2019/10/8 TIME 專訪：BTS 幕後推手談及打造 K-Pop 帝王
The Mastermind Behind BTS Opens Up About Making a K-Pop Juggernaut
BTS 幕後推手談及打造 K-Pop 帝王
Bang Si-hyuk was an artist first. But these days, the founder and co-CEO of Big Hit Entertainment is better known as the mastermind behind BTS, the world’s biggest boy band and the K-pop group that has led the charge in breaking open the Western market for acts from South Korea. Bang started out in the K-pop industry as a composer (nickname: “Hitman”) working with JYP, one of the so-called “Big Three” entertainment groups that dominate the multi-billion dollar South Korean music market. But he broke away to found his own company in 2005. Now, Big Hit is one of the music industry’s most interesting case studies, having struck gold with a powerfully popular — and highly lucrative — act.
房時爀一開始是名藝術家，但最近這些日子身為 Big Hit Entertainment 創辦人兼共同 CEO 的他，更為人所知的是 BTS 幕後推手，BTS 是目前地表上最強男團，這個 K-Pop 團體引领韩国市场，為 K-Pop 打开西方市场。房時爀在 K-Pop 產業是與 JPY 合作以作曲家起家的（暱稱 Hitman），JYP 在韓國是俗稱的”三大”經紀公司，在數十億產值的南韓音樂市場有極高佔有率。但房時爀在 2005 年離開 JYP 成立了自己的公司，現在 Big Hit 是音樂產業中最有意思的案例，以強大的人氣登頂，當然也帶來豐厚的利潤。
Over the course of an hour and a half, Bang opened up to TIME about the genesis of BTS, the difference between Western artists and the K-pop model and the surprises he’s encountered in the K-pop industry. “It’s difficult for me to say things like A led to B,” he said. “But what I can say is that BTS’ success in the U.S. market was achieved by a formula different from the American mainstream formula. Loyalty built through direct contact with fans had a lot to do with that.” He cited Disney and Apple as examples of brands that have built similarly committed fanbases and complex universes, but stressed that to him the product — the music itself — is paramount.
在一個半小時的訪談中，房時爀與 TIME 談到了 BTS 的起源、西方藝人與 K-Pop 模式的差別以及他在 K-Pop 產業中遇到的意外驚喜。「我很難說是因為 A 所以有了 B，」他表示道：「但我能說的是 BTS 在美國市場的成功公式跟美國主流公式不一樣，有很大一部分的原因是與粉絲直接互動造成的忠誠度。」他引用了迪士尼和 Apple 這兩個品牌當例子，這兩個品牌都有類似的死忠粉絲族群跟複雜的世界觀，但他強調產品，也就是音樂本身，是最重要的。
Humble about his influence and eager to make his role clear, Bang highlighted his luck and timing, and tried to pin down what makes BTS unique. He also cautioned against making predictions about the future. “If you were to ask, will they sing in English? How long will they be in the U.S.? Will they sign with a major label? I would say the artist needs to make the best decision at each moment, and I can’t say what they should do,” he said.
對自己的影響力相當謙虛，房時爀想讓自己擔任的角色更清楚，他歸功於自己的運氣和時機，試著說出是什麼讓 BTS 這麼特別，同時也對預測未來非常小心，他表示：「如果你問我他們會不會唱英文歌？他們會在美國持續多久？他們會不會跟主要經紀公司簽約？我會說藝人必須要在每個時間點做出最好的決定，而我不會告訴他們該怎麼做。」
Below is a translated and condensed version of Bang’s conversation with TIME.
下面是 TIME 與房時爀對話的翻譯節錄。
TIME: K-pop is distinctive for its trainee system, in which aspiring “idols” train for years after being scouted and before being introduced to audiences. How did you find and train the seven members of BTS?
TIME：K-Pop 有著名的練習生體系，渴望成為＂偶像＂的人經過多年的訓練和嚴格的監督之後才能站在觀眾面前，你是怎麼找到 BTS 這七個人並訓練他們的？
Bang Si-Hyuk: One of our producers, Pdogg, brought RM’s demo tape to me and said, “This is what the young kids are into.” RM [who is now the group leader and a rapper] was 15 at the time. I signed him immediately. I had considered putting together a hip-hop crew, not an idol group. But when I considered the business context, I thought a K-pop idol model made more sense. Because many trainees wanted to pursue hip-hop and didn’t want to be in an idol band, they left. At that time RM, Suga, and J-Hope stayed back, and they remain BTS’s musical pillars. From there, through auditions, we discovered and added members that had more of an idol-like quality to the group.
