There seems to be some misconception among interviewers and non-fans alike that BTS's success is majority accredited to their social media status, when in reality, their success stems from a hardcore dedicated group of artists, a loyal fanbase who adore their music, and an ever growing audience of mainstream listeners who hear a new fresh sound and want to know more. It's not because Seokjin uploaded a pic of his twin Sugar Pokemons. What I think people are doing is confusing the benefits of social media for promotion with becoming famous because of social media. You see, social media is a wonderful space for promoting your work. You have a new book coming out? Share with your fans! New movie! Retweet if you are going! Oh that new album is coming, so here is the link!
This is a great way to promote to your following if you are an artist! If you are an artist on an international scale, it's even better, because the limitations of lack of translations and access to materials is pretty much a non-issue. It is VERY HELPFUL FOR PROMOTION! If you are small, your fanbase will grow as more people will find you, and the only way to be found is through promotion. It is a neutral term referring to any platform utilized in the spread of something.
This does include social media and so it does contribute to more exposure, but it is, however, promotional only. You have to have someone there to promote to and you have to have the art there to promote. BTS had fans who bought their music and streamed their songs. They slowly built up through people discovering their music, them promoting their next music, the newer fans also buying the music, and so on and so forth. This is the natural progression of success. This is also the natural progression of those with long-standing success.
There is a massive difference between someone on social media utilizing their following to get into music, and musicians developing a social media following through their music. BTS gained 10 million followers on Twitter in 2017 through people seeing their work. They didn't come from Twitter already following them. They were listeners and viewers who saw their work and sought them out. THEIR ART brought those people to their social media, and not the other way around. Not a 30 second video of Seokjin's friends Fish Cake and Shrimpie the Mini Squirrel.
Probably the best example of how flawed this logic is comes when you discuss with people why they like BTS. They don't say, "Well, that Seokjin and his Mogwai pets are sure cute and so I spent 20 dollars to buy their music". They say "Oh I found them through (Insert some way they heard their music) and I really liked them!" Here is the thing people need to understand too because I see this get thrown around: Youtube is the new form of MTV and radio. It is a distributor of art and even if it's an alternate way to consume it, it's still the music. Same for all their streaming on various music sites. It's no more social media than when Taylor Swift plays on your 106.1 station. It's online, but it is simply a display of their art. People consume said art. Art is successful.
If you talk to any ARMY who has been a fan for more than a month or so, you will find that they have gone to the depths to understand every song they have heard, every video they have watched, the liner notes to the HYYH, the hidden symbolism, the theories, the interviews in relation to the music and every aspect of BTS's art that is out there. They go beyond that. They read the books the works are inspired by. They make their own musical responses and covers. They ask questions, they write letters, they do everything they can to show BTS that the art has reached them. They do all of this because they like the music. Not because Seokjin decided to collect dust bunnies to play with.
The fact is that there are social media platforms that have helped the spread of BTS's art, but they are not the reason for the art succeeding. The chart performance, exposure on U.S. television, and critical acclaim come from critics, fans and the consumption of their art by people casually listening on tv or radio. Hell, it may even come from sharing a link, but that is no different from when someone used to go around to friends in person to share a new song. Their Twitter interactions are not why people came and they are not why people have stayed. Show them a little more respect than that and actually attempt to look into how hard they work, the lyrics and themes in their music, and try to go in without some preconceived notion that they are some manufactured social media act posing as artists when in reality...they are just seven hardworking men who make beautiful music and wanted to share it with their fans...and during all of this they also shared their lives, because they are allowed to do that too. I mean, I didn't pay 1400 dollars to see them in Newark because Seokjin has to show the world his adorable bush babies...but the fact that he ALSO wants to do so is just icing on a cake.
My Own Personal Story (Mild Trigger Warning on the discussions of suicide and depression):
I am epileptic and borderline obsessive compulsive. No, I do not mean that with exaggeration. I have seizures and have spent nights pacing a room because a object in my room is out of place but when I put it back in place, I noticed another object that was not in the right place, or was crooked, and with each correction came a new problem until I realized that I simply moved everything around so much, that it was right back to the beginning. I then would cry from the wasted time and exhaustion, because I still felt it was off. Let's just say, I sometimes sleep horribly. These issues are not curable. They are treated with medication but regardless of what can be treated, until there is a cure, they are a demon on my back. I am unable to work due to my seizures, because holding a job in a physical setting is a liability to my safety, and for any company I wish to work for.
Back in 2013, I landed a dream job: Preschool Teaching. It was everything. I love kids. I love teaching new things. I loved it. Despite my condition, which had come under control with a new medication, I was working and finally able to move out of my parent's house. 23, and finally able to move...that November, I had a seizure AT WORK. Luckily I felt it coming, but not only was I back to having seizures, and they were coming at full force, but I was dwelling on the danger I could have been to my students. I lost my apartment due to inability to work, and was right back at home. I dove into a deep depression I can only imagine had been sitting for years, and was finally triggered. In 2014, I tried to take my own life. I failed. Rather lucky, I may add, and to this day, I am forever grateful I failed.
During this time, I did manage to reconnect with an old friend, and she introduced me to this band she liked, called BTS. We both knew of K-Pop. I listened to them. I dug it. They were dope as hell, and I looked more into them, but hell, no one listens to 'War of Hormone' with some higher understanding and meaning of life. I quickly discovered some other their more poignant songs, and one struck me like a train. It was called 'Tomorrow'. If you are an ARMY, you know this song. This is still some of Yoongi's best writing. To say that their music struck a chord with me would be an injustice to my soul. Their music saved me. Music can do that, you know? It can reach into you, and pull out those emotions you wanted to repress.
In 2015, after a long period of time trying to piece myself together by interacting with people again, I decided after years of seizures and pain, that I would finally go back, and pursue a dream I had: Becoming a legitimate teacher. I reentered college, and life went from there. I became an honors student. I was admitted into the Dean's list for several semesters...and now I am so close to that degree. I came so close to losing all of that. Did BTS cure my depression? Hell no...Yoongi said depression is a lifelong friend, and he is right. Were they the only contributing factor to my recovery? Of course not. I had friends that I reached out to, but I tell you this. It was through music I reached out, and it was through their music I felt inspired to look beyond what was right in front of me.
So many ARMYS have stories like this. Members of BTS have stories like this. Their selfies and videos are fun, but our stories are not put into music through a video of Seokjin's furry shrinky dinks. They are told through songs that these guys give to us...and that is why they are successful. So, I am sorry if this article is a mess. I am not the greatest writer, but I feel like I need to say it, and I had no where to put my feelings...the feels...where to put them...So, enjoy...I hope...