Just a few short years ago, it seemed unlikely that the K-pop wave would ever truly break on the US, with multiple attempts to break into the market falling short. This all changed with the rise of BTS, bringing K-pop into the American mainstream, and while you still won't here much K-pop on US radio, it seems it's here to stay.
Guest post by Bobby Owsinski of Music 3.0
A few years ago it seemed inconceivable that Korean Pop music, known as K-Pop, would ever break in the U.S. Many had tried but most seemed to fizzle, but that all changed this year with boy band BTS having not one but two Billboard 200 #1 albums in the last year, and 6 other acts reached the charts as well.
You won’t find much K-Pop on the radio though, as airplay has been hard to come by. That doesn’t matter much to the genre’s fans, as social media has been the artist’s preferred way of growing their influence with a sophistication and fervor that acts from other genres could only dream about.
According to Billboard, “Spotify reports that K-pop’s share of listening has grown about 65 percent annually since 2015, and Apple Music had year-over-year growth of 86 percent in the United States between 2017 and 2018 alone. Last year, Pandora Music’s K-Pop Girl Groups station grew over 182 percent in year-to-year listens, while its K-Pop Boy Bands station rose by 90 percent.” Nielsen Music also states that the music has more that doubled in consumption over the last 3 years.
So what pushed K-Pop over the edge with American audiences? There were two factors involved, according to industry insiders.
The first was collaborations with Western artists. BTS doing “Best of Me, with The Chainsmokers, and with Steve Aoki on “Mic Drop (Remix)” led to Blackpink and Dua Lipa’s “Kiss and Make Up,” which broke into the Hot 100 in 2018 despite not being promoted as a single.
Another is visibility thanks to American television. BTS appeared at the 2017 and 2018 Billboard Music Awards, the 2017 American Music Awards, and the 2019 Grammy Awards, which exposed the music to an audience that might have been unaware of it.
One thing’s for sure, we no longer live in a local music world, as acts from all over the planet are readily available for U.S. consumption. Where in the past that might not have been enough to break through, American audiences have heard what’s available elsewhere and they want more.