' message to the world is to 'LOVE MYSELF'.

Why is BTS your role model? ›

BTS is also the ultimate role model for the BTS Army. The BTS Army admires BTS for being humble and creating music with messages, such as Love Yourself, which has helped fans overcome mental health issues.

Is BTS appropriate for 11 year olds? ›

With best-selling songs that promote self-love and even an anti-violence campaign with UNICEF, it's pretty safe to say this boy band is appropriate for most children.

How BTS changed your life? ›

I started becoming more positive day by day. The group members or the seven lights introduced me to '화양연화' which means the 'most beautiful moment in life', and I realized that I have found mine. BTS has always been authentic and has shown us the real story of their lives.

How does BTS help mental health? ›

Through their lyrics and their words, BTS has tried to spread mental health awareness using their personal experience as well. It is no secret that member Suga, who is also one of the key producers and writers for the group apart from being a rapper, shared her personal struggle battling depression.

Will BTS serve in the military? ›

After speculation and public debate over whether the K-pop superstars would pursue an exemption to avoid military service, the group's label, Bighit Music, announced in October that BTS members would be joining the army.

Why do BTS call their fans ARMY? ›

ARMY is an acronym for “Adorable Representative M.C. For Youth” and literally means army. BTS's name in Korean, Bangtan Sonyeondan (방탄소년단), translates to “Bulletproof Boy Scouts” in English. Their fans are ARMY, and BTS is the armor that protects them, signifying the band and their ARMY will always be together.

Will BTS will disband? ›

We are not disbanding guys, there are still a lot of things we need to do as a group. BTS is forever."

Why BTS name is BTS? ›

Bts means Bulletproof Boyscoucts in korean but they have recently changes their english name to Beyond the Scene. They have seven members (3 rappers and 4 vocalists) and debuted on June 12th, 2013. Their fandom name is Army. Since then they've accomplished many things.

Why is BTS called the BTS? ›

Name. BTS stands for the Korean phrase Bangtan Sonyeondan (Korean: 방탄소년단; Hanja: 防彈少年團), which translates literally to "Bulletproof Boy Scouts". According to member J-Hope, the name signifies the group's desire "to block out stereotypes, criticisms, and expectations that aim on adolescents like bullets".

Which BTS members have served in the military? ›

YEONCHEON, South Korea — Jin, the oldest member of K-pop supergroup BTS, began his 18 months of mandatory military service at a frontline South Korean boot camp Tuesday, as fans gathered near the base to say goodbye to their star.

Did BTS renew their contract to 2034? ›

With the BTS members' contracts ending in 2024 and members enlisting in 2022 and 2023, the company is looking for new sources of income to secure its future on the market. According to Korean sources, BTS renewed their contracts in 2018 which will last until 2024.

What will BTS do after military service? ›

The seven members will make a come back together as a boy band by 2025 after performing their military service.

Which song of BTS is underrated? ›

Wake Up” This is an original track from BTS's first Japanese studio album Wake Up. With just 306K views on the official video, this is probably one of the most underrated BTS tracks to exist.

What are some secrets of BTS? ›

BTS: V, Jungkook, Jimin, J-Hope and more - Know the best kept secrets of the Bangtan Boys
  • RM's different voices. ...
  • V was a hidden member. ...
  • Jimin was going to be Baby G? ...
  • Jungkook and his fear. ...
  • Suga's secret crush. ...
  • J-Hope kept his solo dancing career over BTS. ...
  • Jin when he gets drunk.
Aug 19, 2022

Which BTS song has 1 billion views? ›

DNA is the THIRD BTS song to achieve the milestone

BTS's DNA becomes the third music video to hit 1.5 billion views followed by 'Boy With Luv' and 'Dynamite. ' Boy With Luv crossed 1.5 billion views in April 2022 which was BTS's first-ever music video to achieve the milestone.

How many #1 albums Does BTS have? ›

Including “Proof,” only 15 non-English language albums have ever topped the Billboard 200 in the history of the chart—meaning that out of those 15 No. 1 albums, six have been by BTS.

How many #1 hits has BTS had? ›

BTS has the most No. 1 hits on the Hot 100 this decade with a total of six songs topping the singles chart, according to Billboard.

How did BTS get so successful? ›

But, unlike at the Korean big three, Bang would allow his idols to express themselves, both by writing their own music and by interacting directly with their fans. This relative freedom would make BTS the most popular band in the world and turn Bang into a billionaire.

Why BTS are loved so much? ›

BTS is a very accomplished K-pop act, and the awards they've earned and records broken have become too many to count. Apart from their success in South Korea, BTS is the first K-pop artist to take over various foreign charts and awards, most notably Billboard, American Music Awards, and of course the Grammys.

Why is BTS joining the military? ›

The so-called “BTS Law'' allows K-pop stars who have been awarded South Korea's Hwagwan Orders of Cultural Merit to apply to postpone their military service until the age of 30.

Why are people so obsessed over BTS? ›

A lot of people are fans of BTS because they feel a strong connection toward their favorite idol and feel relatable. Here are some reasons why GIRLS love BTS so much. CATCHY SONGS – Catchy songs make a huge difference in the way people perceive music.

Why BTS is the biggest boy band in the world? ›

One pre-pandemic estimate put the annual economic impact of bts, a South Korean boyband, at $3.7bn a year, making them the most valuable pop act ever. Wherever they go, the seven members sprinkle gold dust on clothing, cosmetics, tourism and food.

Who is the world biggest fandom? ›

ARMY - BTS Fandom

The ARMY is the most powerful fandom in the world. Because it brought an end to the long reigning 'beliebers' group (fans of Justin Beiber). The reason why the ARMY came to be so popular is the short climb of BTS in being the first K-Pop group to win a place in the Billboards 200 Chart.

What did BTS taught us? ›

Be proud of yourself

Their songs and the band itself inspire you to never underestimate yourself and be proud of who you are.

Why is army so protective of BTS? ›

“Plagiarism Boys”

They faced prejudice, discrimination, and also plagiarism accusations. During their WINGS tour, BTS responded to anti-fans' attempts to defame them with hashtags like “plagiarism boys” by mentioning it in a VCR.

How long will BTS serve in the military? ›

The announcement followed two years of deliberation over whether the biggest band in the world should be exempt from the 18-24 months of service required of all able-bodied South Korean men aged 18 to 28.

Is BTS leaving for military? ›

In October, BTS' record label said that all seven members of the group were planning to undertake military service. BTS is expected to reconvene as a group around 2025, according to BIGHIT Music. Jin's service will begin with a five-week basic training course before being assigned to a unit, based on standard practice.


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