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How BTS Re-Invented Fandom Culture

The K-pop superstars have dominated charts and media for years gaining new successes by the pocketful, but with all of their achievements, BTS has remained humble, bringing their fans along with them every step of the way.

BTS at the 2018 billboard music awards.
Credit: Tinseltown / Shutterstock

BTS have taken over the world with their talent and charm, breaking records and sweeping up awards. Though their success speaks for itself, the seven members never fail to understand the importance of their fans.

The Beginning

The year is 2014; seven boys from South Korea navigate their way around Los Angeles with broken English and a dream, handing out flyers to the American public, asking them to attend their free concert which was to be held later that night. With moderate success, BTS held its first US concert for an audience of three hundred people. Fast forward eight years and the same seven boys are holding the second free concert of their career. This time in their home nation, and in the city of Busan. With an audience of over 50,000 people and another 100 million online, it became their biggest concert to date, and goes without saying that BTS has grown their fandom to astronomical heights over the past decade. From their five Grammy nominations to record-breaking statistics, it’s not hard to understand why the septet has such a mass following.

Changing The Narrative

Elaborate music videos, meaningful song lyrics, and endearing personalities all contribute to their success and dedicated fandom, which the band fondly named Army. But BTS and Army have changed the platform for the sometimes-scrutinized narrative of boyband fandoms and what media represents them as. It’s a tale that has spanned decades. The idea of teenage girls fawning over twenty-something-year-old male pop stars, hoping that one glimpse would be enough for the man of their dreams to fall in love with them. But life is not a movie, and this has never happened.  However, BTS made room for a new idea of fandom culture, giving their fans an official name and interacting with them daily, sculpting the foundation for a new era of fandom culture driven by social media, and one where BTS comes across as the best friend rather than a distant stranger.

The BTS Army

To date, the band holds one of the largest fandoms in the music industry, and their resistance through years of endless negative media coverage only strengthened the bond between the band and fandom. Though it may sound spectacle, the band has played it consistently cool throughout all of it and continue to, even with their recent announcement of a hiatus and solo projects. Fans became worried yet, have vowed to stick beside the members as they endeavor on their three-year-long journey. The BTS Army are some of the most understanding, respectful, and loyal fans. With the organizing of endless events to support other fans and the band, there truly is no fandom like the BTS fandom. They go far beyond the narrative of obsessive teenage girls and prove each time that the seven members are as close as friends.

Though a huge majority of the fandom is not fluent in Korean (the native language of the band), it poses no barrier. It makes for a deeper connection as other members of the fandom translate interviews, song lyrics, and, even live shows on which BTS might be appearing on. This way of caring about others and making them feel included is something that BTS advocates for in their music and translates through their actions.

A signed copy of BTS’s 2018 album ‘Love Yourself: Answer’. / Credit: Naumova Ekaterina / Shutterstock

The Power of Media

BTS created not only a new idea for fandom culture but a community for like-minded people to be connected. Through the power of social media and their desire to bond deep and lasting connections with the people who listen to their music and support them, BTS made for this new era of fandoms where the artist and the fan are intertwined like never before. As early as 2012, BTS posted daily from their Twitter account. They would interact with fans by sharing the mundane parts of their lives, such as work schedules or what they had to eat. This allowed BTS to show their vulnerable side and create a sense of relatability, something they continue to do well, though now they are global superstars.

Their fans are unique in that they hold a deep love for not only the band but for one another through BTS. Much of this results from social media and the widespread love for K-pop, which the world is somewhat dominated by now. This surge in K-pop is much a result of BTS’s success and persistence in the western world and media.

The Future

Though the band is on a short hiatus to fulfill their mandatory military service as part of South Korean law. They are continuing with solo projects and making individual music. This, however, does not mean the band will never release music again. They have stated multiple times that they will be returning as BTS in the future and will continue as a group as long as they are able. A promise that fans are optimistic they will keep.

A time capsule has even been planted in the band’s name and is set to be opened in 2039, further proving their return. The support shown consistently between BTS, and Army showcases the love they have for one another. If doubtful look, at the ending of one of their mass sell-out, shows, and you will see the genuine love these artists hold, not only for one another but for their fans.

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