On June 10, the K-pop powerhouse BTS released a three-disc compilation album, “Proof.” It was sure to be a hit, and this week it opens at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart, with the equivalent of 314,000 sales in the United States, according to the tracking service Luminate.
But BTS’s importance to Hybe, the South Korean entertainment company behind the group, was underscored when BTS announced four days later that it was taking a break to let its seven members focus on solo projects. The next day, Hybe’s stock price dropped 28 percent, trimming $1.7 billion market value from the company; since then the share price has been improved only slightly.
BTS accounts for nearly a third of Hybe’s sales in the United States, according to company disclosures, and as recently as 2020, nearly 90 percent of Hybe’s revenues were related to BTS and its music. (That was before Hybe bought Ithaca Holdings, the company led by the American music executive Scooter Braun, the manager of Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande, in a deal that was reported to be worth as much as $1 billion.)
But BTS’s impact is not limited to its management company’s account books. This month, the group spoke at the White House against anti-Asian hate crimes, and was hosted by President Biden in the Oval Office. Fans worldwide, who act as indomitable cheerleaders under the collective name Army, swarmed social media to commiserate and discuss the announcement.
The success of “Proof” followed a marketing playbook that has become standard for K-pop groups, with fans rushing to buy collectible releases in physical formats. Of the 314,000 “equivalent” sales for the album — a figure that incorporates physical sales, downloads and streams — 259,000 were for CD versions sold for as high as $70. The 48-track CD iteration includes 13 songs not available for streaming or download. In addition to the CD sales, the album sold 6,500 copies as digital downloads and had 53 million streams. It is the group’s sixth album to top the Billboard chart.
Also this week, Bad Bunny’s “Un Verano Sin Ti” falls to No. 2 and Harry Styles’s “Harry’s House” is No. 3. Post Malone’s new “Twelve Carat Toothache” drops two spots to No. 4 in its second week out, and Future’s “I Never Liked You” is No. 5.
Next week, Drake’s surprise new LP, “Honestly, Nevermind,” released on Friday, is likely to open at No. 1.