BTS Meeting +10 Year Old Records: A Simple Analysis
South Korean boy group BTS is at the top of their game, and it is becoming a norm for them to achieve so many historical moments for a non-English and Asian artist. From historical stadium tours, worldwide sales, streaming records to their global power as leaders and influencers, the seven members reached foreign shores, which seemed beyond reach for an artist from South Korea, singing in Korean.
If I start talking about each achievement that BTS has created or broken, I might end up writing a massive thesis! So instead of talking about each result, let’s talk about something different: breaking or reaching records that are several years old. In this article, I will use the time frame of records held or achieved for over “10 years” as ten years is a challenging number for any artist to reach or break. Keep in mind that reaching a +10-year-old record is not an easy task for any artist because of:
- Change in Music Market & Trend
- Change in Music Consumption
- Streaming Era
You will need to have impactful music and influence to be able to overpower the standards of the music markets in current times. BTS not only wrote hundreds of new and rare milestones, but they also reached and broke old records.
One of the breakthroughs that BTS got was getting huge sales at a time when the streaming era currently reigns, and the physical market has declined a lot in the major music markets. For example, according to multiple sources   , the album sales industry went from $14.6 billion to $6.3 billion around the time period between 1999 and 2009 because of the growth of the internet. Around that time, many digital services started to emerge, e.g., iTunes, Spotify, Amazon Music, etc. Users got the option to buy singles instead of the full album, and stream the music by signing up to music platforms instead of buying it, which further affected album sales. Later, record companies started to focus and invest in streaming services by the late 2010s.
The popularity of streaming consumption keeps increasing. According to IFPI’s 2019 report, there was an increase of 34% in the streaming revenue, while the physical market declined by 10.1%, and the download market went down by 21.2%. The streaming accounted for 47% of the global revenue in 2018. In the 2020 report, physical sales fell to 5% while 23% jump in streaming revenue (making up 56% of the global revenue) in 2019. So watching BTS doing the impossible with physical sales deserves an applause.
In the following sections, I will talk about the album and singles records that BTS have broken or reached based on the information I have found (so far):
Best Selling Physical Korean Album
- Previous Record Held: 24 Years
In 2019, Map of the Soul: Persona broke a 24-year-old sales record set by Kim Gunmo in 1995 and became the best selling physical Korean album in history.
But in 2020, BTS broke their own record with Map of the Soul: 7 surpassing over 4 million physical sales.
1 Million Physical Sales with 1 Album in Gaon
- Last Time Achieved: 16 Years
In 2017, Love Yourself: Her surpassed 1 million pure physical copies (no repackage counted) in the Gaon Albums chart making BTS the first Korean artist to achieve this in Gaon history after 16 years since Korean boy group g.o.d’s 4th album in 2001.
The Highest Monthly Korean Sales
- Previous Record Held: 17.5 Years
In 2018, BTS sold over 1.66 million physical copies with Love Yourself: Tear in the month of May. This marked the highest monthly sales of any Korean album released since 2000 (precisely 17 years and 8 months), when Korean ballad singer Jo Sung Mo sold 1,705,127 copies of his third album in a single month.
But in August 2018, BTS finally broke Jo Sung Mo’s record when Love Yourself: Answer reached 1,933,450 sales according to the Gaon’s Monthly Chart.
Double Million Sales for a Korean Album
- Last Time Achieved: 17.5 Years
Love Yourself: Answer surpassed 2 million physical sales in 2018 which made BTS the first Korean artist to achieve this with a single album in 17.5 years. The last Korean artist to surpass 2 million sales was Jo Sung-mo for Jo Sung Mo Vol.3 — Let Me Love in 2001.
Triple Million Sales for a Korean Album
- Last Time Achieved: 22 Years
BTS made a splash when their album Map of the Soul: Persona surpassed 3 million physical sales in April 2019. This was the first time a Korean artist reached this number since 1997 when Kim Jong-hwan’s album For Love sold a reported estimation of 3 million copies.
Four Million Sales for an Asian Artist
- Last Time Achieved: 17 Years
BTS’s latest album Map of the Soul: 7 surpassed over 4 million physical sales making BTS the first Asian artist to do so since Thai pop singer Thongchai McIntyre. A Thai article reported that he sold out over 5 million copies (excluding the live concert VCD copies) for his album Chud Rab Kaek in 2002.
Regarding official physical sales from Japan, Hikaru Utada and Ayumi Hamasaki surpassed over 4 million sales with their albums Distance and A Best respectively in the Annual Oricon Albums Top 100 Chart 2001.
Foreign Album at #1 in the USA
- Last Time Achieved: 12 Years
When Love Yourself: Tear charted at #1 in the Billboard 200 chart in 2018, BTS became the first artist to get a #1 with a foreign album since Il Divo who topped the chart with Ancora in 2006.
The Group with Three #1 Albums in the USA in less than a Year
- Last Time Achieved: 22 Years
BTS got their third #1 in the Billboard 200 chart with Map of the Soul: Persona in 2019, earning them three #1 albums in the USA in less than a year since The Beatles in Nov 1996.
Fastest Group with Four #1 Albums in the USA
- Last Time Achieved: 52 Years
BTS became the group to get four #1 albums in the shortest amount of time in the Billboard 200 since The Monkees (1967) and The Beatles (1968). They are currently the 3rd fastest group (1 year, 9 months) to get four #1 Albums in Billboard 200 after The Monkees (1 year, 21 days) and The Beatles (1 year, 5 months).