房時爀：我們的一位製作人 Pdogg 拿了 RM 的試唱帶給我，說：「這是現在年輕人熱衷的事。」那時候 RM 才十五歲［現在擔任團體的隊長跟饒舌］，我立刻把他簽下來，那時候考慮過組成嘻哈團體，而不是偶像團體，但當我想到商業部分，我認為 K-Pop 偶像模式比較有可能性。因為很多練習生都想要做嘻哈不想要變成偶像團體而離開了，那時候只有 RM、Suge 跟 J-Hope 留下來了，於是他們成為 BTS 音樂的主要支柱，從這裡開始，我們通過試鏡找到其他更具有偶像特質的成員加入。
When you started Big Hit, you could have gone down many paths in pop music. Why did you decide to form an idol group?
您在創立 Big Hit 的時候，已經在流行音樂界佔有一席之位了，當時為什麼會決定籌組偶像團體？
At the time that I started my company, physical album sales were abruptly going down and digital sales were not coming up to compensate. But K-pop idol groups had an advantage, in that they had many opportunities to diversify revenue streams and their fans were extremely passionate, allowing concerts to compensate for the dropped album sales. This was also a time when many around the world were saying the only replacement for the demolished musical industry is live performances. If a performance-based model were to be created in South Korea, I thought, it would [still have to] be a K-pop idol group.
我自己的公司剛開始時，實體專輯銷售正呈現急速下降的趨勢，而數位銷售還沒能補足這塊消長，但 K-Pop 偶像團體具有優勢，他們有辦法創造更多銷售的來源機會，他們的粉絲極具熱情，能讓演唱會的收入補足專輯銷售的空缺。當時也是＂即將被淘汰的音樂產業唯一一條活路是現場表演＂這個說法在全球廣泛流傳的時候，當然我想，如果要在南韓建立一個以現場演出為基礎的模式，那答案只有也只能是 K-Pop 偶像團體了。
What do you think has been the distinguishing factor that set BTS on its unique path?
您認為 BTS 與其軌跡的獨特之處為何？
It was their sincerity, consistency and ability to embody the spirit of the times. When they [solidified as an] idol group, I promised them they would be able to pursue the music they wanted [including hip-hop]. Because it was hip-hop, they could express their thoughts and we wouldn’t touch that. If in turn the company felt they weren’t being genuine, then we would comment. I kept that promise, and believe that had an impact. I personally feel it’s not always necessary for an artist to speak their mind. But I believe at the time, BTS touched something that young people from all over the world were seeking.
是他們的誠懇、一致性和能力體現了時代的精神。當他們（確定）成為偶像團體時，我答應他們可以追求自己想做的音樂（包含嘻哈）。因為嘻哈音樂，他們能表達自己的想法，而我們不會去干涉，如果公司覺得他們沒有表現出真誠，那我們就會告訴他們。我信守承諾，也相信這件事情發揮了影響，我個人認為藝人不必要總是把自己的想法說出來，但我相信那個時候 BTS 觸動了全球年輕人在追尋某些事物的情感。
Ever since BTS’ debut, they’ve never suddenly switched gears or changed pace. They were consistent. I think that convinced the public. They don’t shy away from speaking about the pain felt by today’s generation. They respect diversity and justice, the rights of youths and marginalized people. I think all of these factors worked in their favor.
從 BTS 出道開始，他們就沒有突然改變方向或腳步，他們很一致，我想那說服了大眾。他們並不害怕說出現在這個世代的痛苦，他們尊重多元與正義，尊重年輕人與邊緣人的權益，我想這些都是對他們有幫助的部分。
So far this year, BTS has sold the most physical albums in the U.S. of any musical act. What does that say to you?
The case of BTS is very ironic to me. I had predicted a steady decline in physical sales and thought performances and a loyalty-based model would be a solution. That being said, because I’m an old-school music producer, I place a lot of importance on the quality of the album. So I led an album-focused production. With good music and communication, the sales can follow. The K-pop industry as a whole has been seeing rising album sales, contrary to global market trends. I can’t personally explain why. I do not believe this will last forever.
BTS 的例子對我來說很諷刺，我原本預測實體銷售會穩步下滑，現場表演和忠誠模式會是解決之道。雖說如此，我自己是老牌音樂製作人，我很看重專輯的品質，所以我一直都是以專輯為導向出品，有好的音樂和溝通，銷售才會跟著上來。K-Pop 產業整體跟全球市場相反，專輯銷售是呈現上揚趨勢，我自己也沒辦法解釋這是為什麼，但我不相信這個現象會持久。
Why has BTS managed such an impressive crossover feat in the U.S., while so many other K-pop acts have struggled to gain traction?
K-Pop 還在掙扎怎麼獲得注意力，為什麼 BTS 在美國有辦法達成這麼多的交叉合作？
I fundamentally believe BTS’ success in the U.S. had a lot to do with luck. It wasn’t my brilliant strategy or BTS being such a perfect fit for the U.S. market. It was rather that their message resonated with a certain demand, and through digital media it spread quickly. And BTS touched something that wasn’t being addressed in the U.S. at the time, so American youths reacted, and that was proven through numbers.
