[Article] 171201 [Friday Exclusive Interview] The identity of this man is.... "BTS dad"



Cover Story
"BTS" who has captivated the world... An exclusive interview with Bang Sihyuk who grouped the seven boys and raised them
"Is it a must to have a member who studied abroad in an idol group? Our kids are native Koreans from outside Seoul"

Boy Scouts created by Bang Sihyuk?
haha, it was never meant that way. It was intended to mean protecting the youths from the pain and pressure but I also did hear a few comments saying it sounds childish

Adjusting their code to global "youth"
We made effort to capture the brutal realities of the youths rather than fun and happy songs and this worked in other countries too

My identity is "commercial composer"
Trendy music that perfectly fits the public's taste is my goal
What inspires me? Music is something you write with your butt


In 2010, first-year student Kim Namjoon of Gyeonggi-do Ilsan Daejin High School was a  rapper aspirant well-known among the "talented people". He grew interested in hip-hop music since middle school and posted his self-written raps and music on hip hop community site. He was slowly recognized by the people in the field and he was also mentioned to the best pop gayo composer of the time.

It was Bang Sihyuk (45, CEO of Bighit Entertainment) who has created hit songs like g.o.d's "Sky Blue Balloon", Rain's "Bad guy", Baek Ji Young's "Being shot by the bullet". Immediately after listening to Kim's rap, Bang Sihyuk felt in his bones that he was "the thing". He scouted Kim as a trainee at the entertainment company he was running. Starting with Kim, he recruited 6 more boys. The boys are from Ilsan, Gwacheon, Busan, Daegu, Gwangju. They are native Koreans without a single member from overseas. Not even one of them is from Seoul and this idol group was created in 2013.

Group name "BTS". The "high school rapper" who was the pivot becomes the group leader with the stage name "Rap Monster" (He has changed his stage name to RM). With many groups naming themselves with English names with thoughts of promoting overseas, their group name was uniquely Korean. "Are idols some bulletproof glass?" "Boy scouts created by Bang Sihyuk?" They also received sarcastic remarks like "They sound old-fashioned", "They sound childish".

4 years have passed since then and at present, there is no one teasing them for their group name anymore. "Bangtan" became one of the teams receiving the most attention in both Korea and overseas. On November 19th (local time), the group made their US debut on AMAs, one of the 3 major US music award ceremonies, and they also won the "Top Social Artist" award last May at the Billboard Awards, winning against the US' biggest idol star Justin Bieber. They set a milestone by ranking No. 7 on Billboard Album Chart with their new album released in September. The group was also invited to ABC "Jimmy Kimmel Live", NBC "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" and other famous US talk shows. They have over 10 million followers on Twitter (as of 28th). They have the most number of followers among Korean accounts. They've reached the position where no other than "Gangnam Style" PSY reached among Korean singers.



The hidden driving force behind "BTS"'s success is no other than Bang Sihyuk. He has planned and created the group and he is "BTS's dad" who have given their name. He chose RM with Suga, Jin, J Hope, Jimin, Jungkook, and V and trained the 7 boys he found all over the country. The global interest for Bangtan also affected Bang Sihyuk. Right after "Bangtan"'s impressive US debut, over 200 requests to interview him from media inside and outside the country were sent to Bighit Entertainment. "Friday" had an exclusive interview with Bang Sihyuk, who is currently the most dominant figure in gayo industry, in LA on November 20th right after the AMAs.

Bang Sihyuk (45) who was a composer and a producer of JYP Entertainment in 2003 went on the plane to LA with JYP Entertainment CEO Park Jinyoung. This was during the time when GOD, Rain, and other artists they co-produced were popular. With their success as the stepping stone, they chose to fly to the US with bare hands to try their luck in the S pop music industry. These two lived together in a small apartment and distributed their songs to every recording company. However, the US market walls were too high for them who came from a country they haven't even heard of often. Eventually, Bang Sihyuk returned to Korean alone after a few months.

14 years have passed since then. On Novemebr 19th (local time), Bang Sihyuk entered the AMA ceremony venue, one of the 3 major US music awards ceremonies. He had come to the place where his 7 member boy group "BTS" (from Bighit Entertainment he created back in 2005) was going to hold their US debut stage. It was like Bang Sihyuk and BTS had placed their flag in the US music market where even the big entertainment companies suffered defeat, 

We met with Bighit Entertainment CEO Bang Sihyuk who came to LA with BTS for the AMAs. BTS members called CEO Bang "PD-nim". Even CEO Bang said, "I feel more comfortable to be called as a producer than a CEO". Dressed in white shirt and cardigan, we couldn't find the "judge with a sharp tongue" we saw back in 2010 MBC Audition Program "The Birth of a Great Star". While drinking his iced coffee, CEO Bang said, "Don't you think yesterday's (BTS) stage was really touching? I didn't know the boys would do such great job."


