Seated at a feast in the style of Da Vinci’s Last Supper, the seven members of BTS celebrated their ninth anniversary as a band. This visual was very appropriate. The world’s biggest music act dropped an industry-shaking bomb during a mid-June dinner video: They were starting a new chapter and prioritizing solo careers.
“We have to accept that we’ve changed,” rapper and group leader RM said. “The problem with K-pop and the whole idol system is they don’t give you time to mature.” Suga made clear, in the hour-long “dinner party” video posted to their YouTube channel, BANGTANTV, that the group is not “disbanding,” and Jung Kook clarified in a follow-up video that this is not a “hiatus.”
Yet, news began to take on its own life.
BTS is, after all, the largest musical act on the planet. They have broken almost every YouTube and charting record together over the past 10 years. The foundational act for HYBE has also been a key figure in the rise of K-pop to global awareness. They were recently No. 1 on the Billboard charts with six hits. In just over a year they had 6 No.1 hits and sold out stadium crowds all around the world. The band released an anthology album on June 10th. Proof,This effectively puts a halt to their music production so far. What happens next remains a mystery. “The bottom line is that BTS is a monster on the charts, and they’re clearly not just the dominant K-pop act, but really the dominant music act over the past few years,” says Alexei Barrionuevo, international editor at Billboard. “Their absence will be huge, not only for K-pop, but also for HYBE, [because] they have built their company around BTS.”
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Is this the beginning of a new chapter?
First thing’s first: it is not, as Jung Kook clarified in a later video, a hiatus. RM, Suga, J-Hope, Jung Kook, Jimin, V, and Jin will be working on solo projects, and as they explained in their first video, they’re looking forward to some more independence. However, they don’t intend to quit working in a group. “BTS now starts a new chapter with new solo projects as well as group projects,” HYBE shared in an official statement explaining the transition. “Members will take this time to achieve personal growth through various new activities, and we expect it to further strengthen the foundation for the group‘s long-run as a team. BIGHIT MUSIC will actively support the artists.”
What happens when BTS reunites?
Since they’re not disbanding, they’re still together. Their future musical output as a group is uncertain, though, and it’s unclear when they might return to live performance as a group.
Barrionuevo believes that there have been signs of this direction change for some time. Besides a slowdown in output over the past few years, and their clear interest in moving past the “fishbowl” group living situation they’ve been in, he points to Korea’s required military service as the ultimate warning sign of impending change. “The only thing that was looming that everyone understood—and that was being parsed and debated—was the military service requirement… Everyone thought maybe they would be the exception to finally break the rules in Korea,” he says. They were able to delay until they reached 30 years old through an amendment in 2020 to the laws. However, other changes that had been proposed have yet to materialize. “They were looking at a situation where for three consecutive years, they were going to lose one BTS member every year to military service.” That remains true—starting with oldest member Jin, 29—and especially with this new direction, most likely inevitable.
What does this mean for the band’s earnings?
BTS isn’t going anywhere, and they’ll still earn income off of their existing body of work. However, the company behind them—HYBE—took a hit with the announcement. Bloomberg reports that share prices plunged nearly 30% after the announcement. That brought down their market value by $1.7 billion and also reduced them about 60% over the course of the year.
HYBE manages a portfolio of artists—including up-and-coming group TOMORROW X TOGETHER—and runs the technology platform Weverse, with minority stakes in other agencies, too, as well as projects in Korean language programs and gaming. Ithaca Holdings is a U.S.-based music agency that has managed global superstars like Demi Lovato and Justin Bieber. They made a huge music deal with them in 2021.
You might also like their TV program. Run BTS?
In Jung Kook’s VLive, he noted that BTS will continue to be active as a team, including shooting Run BTS. So that part of their group’s content, at least, is not going anywhere.
They seem to have no plans for a halt in their other projects. On June 21, an animated music video came out for their new song “Yet To Come (The Most Beautiful Moment).” The video represents their characters from the mobile game “BTS Island: In the SEOM.”
How will they look as solo career?
BTS’ members always had side projects in mind, even at their busiest moments as a group. Suga has released multiple mixtapes under the name Agust D, and featured on Halsey’s last album with his own interlude as well as in a popular collaboration with singer-songwriter MAX; he also has over 100 producing credits. RM is a rapper who has released his solo mixtape and contributed to independent songs. mono.In 2018, J-Hope also published a mixtape back in 2018. V’s solo music, which leans balladic, has earned hundreds of millions of streams. Jimin, Jung Kook, and Jin have dabbled in solo releases as well (although in the dinner party video, Jimin was keen to note that he doesn’t see himself as a solo artist, but as a BTS member).
The artists are also known to have other passions, including photography, acting, dance, fashion, and film, so it seems likely we will start to see more of their individual interests and hobbies playing a bigger role in their lives, whether personal or professional; Jin joked in the video that he’d spent much of the last few weeks playing video games, while Suga has kept up a schedule of English, Pilates, and dance classes.
First up with new solo work will be J-Hope, whose solo album is underway and who is slated to perform at Chicago’s Lollapalooza music festival at the end of July.
What should fans be expecting from BTS
Fans may find the change bittersweet. The comments in the YouTube video show a lot of emotion. There has also been a flood of support and surprise on social media. It will also allow them to meet the artist as people. “For us fans, it means we have more artistic endeavors to both support and discover from each of them as well as their projects as a group,” says a fan with a BTS-dedicated ARMY account on Twitter who, like many fellow fans, prefers not to be named in the media. (Many ARMY are hesitant—if not downright wary—to weigh in publicly on the future of BTS, preferring to let the members speak for themselves.) “They want to explore their individuality; how could they do so if we impose our wishes and expectations on them?” they say. “Since their beginning they have written songs like ‘N.O’ to encourage us to follow our own path and dreams rather than live according to others’ expectations. It would be unfair to force this upon them. [hypocritical] of us, don’t you think?”
Many others are excited to see them expand their musical horizons. “I would love to see them surprise us with more music in different genres that more defines their individuality. I am secretly hoping to watch them in K-dramas,” says Marie Oliveria, a 43-year-old fan from Lisbon, Portugal. “I also support them just having normal life experiences. When they begin focusing on being a group again, there’s no doubt in my mind that they will take all those unique individual experiences and do what they do best: make their diversity work at the highest levels.”
What is the point of BTS taking this direction?
RM reflected back on the last few years during the video for the dinner party. “For me, it was like the group BTS was within my grasp until ‘ON’ and ‘Dynamite,’ but after ‘Butter’ and ‘Permission to Dance’ I didn’t know what kind of group we were anymore.” (The latter two were the group’s most recent English-language mega-hits.) According to him, it was difficult for him to choose the right story to tell with his music. “After I get up in the morning and get makeup done, there’s no time for growth. And it’s not just about music and work. I’ve changed as a human over the past 10 years, so I needed time to think and have some alone time.” He continued: “Somehow, it’s become my job to be a rapping machine… but I kept feeling like I was trapped inside myself.”
“I think now, finally, we’ve come to think about what kind of artists we each want to be remembered as to our fans,” Jimin said. BTS has spent nine years developing an intense relationship with their ARMY; their most recent releases have all been odes of gratitude to the support they’ve received, creating music that strengthened that bond. This is the moment to look inward.
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