On May 21, BTS released their new song, “Butter”. Let’s estimate its opening weekend performance by looking at YouTube and streams. With 108 million views on YouTube in the first 24 hours, the official video accumulated views faster than any other video in history, breaking their own record from last year when “Dynamite” was watched 101 million times. The premiere had a record-setting number of peak concurrent viewers when it aired live—3.9 million, compared to three million for “Dynamite.” “Butter” ranked second on Spotify by global play count, with 11.04 million plays. In the US, it ranked 10th, with 1.92 million plays. Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album, Sour, dominated the streaming record in the States this weekend. The single “good 4 u” was released ahead of the album and jumped to number one with nearly five million streams, while songs from the album grabbed every one of the top nine spots on the chart. Elsewhere, notable singles included Lil Nas X’s new song “SUN GOES DOWN,” but it failed to garner as much attention as the intense, red-soaked “MONTERO” released just before it.

Sales and streams of “Butter” for the week following its release on May 21 will be reflected on the June 5 chart. The song’s first-week performance can’t be predicted, but we can discuss what’s happened so far, what it means, and then weigh in. First, the song’s overwhelming performance on YouTube is remarkable enough to make the figures from Spotify or Apple Music almost meaningless. Second, although there’s no accurate tally of sales yet, if you look back at how “Dynamite” performed, it’s clear BTS’s sales are in a class of their own. The results of the Billboard Music Awards (BBMAs) that were held on Sunday night will also have had an impact. BTS was nominated for Top Duo/Group, Top Song Sales Artist, Top Social Artist and Top Selling Song, and won all four. The four categories could best be described as together honoring the group with the most passionate fanbase. The awards ceremony is also where the boys unveiled their performance of “Butter” for the first time. The influence from their four wins and performance will be reflected come Monday, as well as affect their placement on the Hot 100.
Other than the fact they are Korean artists, what’s unique about BTS’s place in the US market? BTS is the prevailing example of the changing relationship between artist, fan and industry, and their order of appearance. Traditionally, artists were discovered through industry expertise and insight, released into the market, and a relationship with fans followed. In BTS’s case, they developed a relationship with their fans at a global level before anything else. The industry has been paying attention to the relationship and market, and now wants to come in and make good use of it. Good examples can come from unexpected places: McDonald’s BTS Meal will go on sale from May 26. In this year alone, McDonald’s has also collaborated with Travis Scott and J Balvin. The setup is no doubt similar; McDonald’s is looking for an opportunity to appeal to younger consumers while also simplifying its menu choices to better focus on the drive-through experience during the pandemic. The Travis Scott Meal was, no question, extremely successful. But what’s interesting is that McDonald’s had reconfigured existing items from their menu to create the meals; nothing else about them was new. The BTS meal is different in two ways: One, it’s available in 50 countries across the world. Two, it has Korean on its packaging. McDonald’s will continue to offer celebrity meals, but they won’t go this far. The US music industry’s view of BTS is headed in a similar direction; the group has already secured a global network, and the language doesn’t present any problems that can’t be solved.

Billboard already knows it can’t define this market through a measure of sales or consumer behavior. They currently have a chart called Billboard Hot Trending in the works. For the first time in their history, they’re not looking for the best-selling or most played songs. Instead, they will gauge the songs that people mention the most on Twitter and rank them accordingly. Billboard plans to update the chart daily and provide video reports every day about what’s happened to change the chart. Now people are asking, not only in Korea but also in the US: “If it was possible for BTS, then who will be next, and when? We are today witnessing impact that extends beyond what can be explained by numbers and figures alone.
Article. Seongdeok Seo(Music Critic)
Photo Credit. Billboard Music Award Twitter