rock steady. (carmesim) wrote in ohnotheydidnt,
rock steady.

Here's how BTS used money laundering tactics to stay on top of the Hot 100

This week kpop kings' BTS’ english single ‘Butter’ remains at  #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It's Butter's 9th week in that position and it was only briefly replaced by another BTS song, ‘Permission to dance’.

But "Butter" is actually the first song in history at #1 to be out of the top 40 of the Streaming Songs chart (#44 this week).

It also has had the lowest score on US radio mediabase callouts for 2 weeks straight. Which shows most radio listeners don’t know and don’t like the song.

So how does a song no one is actually streaming and which is rejected by the general public get on top of the most popular chart in the world? Massive sales.

Despite recent reforms, pure sales (from artist's websites and online retailers) still outweigh streaming and radioplay on Billboard's points system.

This makes positions fairly easy to manipulate, and other artists have done it before BTS: Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift etc. Usually by selling merch bundles with albums and songs. Billboard eventually stopped counting these for their charts.

Most recently, they removed some of Dua Lipa’s sales of ‘Levitating’, once they found out international fans were using VPNs to pretend more American fans were buying the song.

It seems ARMY got inspired by this particular scam, and since VPNs are easy to detect, they resorted to shadier practices. This is the money laundering part.


BTS fans from all over the world now spend the week crowdfunding and then donate the money obtained internationally to people based in the US and Puerto Rico, so THEY can purchase the song.

These few but dedicated Americans focus on using BTS’ official shop for the song, which allows buying 4 copies at a time, unlike iTunes or Amazon, which only allow 1.

ARMY also got help from their US distributor, Columbia Records, who are no strangers to chart manipulation (that's Lil Nas X's label): besides releasing 4 remixes of Butter and an instrumental, the label has also issued alternative single covers with new ISRC codes (digital fingerpring for a track).

So fans can buy 4 copies of all these too, but they count as sales for the original Butter track.

The ISRC thing is illegal, by the way. They can only do that if the cover is for a track that’s significantly different from the original.

No one knows why Billboard isn't looking into this, allowing BTS fans to do it for 10 weeks. Most likely because they really need the massive engagement and ad revenue generated by ARMY, and because they don't want to deal with the double shitstorm of being accused of xenophobia and then getting actual death threats from ARMY for it.

As for Columbia, they're probably doubling down on this sort of chart manipulation because they know kpop doesn’t have an actual market in the US (for all the ‘BTS paved the way’ claims, NO ONE has followed) and are just milking BTS like a very lucrative short-term cash cow.

sources: Hot 100 / BB pointsbundlesDua Lipa / Butter store / Streams / radio score / ISRC
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Tags: asian celebrities, bts, cpop / jpop / kpop, ratings / charts - billboard

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