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K-pop

BTS label cites fan-tailored innovation as key to success

By Mar 18, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

BTS was the first K-pop group to receive a Grammy Awards nomination.
BTS was the first K-pop group to receive a Grammy Awards nomination.


Fan-tailored innovation is the crux of the success behind K-pop sensation BTS' label, according to Lenzo (Seok-jun) Yoon, chief executive of Big Hit Entertainment Co.'s global business. 

“Fans aren’t just consumers, but the core agent that drives market change. Our efforts to satisfy fans led to the birth of innovative projects such as the fan community platform Weverse,” said Yoon during a virtual presentation as part of SXSW Online 2021 on Mar. 17.

CEO Yoon joined the South Korean entertainment label as the head of strategic planning in 2010. Since then, Chairman Bang Si-hyuk and Yoon have been the driving forces behind BTS’ global success.

In 2019, Yoon began to manage the label's business as the co-chief executive, achieving significant milestones such as establishing Weverse and a strategic partnership with the world's largest record label, Universal Music Group.

“The music market was in chaos when I joined Big Hit about 10 years ago. Record sales were sliding and traditional media such as TV and radio were also losing ground due to the emergence of YouTube,” said Yoon.

Yoon realized that he couldn't limit his focus to merely finding the types of music that people liked, but rather, he set his sights on identifying new approaches to spread joy through music. He soon arrived at the conclusion that the answer lies within fans’ requests.

“Fans have a feeling of accomplishment by supporting their favorite artists, growing with them, and ushering in industry changes,” said Yoon, adding that the fans demand high-quality content and services commensurate to the attention they shower upon their favorite artists.

Lenzo (Seok-jun) Yoon
Lenzo (Seok-jun) Yoon

Yoon explained that Big Hit and its artists found success by developing content that satisfies the fans' evolving preferences and adopting innovative methods.

One of the leading examples of fan-tailored innovation is the exclusive video content team set up in 2010. Early on, Big Hit produced content such as variety shows and behind-the-scenes videos for BTS fans.

These days,  broadcasting or livestreaming artists' daily activities are common, but at the time this practice was non-existent. Big Hit's robust portfolio of fan-tailored content eventually became the backbone of BTS’ explosive popularity and fandom communities when the group debuted in 2013.

“Big Hit will continue its endeavors to offer novel experiences that encourage everyone to become a fan," said Yoon, adding that the label plans to expand its operations to cover lifestyle.

Courtesy of Bangtan TV YouTube channel

For example, the company has created Korean learning materials for global K-pop fans, developed BTS animation characters TinyTAN for metaverse services, alongside releasing a mobile rhythm game, Rhythm Hive.

"Foreign media outlets use the expression "new normal" in reference to the success of BTS and Big Hit. We consider it a compliment to us, pioneering a way not taken by existing entertainment companies," Yoon said.

According to Yoon, Big Hit's goal is to present more cases of the "new normal" by creating novel technologies and new industry segments.

"We won't settle for our current achievements, but instead, carry on our innovative efforts," said Yoon.

Write to Soo-Young Seong at syoung@hankyung.com

Danbee Lee edited this article.

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