Courtesy of Big Hit Entertainment


Kim Namjoon, Kim Seokjin, Min Yoongi, Jung Hoseok, Park Jimin, Kim Taehyung, and Jeon Jungkook: everything BTS touches turns to gold. Partly thanks to the support of their Army, the most powerful fandom in the world

By the time you read this article, the chances that you have heard of BTS and can identify one of their songs are undoubtedly very high.

BTS, or Bangtan Sonyeondan, the South Korean k-pop group that has managed to climb the music charts globally in just a few years, is everywhere. Their hit, Dynamite, the group's first song entirely in English, has broken the barriers posed by music and the international charts, reaching number one all over the world and, even though months have passed since its release, it doesn't seem to have any intention of disappearing from the world music industry's radar any time soon. In Italy, Dynamite can literally be heard everywhere. From the supermarket to the television, where it is now the soundtrack for entertainment programs and advertisements, up to the local radios that look out with interest at the Korean phenomenon and the rise of k-pop in our country.

Courtesy of Big Hit Entertainment

What BTS accomplished in 2020 is a real miracle. In both musical and economic terms. Despite the fact that the seven guys from Seoul were forced to postpone their worldwide tour scheduled for most of the year and planned in support of the group's album, Map of the Soul: 7, the entertainment company behind BTS, Big Hit Entertainment, reported record profits. And all amid a global pandemic. As the company's president and CEO, Bang Si-Hyuk, said during the annual company briefing, "We created revenue through album sales, streaming, online concerts, merchandising, and video content. Despite the difficulties, we have focused on what we have always valued: the fans and the content."

The power of these seven guys is all in their personalities: charismatic yet polite, stylish yet attentive to the latest trends, what they touch turns to gold. Whether it's books, fabric softeners, coffee cans, or even rolls of toilet paper, anything that's seen on BTS immediately sells out or becomes an object of desire. The reason is simple: Bangtan are real, and they never seem to stop. They produce hours upon hours of documentary-like videos, in which they show their life from morning to night and show the world they are just regular guys in their 20s without constructs, dogmas, or masks. But that's not all. Even if they don't have personal profiles on social networks, they are always present on the web, and they converse amiably with their fans on the Weverse platform and show themselves live on every occasion on Vlive. In short, they are unstoppable. It's like they are proceeding at 300 km per hour, without stepping on the toes of other fellow idols, but rather showing them support. We can say that modesty is their main strength.

But there's more. Behind the secret of BTS's success, there is not only good music and hard work. To actively contribute and bring them to the top of the world is undoubtedly their fandom: Army. The Army is ageless. They are everywhere in every corner of the planet and embody the philosophy of Love Yourself so dear to the boyband. Their purple wave, like the last color of the rainbow, the last one to disappear, is conquering the world with incredible speed. Army's power is beyond calculation. If brands are competing to claim to be "stan" of BTS - Mattel, Samsung, Target, Hyundai, and Pantene have jumped at the opportunity to repeat several times how much they appreciate the group - Bangtan and their fandom are the perfect case study of what is known as "fan economy," a sort of parallel universe in the world of the economy in which consumers are encouraged to endorse their idols so much they will be ready to buy anything just to show support. And we're not just talking about gadgets, accessories, or CDs in multiple versions. Army, as well as the BTS, are one of the most devoted fandoms to help others in need. One example? When the BTS donated 1 million dollars to the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States, fans immediately seized the opportunity. They launched a donation campaign on Twitter through the hashtag #MatchAMillion. The result? In just 24 hours, they surpassed their goal, raised another $1 million to donate, and even convinced personalities like WWE superstar John Cena to contribute.

Twitter @ResearchBTS

Crazy? Not really. Because although it may seem fanatical to many, what k-pop and Korean culture generally want to convey is that each of us, in our little universe, is unique and indispensable. And that, if united, we can turn around the fortunes of many other people or push them to give more and do better: a message of altruism and hope that we rarely encounter in the music world, that's growing more and more accustomed to swear words, lyrics of dubious taste, and phrases with such obvious double meanings that they cannot even be categorized as diss track.

If the Army is the strength of the BTS, the BTS are the strength of the Army. The latter, well aware of their fandom's power, never miss an opportunity to thank it for their successes. Whether it's during an awards ceremony, an interview or a live broadcast, a birthday, the presentation of a CD, or an official press conference, the Army's name is repeated continuously by the guys with extreme sincerity. "We were only Seven, but we have you all now" is just one of the phrases that BTS has included in their songs. The one mentioned above is the masterpiece We Are Bulletproof: The Eternal, and sounds like a real declaration of love to the Army.

And what about the gift they delivered to their fans this particular December? Jin, Jimin, and Taehyung have released three exclusive tracks on the Soundcloud platform. While Jin's track, Abyss, arrived on his birthday at the beginning of the month, Jimin and V chose instead to dedicate two Christmas songs to their fandom: Christmas Love and Snow Flower. The two ballads immediately climbed the trending topic charts worldwide and left all speechless with the purity of their message. "Instead of dismissing your feelings as 'cringey' or 'childish,' as we often do, I hope the day will come that we can all happily enjoy these emotions together," writes Jimin. At the same time, the young Taehyung - for whose birthday at the end of the month Chinese fans have even bought, collecting over 1 million dollars, some video projections on the Burj Khalifa - apologized to the fandom for the delay in the release of his first mixtape.

