How BTS Really Became Famous

South Korean superstar septet BTS, per Billboard, consists of Suga, Jungkook, V, RM, Jimin, J-Hope and Jin. So ubiquitous has the band become, Billboard reports, that one out of every 100 digital songs sold in the United States in 2021 was one of theirs. Naturally, though, this sort of success doesn't come easily, and the seven stars had quite a journey to success. Here's how they became famous.

Showbiz CheatSheet reports that Big Hit Entertainment began forming BTS in 2010, auditioning members to form the perfect outfit. These efforts were spearheaded by Bang Shi Hyuk, per The Guardian, who had created Big Hit Entertainment.

The producer's approach was to give the developing band freedom to experiment, to find their sound, write their own material, and interact with fans, according to The Guardian. The latter meant they could extend their reach through social media, personally, and this would prove pivotal in their rise to fame. It was three years until they were officially introduced as BTS, in 2013, and they quickly proved to be a powerhouse for a new generation.

From humble beginnings

A study from the Harvard Business School (via Insider) reports that a grueling process of dance and singing training followed their selection, and that their places in the band may have been contested by around 80 other hopefuls. When it came time to prove their talents, though, they rose to the challenge.

The members of the group, Insider goes on, were assembled through a varied process. Jungkook auditioned on a talent show called "SuperStar K" (his audition is available on YouTube, via You Better Work), giving a nervous performance but one full of potential. Seoul Space reports that he was just 14 at the time, and though he didn't win the competition, he got the most valuable prize of all: Big Hit Entertainment were just one of a number of talent-seeking companies who were impressed by him.

Suga, meanwhile, went through the same process that so many musical hopefuls (particularly in the K-pop arena) do, according to Insider: an audition he submitted online. As HITC reports, huge industry names like SM Entertainment find some of the latest and greatest up-and-coming talent this way. Girls' Generation are among their success stories, and they announced another audition process, "Kwangya" (seeking rising singing, rapping and acting stars) in February 2022.

RM, or Rap Monster, was the first member to join what would become BTS

Kim Nam-Joon, now global superstar RM, had been an aspiring rapper since the sixth grade, according to Seoul Space. Like Jungkook, his first industry audition wasn't directly successful — he reportedly fumbled the lyrics of the song he chose to rap — but it led to just the serendipitous break he needed.

Rapper Sleepy was among those judging hopefuls that day, and, recognizing a budding talent, Sleepy encouraged the 15-year-old to try out for Big Hit Entertainment. Through a combination of this lucky industry connection and his natural talent, BTS' RM was born.

Remarkably, Seoul Space goes on to explain, RM (Rap Monster) was intended for a different band, a rapping sextet, but it didn't come to fruition. The musical landscape of the world would have been very different today if it had, but in the end, RM became the first member of BTS and the linchpin around which a K-pop legend would be built.

Jin wanted to be an actor, but voice coaching changed his life

The band gradually formed around RM, per Seoul Space, their musical aspirations leading them to the big time in auditions. In this regard, Jin was a bit of an exception. It seems he did not see himself as a musician while growing up, instead nursing hopes of becoming an actor. Had the company not encouraged him to embark on voice coaching and other training, the face of BTS would again have been different.

According to The Korea Times, Jin's (along with Jungkook, V and several other K-pop stars) voice coach was Kim Sung-eun, a true star-maker. Jin particularly impressed her, she told the outlet, with his dedication and drive to improve. "When Jin was an idol trainee at Big Hit Entertainment," she said, "he practiced singing Asher Book's 'Try' (2006) with me during a lesson, which he could barely pull off back then." Years later, she was stunned by his improvement, she added: "He was so proficient, but what touched me more was his attitude. Despite being a superstar with hectic schedules, he still strives for better."

Kim Sung-eun created Seoul's WIP Company, an academy for such talents, in 2011, and has had an irreplaceable part to play in BTS's rise to fame.

2013: The year that BTS truly arrived

According to The Korea Times, Kim Sung-eun taught V, Jin, and Jungkook to sing for over a year. By this time, it was 2013, and that was the year that BTS truly arrived on the scene.

According to Showbiz Cheatsheet, the band's online presence, in the form of social media, YouTube and other platforms, started to gain them traction in the months prior to the arrival of their very first official release: 2013's "2 Kool 4 Skool." This was followed, per AllMusic, by two more releases in the so-called "Skool" trilogy, then, among others and refining their act all the time, the "Love Yourself" albums.

With each new release, they gained more and more attention, bringing their music into the global mainstream, an area that K-pop has often struggled to penetrate. As is the case for so many stars in the industry, fate helped them along a road that certainly wasn't an easy one, but they've emerged as a force to be reckoned with.

Onwards to ever-greater success

"Love Yourself: Tear" marked an incredible record for BTS in May of 2018: it reached number one on Billboard's top 200. This achievement was hailed by South Korean President Moon Jae-in himself, who gushed on Facebook, "I congratulate BTS on topping the Billboard 200 with their album titled 'Love Yourself 轉 Tear'. This is the first ever Korean album to claim the top spot, and also the first non-English album to do so in 12 years."

This, more than anything else, underscores the scale of BTS' achievements. The pressures of fame, the lifestyle and the industry can be incredible burdens to carry, but just as Kim Sung-eun, they continue to push forward and are amply rewarded for it.

By March of 2020, they had repeated the feat three more times. Billboard reported that "Map of the Soul: 7" was their fourth album to top that chart. What a career they've had to date, and what a future lies before them.