BTS Fans Discovered Another ‘Unfair’ Treatment the Group Receives Compared to Other Popular Artists

BTS debuted in the K-pop industry in 2013 with very little fanfare. By 2015, they had managed to climb to the top of music charts in South Korea. A few years later, the group was well on their way to international superstardom.

However, despite the fact that BTS is now famous around the world, many fans believe they are not always treated well for an artist of their status. Recently, BTS fans also discovered another “unfair” treatment the group receives.

BTS | JTBC PLUS/Imazins via Getty Images

Fans often voice complaints about BTS being treated unfairly in the American music industry

In August 2019, MTV found itself in hot water after it debuted a K-pop category for the annual Video Music Awards and announced BTS as one of the nominations. BTS fans found the move offensive because they saw it as a way to sideline BTS instead of allowing them to be nominated under much bigger categories like “Artist of the Year” or “Video of the Year.”

Fans also pointed out that BTS already outperformed artists like Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, and the Jonas Brothers when it comes to album sales and streams, which means they should have received nominations in big categories like any other popular artists.

This incident was just one in a long list of complaints fans have made about how BTS is sometimes not thought to be on the same level as artists who sing in English or artists who originated in Western countries.

What is another ‘unfair’ and ‘problematic’ treatment fans discovered?

In mid-July, Nielsen Music released a mid-year report to highlight music sales and consumption in the first half of 2020. In the report, fans pointed out that BTS’s recent release, Map of the Soul: 7, did not make it to Nielsen’s “Top Five Albums” list despite outselling other artists on there, such as Justin Bieber, Billie Eilish, and Lady Gaga.

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Journalist Brian Patrick Byrne allegedly reached out to Nielsen for a clarification and received the response that it was because BTS had been categorized differently.

“When I asked Nielsen about this discrepancy, they told me, ‘We used Core genre and BTS core genre is ‘World’. While BTS is eligible for Pop charts, the Core genre keeps genres unique,’” Byrne wrote on Twitter.

Byrne also shared that, unlike other non-American artists like Justin Bieber and Harry Styles, BTS has reportedly been categorized as “World” because they do not sing in English. Additionally, according to Byrne, Nielsen compared BTS to Latin pop artists, noting that the latter would be under the “Latin” category instead of “Pop.”

However, many fans took to social media to call this move by Nielsen “unfair” and “problematic.”

One person wrote on Reddit: “The term ‘world music’ is so off putting. It feels really disrespectful to any of the musicians classified under that label, like they’re so seen as other that they don’t deserve any consideration beyond the fact that it was made by people who aren’t white (or as this guy puts it “English speaking”) If they really had to have a world music category, the least they could do is pretend it’s not racist by grouping all non-American artists into that category.”

“This is so problematic and unfair,” another fan said. “Musical elements transcend the language in which songs are sung. All the elements of their songs are all part of the pop genre, and the only difference is language, making this blatant discrimination in my opinion.”

Some fans pointed out another possible reason why BTS is not considered ‘pop’

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While a lot of fans are understandably upset about BTS being considered labeled differently than other artists, some pointed out that there is another logical explanation for this.

Blackpink, a fellow K-pop group with music released in the U.S., are under the “Pop” category as listed by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Fans believe this is because Blackpink is fully signed to an American record label—in this case, Interscope Records—whereas BTS only has a music distribution deal with Columbia Records.

Of course, Nielsen and RIAA are two different entities with possibly different ways of categorizing artists. Nielsen’s mid-year recap also includes just the best-selling artists, so it is unclear whether Blackpink would have been considered “Pop” or “World” by Nielsen had their numbers been high enough to be included in the mid-year report.