基本上我相信 BTS 在美國的成功有很大一部分是運氣，不是我有多了不起的策略，或是 BTS 就是這麼合美國市場的胃，如果不是他們的訊息對上了某種需求，不然就是因為數位媒體快速擴散消息的關係，而 BTS 觸及了某些當時在美國沒人碰的議題，所以美國的年輕人有了反應，進而透過數字證明。
One of your big pushes this year is bolstering the “universes” you’re building for each group, connecting the fans to the artists beyond live shows and albums. Why?
With BTS and K-pop idols, fans want to be a part of the lifestyle of their beloved idols outside of concerts, but there’s no product on the market that fulfills that desire. I hate expansion for the sake of expansion; it has to be rooted in music. So that’s why I did it that way. Many people believe because K-pop idols hold the title of “singer” that it’s the same thing, but fans of typical singers [are different]. They might go to a concert, buy an album or a track, or buy a t-shirt. But K-pop idol fans want to feel close with their idols. BTS is the only team that has sizable selling power all over the world, in almost every country. As a result, working with BTS’ fandom is one of the biggest services Big Hit provides.
在演唱會之外．粉絲會想要 BTS 和 K-Pop 偶像成為他們日常生活的一部分，但市場上還沒有這樣的產品可以滿足這種渴望。我不喜歡為了擴張而擴張，一定要根植於音樂，這是我這麼做的原因。許多人相信因為 K-Pop 偶像有”歌手”的頭銜是同一件事，但粉絲的實質歌手（是不一樣的）。他們可能會去看演唱會，去買專輯或音源，或是買周邊上衣，但 K-Pop 偶像粉絲會想要跟偶像更靠近，BTS 是唯一一組在全世界幾乎所有國家有銷售威力的團體．因此跟 BTS 粉絲一起合作是 Big Hit 提供的最大服務之一。
How did you figure out what they would express in their music, or how they would present themselves on social media?
Frankly, K-pop artists, by average artists’ standards, have to show acrobatic-level skills in their performances; they must sing perfectly, and so they must be in top shape. It requires a high level of skill-based, focused training. Despite that, I always believed trainees should be well socialized. When BTS members were trainees, there was a lot of internal conflict with my staff regarding social media; [they said,] “Let’s take the safe road, social media leaves traces, some of which could be harmful to them in the future.” It’s also difficult for young people to follow rules. So there was a bit of trouble there, but because I believed it was right to make mistakes and learn from them, I built a relatively liberal trainee system.
老實說 K-Pop 藝人，對照一般藝人的標準來說，必須在表演中展現他們的技術水準，他們的唱功必須完美，他們的體態也必須在頂尖，這些需要高程度的技能基礎，專注的訓練。儘管如此，我總是覺得練習生也需要良好社會化。當 BTS 成員還是練習生時，在社交媒體這一塊，跟我們的工作人員有很多內部的衝突，（他們說）「我們保守一點吧，社交媒體會留下紀錄，這些以後可能會給他們帶來傷害。」要年輕人遵守規則也是件難事，所以也出過問題，但因為我相信從錯誤中學習是對的，所以建立了相對自由的練習生體系。
In our company, we invest a lot of time educating trainees about life as an artist, including social media. After we provide guidance, we choose to let artists be, and leave a window open for them to ask the company anything they need. I think that helped the sincerity get through to the fans. Since BTS’ success, I’ve been changing the trainee system to be more school-like, with mentorship and a coaching system, and opportunities for students to work together.
在我們公司，我們投入很多時間教育練習生關於藝人的生活，社交媒體也是其中一塊。在提供一定指引後，我們選擇放手讓藝人自己去嘗試，讓他們有問題的時候可以回來找公司，告訴我們他們需要什麼，我想這有助於粉絲感受到藝人的真誠。自 BTS 成功後，我一直在改變練習生體系，讓它更像學校一點，有所謂的輔導系統，也有很多讓學生彼此合作的機會。
Recently, some current and former K-pop idols have been implicated in illegal activities. When you see controversies like that in K-pop, do you feel you have given BTS and other trainees tools to avoid those kinds of issues?
I’m not sure. The fact that I gave them a lot of freedom from trainee years and educated them on responsibility can logically explain that it has prevented scandals, but that’s consequentialism. Right now a trainee system is in some ways an educational institution. As a team, we talk a lot about how we can provide the best possible environment for these artists. But to say that we were able to avoid some sort of scandal in the K-pop industry is way too definite.