But let's go back to 2020 for a moment. In a challenging year in which everything seems to have stopped, the Korean wave has advanced powerfully. "Life goes on" to quote the seven boys and their latest single. Spotify announced that k-pop ratings on its platform had increased 2000% in the past year, with Bangtan reaching 271.2 million listening hours in 92 different countries. A planetary success that has irrevocably led BTS to what is considered the Holy Grail of music by reaching number one three times on the Billboard Hot 100 with three different songs (including Life goes on, the first song in a foreign language to reach the top of the podium). Climbing this chart for a singer is comparable to winning an Oscar for an actor. No one has figured out the exact strategy to get to the top of the list. Forbes had ventured that the promotion of a song accompanied by eye-catching merchandise exponentially increases the chances of reaching the goal. A shortcut that BTS certainly didn't follow, earning the top spot the old-fashioned way: by selling only and exclusively their music.


Their success makes heads spin. As if that weren't enough, in fact, BTS are also the first Korean group to be nominated for a Grammy. An incredible goal, achievable by few, and that the seven guys have instead gained in 12 months, especially like the ones just passed. A miracle.

And what to stay on the subject of impossible missions? What can we say about the ability of BTS to resurrect the printed press market? Named Entertainer of the Year by Time magazine, which dedicated a cover to the seven boys, the group managed to make the magazine sales skyrocket. Same goes for the cover dedicated to Bangtan by Esquire, Variety, and WSJ Magazine. If Variety was forced to print 30% more copies than expected and create a digital version to be put on sale, the WSJ Magazine, for the first time since its launch more than ten years ago, went into reprint with the November edition dedicated to the group. A miracle that also occurred for Esquire, which usually sells about 20,000 copies in the U.S., and was forced not only to reprint for the country an additional 20,000 copies but to add 34,000 for the South Korea market (usually only 100 are sold) and as many as 2,000 for Japan where sales are generally non-existent.

The success is certified. And indeed, the BTS are not a comet as someone had initially called them. If you're still not convinced, you only need to know one thing: in a country bound to traditions like Korea, the seven bulletproof Boyscouts have managed to change the law that requires enlistment for military service at the age of the twenty-eighth year by inserting a postilla, the so-called "BTS law." But that is another story to tell..

Courtesy of Big Hit Entertainment

Italian Army: our country fandom does good

They are a real army. And that's a fact. Purple, like the hearts of "we purple you," and able to tip the scales of Italian music. Behind the success of Italianarmyfamily, a group with over 50,000 active followers, there are boys and girls that every day inform Italy and our country fandom about the world of BTS.

They do it for free, with passion and dedication. And over the years, they have come to be one of the most influential Italian voices on social networks (especially Instagram and Twitter) for everything Bangtan.
In the large group of Italian Army, there are also Albana (Haru), Morena (Moksori), Suad (Surple), and Alex (Lexi), admins of the fandom, who with the help of the members of the group, do their best to create new content every day, even exclusive one, and work hard to have a concert in Italy.

Italianarmyfamily was born in 2017. The primary team is composed of about 22 people, and every one has its task. Being well organized is the core of such a large fandom that captures an age group ranging from teens to over 30. Soon the squad will go online with its first website and this step, important in order to become the beating heart of the Italian Army, needs long and constant work. In the crew, some deal with translations, one of the essential parts in creating a fandom of a group based in South Korea. Articles, curiosities, posts on social networks, and the Weverse platform are carefully translated to Italian to be easily understood by everyone. Even those who don't speak much English. Then there's the news team that, in addition to creating content, handles posts on Instagram. With them, it's the graphics group that works to make the fandom recognizable by creating content that immediately jumps out when you scroll on timelines full of posts that all look the same. The strategy, of course, is agreed upon internally and revised over time, so it never gets too old or boring. Last but not least, there is the video team responsible for continuously creating multimedia content, the solid base of a band's fandom.

With Covid and the consequent state of lockdown, Italianarmyfamily was forced to give up organizing live events, such as the famous gatherings in bars that serve bubble tea usually planned to celebrate Bangtan's birthdays or special anniversaries. But the Italian Army did not give up. Here comes the virtual world. For Jin's birthday, for example, the Italianarmyfamily celebrated the Worldwide Handsome with a group video call.

But that's not all. Italianarmyfamily also does some good. In addition to participating in the donation of 1 million for the Black Lives Matter movement, the charitable initiatives never stop. The latest, which started recently because of the 26th birthday of Kim Taehyung, aims to collect funds through the sale of merchandise created exclusively for the birthday of V. Inner child, this is the name of the initiative, takes its cue from one of Tae's songs, contained in Map of the Soul: 7 and, as they tell us "All proceeds will be donated to Unicef".

Why are you an Army? We asked the social media

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Marianna Baroli

Giornalista, autore

(Milano, 1986) La prima volta che ha detto «farò la giornalista» aveva solo 7 anni. Cresciuta tra i libri di Giurisprudenza, ha collaborato con il quotidiano Libero. Iperconnessa e ipersocial, è estremamente appassionata delle sfaccettature della cultura asiatica, di Giappone, dell'universo K-pop e di Hallyu wave. Dal 2020 è Honorary Reporter per il Ministero della Cultura Coreana. Si rilassa programmando viaggi, scoprendo hotel e ristoranti in giro per il mondo. Appena può salta da un parco Disney all'altro. Ha scritto un libro «La Corea dalla A alla Z», edito da Edizioni Nuova Cultura, e in collaborazione con il KOCIS (Ministero della Cultura Coreana) e l'Istituto Culturale Coreano in Italia.

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