Photo: Cindy Ord/WireImage
No Radio, No Problem: How BTS Scored A No. 1 Hit Without Radio's Help
Unless you live under a rock, you've probably heard that Korean pop superstars BTS are back with fresh music. Their new album Map Of The Soul: 7 is taking the music world by storm and has yielded a No. 1 hit on Billboard’s Digital Sales chart with their single, "ON."
What you might not realize, is the group has landed this hit with little to no radio play in the U.S—no small feat considering the value of AM/FM radio airplay in the calculations of the weekly charts. And it is further proof of a musical landscape that continues to shift toward streaming. Last year, streaming grew its market share by almost 25 percent in the States, passing one trillion on-demand streams in 2019, according to a BuzzAngle report.
While radio certainly hasn't disappeared, BTS' journey to the top of the U.S. charts is strong evidence that streaming has completely replaced radio in terms of breaking new artists into the mainstream. And while BTS has been an international phenomenon for several years, their latest breakthrough in America shows how indie and international artists are circumventing the Big Radio gatekeepers to find their fan base in new and impactful ways via streaming.
“This huge milestone signifies how dramatically the music industry landscape has shifted away from radio play and toward nontraditional methods of promotion and distribution," read a recent article by Vox. "And it is indie and international artists who end up most benefiting from that change.”
And benefit BTS has. "ON" also landed at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, the highest chart position ever by a Korean group. Map Of The Soul: 7 sold over three million copies worldwide in only three days and topped the Billboard 200, earning their remarkable fourth consecutive No. 1 album.
Streaming's prevalence creates an avenue to success in the music industry, and artists are no longer required to rely on Big Radio to reach mainstream.
“An international band, singing mainly in a language other than English or Spanish, landing this high on the chart without the influence of mainstream radio suggests a powerful cultural change. More people are finding their way to the band independently, and traditional industry promotional methods are becoming less effective than ever,” Vox continued.
Radio's foothold on breaking new artists has slipped for several reasons, but it starts with the power structure that puts Big Radio’s interests ahead of artists. A new bill in Congress would change that. The AM-FM Act would improve these relations by giving artists, for the first time, the ability to grant consent to stations seeking to use their music—empowering artists and encouraging Big Radio to work with, not against, artists and their best interests. The bipartisan and bicameral bill would also protect small and non-profit local stations who stand to benefit from more indie and diverse performers. These are the same artist who are thriving on streaming services, proof there is demand for their music. And if indie and international artists aren't supported by radio, how can broadcasters expect to keep up with the dynamic dynamo streaming has become?
Learn more about the AM-FM Act and other policy affecting music creators on the Recording Academy's simple and informative issues and policy page and contact your Members of Congress today and urge them support local radio stations and fix the system by which artists of all genres, size and nationality are able to control the use of their work