Foreign Artist with Two #1 Albums in the UK
- Last Time Achieved: 14 Years
When BTS got two #1 albums in the UK Official Albums chart with Map of the Soul: Persona (April 2019) and Map of the Soul: 7 (Feb 2020), they became the first foreign artist to achieve this since Il Divo who got their first two #1 albums for Il Divo (Nov 2004) and Ancora (Nov 2005).
#1 in Japan’s Oricon’s Mid-Year Album Chart
- Last Time Achieved: 36 Years
In 2020, Map of the Soul: 7 became the first album by a foreign artist in 36 years to hit #1 on the Oricon’s mid-year album chart in the first half since Michael Jackson’s Thriller in 1984.
Highest First Week Album Sales (Foreign Male Act) in Japan
- Previous Record Held: 10 Years
In 2020, BTS’s Japanese album Map of the Soul: 7 — The Journey broke the highest first week album sales for a foreign male artist in history with 564,000 copies sold. The previous record was held by TVXQ’s Best Selection 2010 which sold 413,000 copies in the first week.
IFPI’s Top 10 Global Albums
- Last Time Achieved: 17 Years
When BTS entered the IFPI’s Top 10 Best Selling Albums chart for the first time in 2018, they became the first Asian artist to debut in the Top 10 since Utada Hikaru who debuted at #10 for her album Distance in 2001. But not only that, BTS managed to debut two albums simultaneously in the chart with Love Yourself: Tear (#3) and Love Yourself: Answer (#2) (first time for a non-English Artist to achieve). BTS also became the first non-English artist to debut in the IFPI’s Top 10 Global Recording Artists at #2.
#1 in Hot 100 for an Asian artist
- Last time Achieved: 57 Years
In 2020, BTS became the first Asian artist to debut at #1 in the Billboard Hot 100 Singles with their single “Dynamite”.
Overall, BTS is the second Asian Artist to earn a #1 spot since Japanese singer Kyu Sakamoto who peaked at #1 in 1963 with “Sukiyaki”.
#1 on Hot 100 on Debut and Second Week for a Group
- Last time Achieved: 22 Years
Dynamite is the overall 20th song to debut at #1 on Hot 100 and to remain #1 for a second week. It is also the first song by a group to achieve this since Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” which was released on 1998.
Top 2 Positions in the Hot 100 for a Group
- Last Time Achieved: 11 Years
On Oct 2020, when “Savage Love (Laxed — Siren Beat) [BTS Remix]” and “Dynamite” charted at #1 and #2 simultaneously in the Hot 100, it made BTS the first group to occupy the Top 2 spots in the Hot 100 since Black Eyed Peas in 2009 with “Boom Boom Pow” and “I Gotta Feeling.”
Non-English Song in Hot 100 Top 5 by a Duo/Group
- Last Time Achieved: 23.5 Years
On March 2020, BTS’s title track “On” charted at #4 in the American chart Hot 100, making it the first non-English-language song to chart in the top 5 by a duo or group since Los del Rio’s “Macarena” who peaked at #1 in 1996.
Foreign Artist with 1 Million Pre-orders for Single in Japan
- Last Time Achieved: 24 Years
In 2019, “Lights/Boy With Luv” got the highest pre-order sales on the first day of its release with 1 million pre-orders since Celine Dion with her 1995 single “To Love You More”.
Foreign Artist to get 1 Million Single Certification in RIAJ Japan
- Last Time Achieved: 24 Years
BTS was awarded 1 Million RIAJ certification for their single “Lights/Boy With Luv”, making them the third foreign artist (first male foreign artist) to achieve this after Mariah Carey and Celine Dion for their singles “All I Want for Christmas Is You” (1994) and “To Love You More” (1995) respectively (this is for physical sales only).
They also achieved this for the first time for overall male artists (in 11 years & 11 months) since Masafumi Akikawa who got it for his single “A Thousand Winds” in 2007.
Group/Duo with the Top 2 Simultaneously Rankings in US Digital Songs
- Last Time Achieved: 10.5 Years
On March 2020, BTS managed to grab the top 2 spots simultaneously in the US Digital Songs with “On” at #1 and “My Time” at #2. They became the first group/duo to achieve this since The Black Eyed Peas when they charted in the top 2 spots with “I Gotta Feeling” at #1 and “Boom Boom Pow” at #2 in 2009.
Grammy Nomination for a Korean Singer
- Last Time Achieved: 25 Years
On November 2020, BTS became the first Korean pop singer and first Korean group to get a Grammy nomination for “Best Pop Duo/Group Performance” with “Dynamite”. In terms of overall Korean singers, the last Korean singer to get a Grammy nomination was Sumi Jo who is a South Korean lyric coloratura soprano. She got her first two nominations and first win in 1992 and last nomination in 1995. (Two other Korean non-singers are Hwang Byeong-joon who is a recording engineer with two wins and Doohee Lee who is the art director from HuskyFox with one nomination for Love Yourself: Tear by BTS)
- Finding over 10 year old records for single tracks in South Korea is not possible because there are no known chart records for digital singles before 2010.
- This report will be updated with time when new verified data and records come.