BTS’s Loyal Army of Fans Is the Secret Weapon Behind a $4 Billion I.P.O.


“We’re Army Incorporated,” Ms. Hackworth, 30, said during a recent interview from her apartment, where the group’s posters and seven branded baseball caps, one for each member, decorated the walls. The fan group functions like any company, she joked, although “no one is in charge of us, really, and we don’t have a C.E.O. unless you consider that BTS.”

The Army, whose name stands for Adorable Representative M.C. for Youth, is often depicted as a group of screaming teenage girls. The reality is different: While its demographics are hard to pin down — many members seem to be women in their 20s and 30s — the band’s fan base is broadly diverse, cutting across lines of gender, age, religion and nationality.

Compared with fan groups that have come before them, BTS’s followers are “so much savvier and strategic and smarter than what we’ve seen, especially in taking advantage of and utilizing platforms like social media to really achieve their goals,” said Nicole Santero, a Ph.D. student at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who has conducted extensive research on the Army.

BTS — whose name is an abbreviation of the Korean words Bangtan Sonyeondan, or Bulletproof Boy Scouts — has won a large following with its boyish good looks, slick dance moves and catchy music, spanning genres from rap to disco.

But what fans really respond to is the band members’ carefully cultivated and inspirational story of fighting their way to the top of the music business while staying true to themselves, Ms. Santero said. Their emotional openness and focus on mental health make fans “feel that BTS represents something that has impacted them and changed their lives, so supporting them is sort of their way of giving back to the group,” she said.



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