Streaming is an important tool in the music industry. It exposes artists to new listeners, provides a revenue stream for musicians and, additionally, plays a big part in placing songs on music charts like Billboard. And of course, the fan base of the global K-pop phenomenon BTS, known as ARMY (short for Adorable Representative M.C. for Youth), understands this fact all too well. They have a keen insight into how the structures of the music world work and use this knowledge to advance their favorite musicians up the ladder of success. However, one must not assume BTS and ARMY’s journey to the top of the charts has been smooth sailing.
The popular boy group’s rise to fame was a precarious one. They often found themselves pitted against the music industry because they came from a small label. As such, their shaky rise was shared with their loyal fans — the ARMY. From dealing with haters to media criticism, BTS’ fan base has had a lot to deal with. Perhaps one of the most interesting things that has challenged them time and time again is the issue of streaming.
Streaming has long been a way for K-pop fanbases to promote their preferred genre of music. The number of views a newly released music video, or MV, has within the first 24 hours can often be a source of accomplishment in these fanbases. And ARMY can honestly say they have given BTS several streaming records to be proud of. Many recent “Most Viewed MV” titles belong to BTS due to ARMY’s streaming efforts. It has gotten to a point where it seems only BTS can beat their previous record. ARMY has also worked toward getting several other BTS videos to numbers ranging in the millions: dance and performance videos, replays of live shows, the list goes on.
It isn’t just these records that are amazing; the methods used by the fan base to achieve these numbers are fascinating as well. Every time a new album or song is released, the BTS ARMY establishes guidelines on how to stream in order to reach those high numbers. However, despite their careful measures, they still manage to bump into problems. One of the biggest one’s is YouTube’s algorithm and the issue of deleted views.
YouTube has claimed in one response to a fan on Twitter that they “don’t delete views.” Instead, they “freeze the view count for popular videos,” such as those of BTS, in order to ascertain whether or not the views came from illegitimate sources such as bots. It is a valid concern on YouTube’s part, and this was their justification for the frozen views on BTS music videos from 2018 to early 2019, when “DNA” and “IDOL” lost a significant number of views in the first 24 hours. ARMY was skeptical, considering the loss of views ranged in the millions, but the loyal fans rallied and revised their strategy to better suit the terms set out by the platform.
We don't delete views! We do slow or freeze the view count for popular videos while we verify that views are real—that shows the system is working as intended. We still count every view. Once quality views are counted, view count updates more frequently →https://t.co/znnXB8GhRj
— YouTube (@YouTube) August 23, 2018
However, there were all sorts of odd details that cropped up regarding how views were counted. There were talks that commenting with an emoji did not add to the stream count, and that just refreshing the page and watching the video again was considered “bot-like” behavior. To add fuel to the fire, YouTube recently revised their streaming policies, resulting in new measures from ARMY regarding the “correct” method to stream. And then disaster struck.
Within the first 24 hours of streaming BTS’ newly released single “ON” from “Map of the Soul: 7,” several ARMY members saw the view count fall from around 80 million to 45 million. It was especially frustrating seeing as they had almost hit their preset target of 90 million views. Another song from the album — “Black Swan” — also allegedly had views deleted from the 24-hour view count. Members of the BTS ARMY sent emails to YouTube and wrote thousands of tweets questioning what exactly had happened. They even trended the hashtag #YouTubeExplainThis to get the company’s attention. And, once again YouTube pulled the same “frozen views to measure legality” card to explain themselves. It seems YouTube will never settle the matter of what truly happened to BTS’ “ON” music video.
This is not the only interesting interaction between YouTube and BTS. Recently, the leader of the group — RM (real name Kim Nam-joon) — held a surprise YouTube Live to talk about what the members of BTS had been up to during their quarantine and how they are working toward their new album. It must be noted that this was the first time any of the BTS members had used YouTube to livestream. Usually, like most K-pop stars, they use the Korean website V Live to host livestreams and talk with their fans. Even surprise livestreams by BTS on the site garners thousands to millions of viewers. One of the members, Jungkook’s (full name Jeon Jung-kook) solo livestream has garnered 1 billion views while another member, V (real name Kim Tae-hyung), holds the record for most viewed V Live of 2019.
So, imagine those millions of viewers suddenly tuning into a surprise YouTube livestream, which no one expected. The stream crashed within a few seconds of starting. Fortunately, BTS fans were able to hear RM’s words after the live was re-uploaded. However, the crash sparked a humorous debate on whether BTS’ online concert “Bang Bang Con” scheduled for the next day would similarly break YouTube or not. Fortunately, it did not happen.
A week or so later, another member, Suga (real name Min Yoon-gi), held a YouTube Live in which he painted. It crashed within 10 seconds. After these first two failures, it seemed YouTube had finally gotten used to the surprise BTS lives. The third member to try their hand at it — J-Hope (Jung Ho-seok) finished his dancing Live with no problems. And so did Jimin’s (Park Ji-min) who followed suit.
These amusing clashes with streaming technology are perhaps a result of mass shutdowns due to COVID-19. BTS’ label, Big Hit, has cancelled several world tour dates scheduled for April, postponing the rest. This dealt a huge blow to both the BTS members and the ARMY, who looked forward to seeing each other at the concerts. As such, the band began to try their hand at new ways to connect with fans. Some increased the time spent on the fan-interaction platform known as “Weverse.” Others did creative streams on V Live. And now, they have expanded to YouTube, with interesting results.
Perhaps the ARMY’s interactions with streaming services is just going through growing pains while they try to figure out how the system works. And perhaps they have gotten several answers now that BTS is even more active than they ever were before. Regardless, it seems BTS ARMY members will continue to use the streaming platforms to communicate with their idols, whether they dislike some sites or not. Because that loyalty is probably what got BTS and ARMY to such heights in the first place.