It’s hard to believe we still have to talk about this, but despite BTS continuing to smash records, their radio play continues to be low. By doing this, U.S. radio is just showing their true colors (and it’s not purple).
That’s right, I’m bringing the subject of BTS’ lack of radio play back up again. It’s a topic that comes up every comeback, and for good reason. BTS keeps growing in popularity and breaking more and more records, but it’s all crickets on most radio stations.
First, let’s quickly break down how BTS is doing during their current comeback:
• Map of the Soul: 7 debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, making this their fourth consecutive #1 album.
• Map of the Soul: 7 debuted with 422,000 album-equivalent units (compared to Justin Bieber’s Changes, which topped the Billboard 200 the prior week with 231,000 units).
• Map of the Soul: 7 had 347K pure sales (without merch or tour bundles).
• Map of the Soul: 7 had the biggest first-week sales for an album on the Billboard 200 so far this year.
• Map of the Soul: 7 had the best US pure sales week for an album since Fine Line by Harry Styles.
• “ON” debuted at #1 on the Digital Song Sales chart with over 85,000 sold.
• “ON” became the highest-debuting Korean song in Hot 100 history.
• “ON” became BTS’ third top 10 single on the Hot 100 and highest-charting single to date.
• BTS became the first Korean act to earn at least 10 charting singles on the Hot 100.
• BTS remains #1 on the Artist 100 chart. They extend their record as the group with the most weeks at #1 in the chart’s history (six weeks).
• Map of the Soul: 7 also debuted at #1 on the Rolling Stone’s 200.
There’s even more data to back up how well they’re doing, but I think you get the picture. Now that we’ve established BTS’ success, we can move on to the current radio situation. I don’t think it’s any secret that ARMY’s unofficial slogan for this comeback is “without bundles, without radio play,” and that’s with good reason.
Although there are a few radio stations that continue to show support to BTS (thank you to those who do), the majority of them continue to ignore BTS’ impact on the music industry — globally as well as here in America.
Of course, many will be quick to defend this by pointing out that BTS’ music is Korean (although there is English mixed in with their lyrics). To that we can also point out this hasn’t stopped radio stations from playing hit songs that include other non-English lyrics like Latin music.
And yes, I’m aware that Spanish is widely spoken in the States, but I don’t think that’s an excuse to turn your back on music that’s proven its demand. Additionally, BTS has featured Western artists on many of their singles, which offers even more English lyrics than some of their other songs.
If we’re being real, BTS isn’t being played on the radio simply because of the prejudice against non-western artists in the radio industry. BTS has played by their rules, but radio hasn’t returned the favor in kind.
What am I talking about? Radio’s history of taking payment or an exchange of favors in return for spins. There’s even a term for it: payola, or pay-for-play. The Rolling Stone did an extensive article on it discussing how payola has evolved over the decades and even did a follow up article on it a few months later. Bloomberg has also written about how this practice has unsurprisingly been adapted to streaming services as well.
Of course, it’s not surprising that BTS wouldn’t give into paying their way onto the radio. They have, however, played along with some of the radio industry’s other needs to “earn” spins. BTS has made themselves available for many interviews for radio, along with special performances.
You’ve probably noticed that many of these have been with iHeartRadio, and it’s no coincidence that iHeartRadio owns more than 850 radio stations. In theory, BTS bringing ARMYs attention to iHeartRadio (and thus earning them money) means they should get the support on their single in return. Except, that hasn’t really happened.
What does that mean? It doesn’t seem to matter what BTS does. They’re going to continue to get brushed to the side because of various excuses. Whether it’s an excuse of a language barrier, the fact that they’re based in their home country of South Korea, or even those who continue to think their popularity is just a fad.
What can we do about it? Nothing really. American radios are going to continue to be prejudiced whether it makes sense in the charts or not. BTS may continue do their best by building working relationships within the radio industry if they like, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It may or may not help, but I’m not holding my breath it will make a huge impact given the trend we’ve seen over the past few years.
What we shouldn’t do is attack radio stations because of this. It’s been going on in the industry long before BTS, and it’s not going to change any time soon. Any kind of retaliation we try to take out on radios not only reflects poorly on ARMY, but also on BTS. For as long as they want to play nice with radio, we shouldn’t do anything that would negate their hard work and time. (Yes, even if DJs badmouth BTS/ARMY, we should try to ignore them.)
Instead, we can continue to focus our efforts on streaming and purchasing digital/physical albums to make sure that BTS charts well. BTS and ARMY have made it this far without radio play and we can continue along this path. Television, concerts, and social media trends can all help to replace the exposure of radio.
If you can’t afford to purchase songs, there are fanbases that specialize in helping to do this. Check out Funds for Bangtan for ARMYS located in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
BTS and ARMY are used to only being able to lean on each other, so don’t lose hope. BTS is proving they don’t really need radio anyway.
Still need to pick up your copy of Map of the Soul: 7? Here’s where you can purchase and stream:
• Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2HIfYv1
• Apple Music: https://apple.co/2Pa4i8A
• iTunes: https://apple.co/38QiuuY
• Amazon: amzn.to/37MxLvE
• Google Music: https://bit.ly/2P7eGxN
• Pandora: https://pdora.co/2vNGjVL
• Big Hit Shop (US ONLY) : https://bit.ly/2sceaGA
• Amazon: https://amzn.to/2QTSA1O
• Target : https://bit.ly/2s5Cx8E