BTS members’ decision to take time off for solo projects is bound to shake up K-pop music consumption in the U.S. because of the group’s dominance in the genre. And the band’s label, Big Hit Music — a division of HYBE, which Universal Music Group’s Geffen Records has distributed in the U.S. since last year — will have a tough time filling the hole.
Since the beginning of 2021, BTS has accounted for 29.4% of sales and on-demand streams of K-pop music in the U.S., according to a Billboard analysis of Luminate data. Over that time, BTS did not release a new studio album but put out two “best of” collections — BTS, the Best in June 2021 and Proof on June 10, 2022. BTS also released multiple variations of the tracks “Butter” (including a remix with Megan Thee Stallion), “My Universe” and “Permission to Dance.”
BTS accounted for 3.6 million album equivalent units since 2021 (through June 9), more than four times the next K-pop group when considering streams and purchases of digital and physical formats.
Another Big Hit artist, Tomorrow X Together, was second in total consumption with 795,000 album equivalent units. Two artists from competing Korean music company JYP Entertainment, TWICE and Stray Kids (both distributed by Republic Records in the U.S.), were third and fourth with 763,000 units and 655,000 units, respectively. BLACKPINK, from another competitor, SM Entertainment (distributed by Interscope Records in the U.S.), ranked fifth with 569,000 album equivalent units.
As a group, BTS has accounted for 2.56 billion U.S. on-demand audio streams since 2021. That gave BTS a 27.7% share of K-pop’s 9.26 billion U.S. on-demand audio streams during the period. TWICE was far behind with 548 million streams.
BTS is likely to put up strong streaming numbers in the near future. The band just released its anthology album, Proof on June 10, and these days tracks can maintain their popularity on streaming platforms through repeat listens on editorial and user-generated playlists.
Sales activity does not have the longevity of streaming, however, which means album and track sales are more dependent on new releases. BTS has accounted for 29.1% of K-pop physical album sales since 2021 and an incredible 72.3% of K-pop digital track sales. The group’s dominance in track sales stems from the band’s fans, known as BTS ARMY. As Billboard reported in 2021, BTS fans are known to coordinate digital buying to influence the band’s chart performance. Since the beginning of 2021, BTS has sold 3.1 million tracks in the U.S. The other top-five K-pop acts have each sold fewer than 100,000 over that span.
Also notable: In 2021, BTS sold more albums on CD in the U.S. than any other artist, with 1.03 million copies sold, representing 2.5% of total CD album sales in the U.S. across all genres of music. The group’s total share of the U.S. album sales market in 2021, across all formats (CD, digital download, vinyl LPs and other formats) was 1%.