- Have you expected this amount of success?

"I had a belief that BTS would do well. But I didn't imagine them to grow this fast. I think this year has passed with me still stunned (by the achievements).

- How did you create the group called BTS? Many commented that it's a childish name

"It doesn't mean "the boy scouts created by Bang Sihyuk" like some think (laughs). With the meaning of "bulletproof" that is commonly used in the US, we thought "what if we protect the pain and pressure of 10s and the 20s youths". But in Korea, they found the name childish (laughs). BTS is a group that began with the leader RM. About 7 years ago, one of my friends said "There's this rapper who is receiving a great amount of attention" so I met him and he was incredibly talented. So I thought of making a hip-hop crew with this boy as the center but I thought an idol group would be better so I gathered other members and created BTS."

- One or two foreign members are present in the recent idol groups but it's unique that every member is native Korean who are also not from Seoul

"I didn't intentionally avoid recruiting anyone from Seoul. While recruiting BTS, the concept was "members who talk about their own stories and represent their generation". I focused on this concept when recruiting the members and that's how the present 7 of them came together"

- We can tell from the group name too but it doesn't seem like you were targeting the international market from the planning stage.

"You are correct. I did think "we should make global advance in the future" but we didn't aim for the overseas market from the planning stage. However, we thought of doing music that every teenager and youth can relate to regardless of race or country. I think this worked in overseas too. Even if you look at past cases, international fans call their favorite group with their own nicknames if they like the group's music or the members solely with the names they create on themselves, right? Even the English name "BTS", the acronym of Bangtan Sonyeondan was created by the international fans."


- Based on the analysis, the point that differentiates BTS from other existing idol group looks like it's the message in their songs. Even the "series" concept album that focuses on one subject explains.

"I think the present idol singers' music focus too much on "having fun". BTS went in the opposite direction. They focused on singing about the brutal realities and the concerns experienced by the youths of this generation rather than happy music. When I told the members to write a song/lyrics for the first time, they all wrote about things that showed off themselves. I "rejected" all of them. I told them they must write their own stories. This might seem childish but I thought this would make the youths of similar ages to relate to their music more. I think "series", "growth" concepts naturally came along because they created music based on their own stories."

- You didn't plan on using social media like Twitter actively?

"It's true that SNS has played a great role in growing BTS's popularity. However, the company didn't force them to use the SNS. The members voluntarily used it even before their debut. We didn't restrict them from using their mobile phones from trainee days.  This eventually made BTS members to become "Twitter manias" like other youths. The members use their SNS just like netizens and I think fans love this more. This applies to YouTube too. YouTube is the place where you can access the trendiest music of this moment. Even we upload our music and music videos on YouTube and this was the place were fans met BTS for the first time. I think the fans increased with the members interacting with fans on SNS on real-time."

BTS always addressed their fans, "fan-beundeul/팬분들" (T/N: 분/beun means "person" in honorific expression. 분들/beundeul is the plural form) and even Bang Sihyuk addressed them the same way. 


- Could you briefly summarize the success factors of BTS?

"There was KPOP's unique trendiness and the performance as the base with the power of SNS. And like the Western artists, I think it's the fact that they combine their own stories in the music. When they released the song "I need you", we intentionally created a music video that's quite powerful. This was because we wanted to express that's how much youth is painful. When we read the comments on YouTube, viewers around the world left in various language. "I wanted to commit sucide but this gave me strength". I think this kind of empathy and interaction are the secrets behind their success."

CEO Bang Sihyuk is one of the top composer and producer of Korea's pop music industry. He majored in aesthetics at Seoul National  University and he got into music while performing as a band during his middle school years. In 1994, while he was still a university student he won the bronze award at the "Yoo Jaeha Gayo Competition" where they mainly select sentimental folk singer-songwriters. He then began to distribute the demo tapes of his self-composed songs and JYP who by chance heard his song scouted him. Bang Sihyuk said, "I didn't listen to Korean gayo a lot before this and I had almost no connection in the gayo industry so I was very lucky when Jinyoung hyung reached out to me first. I think I half-assedly began walking on the composer's road without a dramatic momentum." It's a great success considering it wasn't a serious beginning. GOD, 5 member boy group that received great popularity in early 2000 was produced by Bang Sihyuk and Park Jinyoung. He is also a popular composer who wrote countless hit songs like Baek Jiyoung's "Like being hit by a bullet" and Rain's "Bad guy".

- You were a Yoo Jaeha Gayo Competition contestant that focus on folk music and an elite from Seoul National University. We think there's a great gap between your past work experience and present music.

"My identity is "commercial composer". This was also why I had to think a lot before going on Yoo Jaeha Gayo Competition. Even during that time, I was awarded for R&B music which has a strong commercial color and looking at it this way, I think I have continuously walked on the commercial composer's path from the beginning."

