Bom Kim is a Korean-American Billionaire businessman who founded Korea's largest e-commerce company, Coupang. With Coupang valued at $9 billion in 2018, Kim has become the 2nd youngest billionaire in Korea at the age of…
BTS, also known as the Bangtan Boys, is a South Korean boy band that began formation in 2010 and debuted in 2013 under Big Hit Entertainment.
‘Hitman’ Bang Si-hyuk, the founder of Big Hit Entertainment (now rebranded to Big Hit Music under Hybe Corp), is the man behind the success of BTS.
The seven-member group from South Korea has succeeded to a historic degree, far beyond anyone’s imagination – even Bang’s. His company has gone public on South Korea’s KOSPI in 2020, making chairman Bang, its largest shareholder, a billionaire.
Bang was born in Seoul in 1972, he was raised by elite, educated parents. His father was the chairman of a government organization on labor rights. According to his father, Bang read books all day as a child and he had an incredible ability to focus.
Bang followed in his mother’s footsteps to Seoul National University. But to his parents’ disappointment, he majored in aesthetics instead of law. Bang debuted as a composer while in college, he then often partnered with Park Jin-young as a song-writing duo in the mid-1990s.
When Park founded his company JYP Entertainment in 1997, Bang joined him as a composer, arranger and producer. In JYP, the first-generation of K-pop idols like G.O.D, 2AM, Wonder Girls were born, Bang was often at the heart of these projects with Park.
In the 2000s, Bang would gain the nickname he still uses today, “Hitman Bang,” for his successes in the Korean market.
In 2005, Bang left JYP Entertainment and founded his own company, Big Hit Entertainment, the same year that YouTube was launched. It was at the time that physical album sales were abruptly going down, but Bang saw opportunities in K-pop idols to diversify revenue streams.
Although Bang himself was a respected producer in the industry, his own company hadn’t produced any memorable hits until BTS. Glam was the first girl group Bang ever produced, which debuted a year before BTS.
Interestingly, Glam performed with a computer-generated vocaloid, it shows that Bang was ahead of his time. Unfortunately, a blackmailing scandal involving a Glam’s member and a prominent actor led the group to disband in 2015.
When BTS first debuted in 2013, very few in Korea predicted them to be the next big thing. Nobody paid attention to BTS or Big Hit. Back then, the Korean music market was dominated by three companies: SM, YG and JYP, each an acronym for the name of its founder.
Big Hit couldn’t compete on mainstream media with them, but Big Hit showed a savvy and looseness that other labels seemed to lack. Even before debuting, BTS members were uploading vlogs and personal posts on social media, which are still key to their relationships with fans.
From petting a dog, painting, to just staring at the camera while eating an apple, a seeming lack of editing heightened the sense of authenticity. When most other K-pop idols’ social media accounts were managed by the labels, BTS members had their own accounts, in which they talked freely with fans.
Big Hit knew how to show BTS members’ personalities, and make people become fans of the people, before their music. It’s not just about personality marketing, BTS touched something that young people from all over the world were seeking.
Fans of the past were passive recipients, the fans of today are active collaborators, Bang is deeply aware of the fandom’s powers. Indeed, BTS ARMYs, or “Adorable Representative MC for Youth,” have been essential.
Millions of fans mobilize worldwide to vote during awards seasons, or to raise $1 million for Black Lives Matter. When San Francisco’s KYLD WiLD 94.9 played “Not Today” for the first time, fans sent the station flowers, donuts and handwritten letters.
In some ways, it’s not even the artist that is the product; it’s the fans which is the product. Besides the regular revenue streams, Big Hit is also monetizing fandom by launching Weverse, an online social networking platform.
On Weverse, fans pay membership fees to talk directly with artists, subscribe to watch concerts, learn Korean with BTS, and shop for merchandise. As of March 2020, Weverse had 1.4 million daily users. The platform has now included A-list K-pop artists outside the Big Hit label.
Today, Big Hit is worth more than SM, YG and JYP combined. It comprises four music labels, seven family companies, and around 1,000 employees. However, Big Hit’s strength and weakness are clear. Its strength is BTS; its weakness is also BTS.
I firmly believe that a second and third BTS must and can come into being.
Can Bang produce another hit? Time will tell.