Will BTS soon have the biggest K-Pop radio hit ever?

The popular boy band now has the most-streamed K-pop song of all time on Spotify and are also the most-streamed Korean artists on Apple Music. But what’s the situation on radio?

Zoom on Europe

Yesterday, Korean boy band BTS broke the record for most ever streams on Spotify for a K-pop song with 'Boy With Luv'. It's just the latest in a long series of successes for BTS, but how is the situation looking for the band when it comes to radio? We decided to do a bit of digging. 'Boy With Luv' is also BTS's most successful song on radio. In April, it rose to number 22 on Billboard’s Mainstream Top 40 Radio Airplay chart making it the group’s highest-charting radio track and topping their song ‘Mic Drop’ which peaked at number 25. The highest K-Pop song on the chart of all time, however, still belongs to Psy, who’s seven-year-old viral hit ’Gangnam Style’ peaked at number 10 in 2012. However, looking at the data, there are many indications that it’s only a matter of time before BTS surpasses Psy for most ever K-pop radio plays as they’ve recently done on several fronts with streaming. In December 2018, an earlier BTS single, ‘Fake Love’,surpassed ‘Gangnam Style’ to become the most-streamed song ever on Spotify by a Korean artist.

Today, the two songs have +273 million and +202 million streams, respectively, but both have since been overtaken by ‘Boy With Luv’ which currently has almost 285 million streams. BTS was also the second most-streamed group of 2018 and in November they became the first Korean artist to reach 1 billion streams on Apple Music. The pattern now looks to be repeating on radio. 'Boy With Luv' started getting radio airplay in April 2019, the same month of its release, and after the first six months, it has 178.706 total spins. It's a huge leap from their second-highest charting song, 'Mic Drop' released in September 2017 which currently only has 65.701 spins after a year and a half. 'Gangnam Style', on the other hand, has a total of 298.449 plays gathered since its release. This means that in only six months, 'Boy With Luv' has WAY over half as many radio spins as Psy's hit has gotten in seven years!

It seems very likely that Psy's record will get smashed.Interestingly, outside of Asia, Mexico is the country where ‘Boy With Luv’ has the most overall plays (34.053). In fact, on the Mexican airplay chart, 'Boy With Luv' has reached number one on two occasions. This is followed by the United States, (33.525), Germany (11.755), Italy (11652), and the U.K (11.558).

Radio chart of BTS's airplay in Mexican cities
BTS's radio airplay in Mexico

Zoon on Latin America

So while Europe is where the song has the most overall airplay, outside of Asia, Latin American countries are the second-largest territory for the song. Besides Mexico, South American countries such as Brazil, Argentina and Chile are among the top countries to play ‘Boy With Luv’. A similar pattern was seen with ‘Fake Love’ and ‘Mic Drop’. That’s interesting since the other big wave of global pop besides K-pop is currently coming from Latin American artists who have also shown that they can penetrate Western markets in spite of the language barrier.

A lot has happened since Psy became the first K-pop act to hit big in the West in 2012. Since then, streaming has become much more widespread which is creating a much more global music culture.BTS also has a much more dedicated worldwide fan base while PSY was basically a one-hit-wonder. The most active BTS fans, known as the ARMY, are extremely skilled at coordinating social media campaigns with the aim of furthering the band’s reach.

That BTS is now also infiltrating mainstream radio outside of Asia to such an extent, is a sure sign that the band, as well as K-pop, in general, is on its way to a whole new level of global success.It will be very interesting to see how far BTS and their dedicated fans can take the genre, both in terms of radio play and otherwise.


Years go by and BTS keep on breaking records!

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