- What does commercial composer mean?

"I think an artist is a person who persuades the public with their preference and makes music that can move the listeners. However, a commercial composer like myself prioritizes on making music that accurately aims for the public's taste. The music liked by the present generation, and trendy music is my goals. The typical example is "Blood Sweat & Tears" by BTS. We quickly made the song after adjusting ourselves to  Latin pop music and tropical house music which were growing popular in the global market."


- Where does your inspiration come from?

"I think the word "inspire" isn't quite correct. I believe music is "something you write with your butt". You have to sit down in your work room for a long time, listening to many various songs to create good music. This is why YouTube is one of the things I watch the most. Rather than going to clubs, and talking with younger people outside, it helps me a lot more to listen to from Africa and Balkans on YouTube."

- Then as a commercial composer, what are your thoughts on the flow of pop music market?

"First of all, my music is based on Western music. I've lived all my life exposed to the American music. Based on this, I think the Hispanic Latin pop music will be very dominating for some time. Also if I could pick one more, it's a mixture of genre. We used to think hip hop and EDM were incompatible but there are many songs these days that have both genres. With this kind of border falling apart, I think songs with Latin pop as the base will become popular."

- Then what kind of music do you think survives in the pop music market?

"Does surviving mean something great? I think it would have its own worth even if it's consumed for a short period and disappear. However, the music we want to create is music that will remain in one's memory. Like  "Gwanghwamun Sonata" by Lee Moonsae that comes to my mind whenever I go to Jungdonggil, Seoul."

- Many say that AI could replace the creator's field like composers.

"I have listened to songs composed by AI. They really make good songs. I personally think that AI will play a great role even in the music creating field. I think the singers, producers, and composers would have to decide how they are going to choose and tune the songs made by AI."


- We're curious about the reaction of JYP Entertainment CEO Park Jinyong who you have stayed as a family for a long time. Was he envious?

"Never. Jinyoung hyung isn't a person who gets jealous of things like this. He's someone who I think is the coolest. Jinyoung hyung was the first person I thought of when BTS became this successful. Jinyoung hyung was the very first person I spoke on the phone when they won the award at the Billboard Awards and I called Jinyoung hyung at the airport when I came to this year's AMAs."


- The gayo industry is very interested in "the after (group) of BTS"


"We are preparing but now isn't the time to mention them. Our priority is to focus on BTS."

- Future goals?

"Modelling. For the 2nd or the third BTS, we have to analysis the road walked by BTS to create "success formula". Right now, I can't say, "You should do this and you will be as successful as BTS" but I think I could talk about it by next year. Like how we have many hallyu groups that followed SM's Mr. Lee Sooman's success formula that was created by advancing Boa to Japan, we will create a success formula for BTS's advance in the US and overseas markets."


◆ Success formula picked by Park Sihyuk

1. they talk about their stories

"They sang about subjects like pain, pressure, and school violence that the 10s and 20s listeners can deeply relate to."

2. they followed the KPOP principles

"Performance and visual, good looks, great dances, and talents which can supplement language barrier. This works all around the world."

3. Angling towards the fans' level

"We didn't limit their SNS. We let them do whatever they wanted. Just like any average person around their age. The fans felt a sense of closeness seeing stars using SNS just like them."

4. Contents rather than marketing

"When we followed the youth story of peers, we found the keyword "growth". Just like how the youths grown, even BTS's own growth connected to their contents"

Original post here

Responses
 I like the article (445) This is heartwarming (15)This makes me sad (0) I'm angry (0) I want the next part of this article (1)

+ I recommend this article to the main page +327


1. I think they didn't have to restrict them because the members are good-natured. I also think he was able to tell them to talk about their own stories because he was earnest. it's like father, like son... I'm really happy to see the members I support working with such amazing leader... +587 -5

2. I'm touched because I can always feel how much Bang Sihyuk cares and loves BTS. I think the fact he doesn't look at them commercially touches me the most... and his extensive knowledge and view of music are so cool. I hope Bighit will continue to do well +435 -3

3. thank you for the nice article ^^ Even the exclusive interview with BTS published a few days ago was touching too! this is an article I can really feel the sincerity +415 -3

4. I'm sure he's a good leader. I think BTS will become more successful. Thanks for the nice article +375 -1

5. I read every word. I will support you to be more successful in the future +363 -3

6. Many said they were targetting other countries from the beginning but I think they got more international core fans naturally because of BTS's song, lyrics, and message of youths which foreign fans could relate to. Thank you for the nice interview. I enjoyed reading +117 -1

7. Wow I really enjoyed. This is a very nice interview. I will cheer you endlessly +94 -0

8. I was curious about the person who created BTS and it was Bang Sihyuk... this is so cool, touching and beautiful. Fighting. +86 -0

9. Thank you for making BTS +83 -0

10. thank you for the nice article! +72 -0




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