我不確定，我從練習生開始給他們很多自由，也教育他們肩負的責任感，這些合理來說能避免醜聞，但這樣說太結果論。現在的練習生體系某方面來說就像教育單位，身為一個團隊，我們會談很多怎麼樣提供最好的環境給這些藝人，但要說我們能因此避免在 K-Pop- 界中的醜聞未免太武斷。
There’s a common perception that in K-pop, the music is manufactured by committee, or that it’s a top-down system of adults giving material to young artists. Is that accurate?
大家對 K-Pop 有一些既存的刻板印象，由統一的團隊製作音樂，或是集權體系由上而下讓長輩給年輕的藝人歌曲，真的是這樣嗎？
First, I believe in the West there is this deeply embedded fantasy of the rock star — a rock star acts true to their soul and everyone must accept it as part of their individuality, and only through that does good music come. But in reality, devoting a long time to honing and training music-related skills is a tactic used in many professional art worlds. Ballerinas spend a long time in isolation focused only on ballet, but you don’t hear people say ballet lacks soul or isn’t art. So I think it’s a matter of perspective.
Another layer is that in the U.S., an artist will work in the underground scene for many years before signing with a major label. In Korea, that time is spent as a trainee. I think it’s debatable which system produces the better artist. In addition, I believe the statement that an artist must sing their own songs to have good results cannot possibly be true. A singer is foremost a performer, and a good performance can convince audiences. I do think when a trainee spends too much time just focusing on skills and not life experiences, it becomes a concern as to whether they can become a musician with a complex understanding of the world.
How important is it that the artists you work with have a cause or a social issue that they care about? With BTS there has been the ongoing “Love Yourself” narrative, paired with their work with the U.N. and their openness on topics like mental health.
BTS 長期有 Love Yourself 的標語，加上他們跟聯合國的合作，以及他們對精神健康相關話題的開放性。您認為旗下的藝人對社會議題有所關注有多重要？
Whether you want to speak out on a social issue or not is the individual’s choice. What I want is for them to be sincere. To make up something, I can’t accept that. But neither the company nor I can force an artist to speak or not speak about any social issue. Personally, I believe art is one of the strongest mediums for revolution, and I want the artist to speak out on social issues. They speak out when they want to and I don’t say what they should or shouldn’t do. I think that’s one of the misconceptions people have about the K-pop industry: that a producer could have that level of control over their artists. We can’t. When the artist wants to express something, I believe my role is to refine the message in a way that expresses their sincerity and has commercial value.
願不願意對社會議題發聲是個人的選擇，我想要的是他們的真誠，我沒有辦法接受捏造出來的東西，但不管是公司還是我都沒有辦法強迫一個藝人去談論或不要談論任何社會議題。就個人來說，我相信藝術是變革最強力的媒介，我希望藝人能對社會議題發聲，他們可以在他們想的時候說，而我不會告訴他們要不要說。我想那是大眾對 K-Pop 的另一個刻板印象：製作人可以控制藝人；我們不能。當藝人想要表達什麼，我想我們的角色是從能傳達真誠的角度去完善訊息，同時具有商業價值。
You mentioned that “rock star” narrative. In the U.S., it can seem that artists are applauded for being rebellious. There’s a lot of value placed on independence and fighting the “system.” Do you think in the South Korean cultural context there’s more respect between artists and management?
I think Asian culture and Western culture are certainly different. But if we’re to talk about how that influences expressing rebellion toward society — South Korea has had many revolutions, but in terms of personal relationships, you respect elders. It’s hard to equate that with speaking out, or to say Western artists are this way and Asian artists are this way. But in general, especially for K-pop artists, artists and companies seek to take less risks.
我想亞洲文化跟西方文化肯定不一定，但如果我們只談這對對社會表達不滿有什麼影響，南韓有過很多變革，但在人際關係上，尊重長輩是一定的。但很難說這等同發聲，或說西方藝人是這樣，亞洲藝人是這樣，特別是 K-Pop 藝人，藝人跟公司都追求更少風險。
But to talk about fighting the system: many American artists cooperate with their management, as long as they’re left to pursue the music they want. Recently, many artists don’t sign with major labels, because there are more revenue streams available. I don’t think that’s a statement against the system, though. In fact, fewer Western artists speak out on social issues compared to before.
You’ve always given the members of BTS opportunities to release solo work as well. Does that make them unique in K-pop?
您也都會讓 BTS 成員發表自己的 solo 作品，這個方式也讓他們在 K-Pop 獨樹一幟嗎？
I don’t really think their uniqueness comes from independence. Many K-pop idols think about solo careers once they achieve a level of success, discuss it with their management and pursue solo projects. It’s not that they do this because Big Hit gives more freedom. What’s unique here is that Big Hit doesn’t produce solo projects. We emphasize the team image. But of course the members are individuals, and have their own identities, so we encourage and support mixtapes and free release songs, which allow the artist to express themselves with less liability than an official solo project. