Korean boy band BTS, arguably the most popular K-pop artist on social media, have denied that their success is a mere product of being an online buzz.
Leader RM said he has answered that type of question more than 200 times and "as I kept answering, the answer gradually became clearer to me over time."
He explained that "we started out as a hip-hop crew, and Bang Shi Hyuk thought that he needed to find rappers who would say the things that ought to be said for society. We were rappers that were able to implement that vision, and we also had members with strong dance and performance skills."
"I think that the secret to BTS's success can be summed up with the keywords 'sincerity and skills.' I think the public can see sincerity. However, people focus only on the fact that we communicated a lot with our fans through social media," he said.
As singers, he said, the most important "is that the quality of our music and performances has to be good above all else. With that level of quality as a foundation, there was also our sincerity and the message we wanted to send. Our consistent and frequent communication [with our fans] added to that, and Bang Shi Hyuk used his keen eye to support us in all of those aspects. He gave us freedom."
Thanks to their fans, BTS won the Top Social Artist award last year at the Billboard Music Awards. They also performed at the American Music Awards and appeared on the talk show of Ellen DeGeneres, James Corden, and Jimmy Kimmel. BTS' Twitter account has 12.3 million followers to date.
"I think we're a good example of an artist collaborating with an agency as business partners," RM added.
When asked the key to their success, Suga said, "Recently, I've been feeling restless and thinking, 'How did I use to make music in the past?' When I looked back, I remembered what Bang Shi Hyuk told us from the beginning. We were sitting together in a small studio, and he said, 'What kind of story do you want to tell? Think of a subject that matches this beat.' I think we started off with the messages 'Respect our individual preferences' and 'How come no one talks about school and society?'"
He said, however, that "what I find most unfortunate is that some people, after analyzing us, say that we succeeded only because of our use of social media. Kim Saeng Min, who served as the MC at our fan meeting, recently complimented us on a podcast, saying, 'Not only are they good at what they do, they also work hard, which makes them unbeatable.'"
"When I heard that, I thought that he must really have been able to see how much effort we put in. I was moved by the fact that, after five years, people are starting to notice," he added.