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Bang shares his formula behind BTS’ success

BTS and Bang Si-hyuk (Big Hit Entertainment)
BTS and Bang Si-hyuk (Big Hit Entertainment)
In a recent paper published by Harvard Business School, Big Hit Entertainment Chairman Bang Si-hyuk shared how global sensation BTS deviates from the typical K-pop idol system and has more autonomy than other K-pop bands.

During his interview with the authors of “Big Hit Entertainment and Blockbuster Band BTS: K-Pop Goes Global,” Bang said the band’s contract renegotiations -- a period when many stories of conflict arise among K-pop artists -- took place without the intervention of lawyers or agents.

“We talked about whether we would be able to continue this success for another seven years. The members said, ‘We will give you seven more years, but give us the acknowledgment that we deserve for the successes that we have achieved, and reflect it in the contract,’” he said.

The septet and label focused on what they could do for their fans and their customers, which enabled a rare peaceful transition and continuation of their trusted relationship. They did not talk about money either during the talks.

BTS’ monthlong vacation last year, before concluding “BTS World Tour: Love Yourself,” is another deviation from common practices in the K-pop world.

Bang figured three to four days of rest, which is the industry standard, wouldn’t help the members that much. He knew the label would be taking a risk by letting the band go on an extended hiatus especially at the peak of their popularity, since there exists a genuine fear that fans might leave if the bands don’t have anything going on.

But the label’s executives decided to push forward, keeping the big picture in mind as they recognized the traditional business model wasn’t sustainable in the long term.

The septet also freely posts on social media without any intervention from their label. The members don’t have individual accounts on Instagram or Twitter, but they have set up separate profiles on Big Hit’s fan community platform Weverse. And there, Bang clarified, they “manage their own accounts” and the company doesn’t interfere unless they specifically seek advice.

This laissez-faire social media strategy stems from Big Hit’s 2011 workshop, a three-day event to reassess the company’s direction as it was on the brink of bankruptcy. It was through the workshop that the team realized despite the spread of social platforms, many people feel more isolated than before. The label decided to use social media to “help, inspire and heal people” moving forward, and forge a genuine connection between artists and fans.

The latest paper also offers a clear sense that Bang and his label did everything to support the band, to help them grow in the best way possible while embracing risks that their unconventional methods might fail.

Big Hit solely focused on BTS since their debut in 2013 without introducing any new acts until last year with TXT. It is very unusual in K-pop where companies quickly redirect their resources to a new group of trainees once they think the band reached a certain level of maturity.

“We thought hard about shifting our resources to a new group,” Bang admitted.

“But we felt that BTS had too much potential still, and decided to press on. That turned out to be a correct decision.”

By Kwon Yae-rim (kyr@heraldcorp.com)

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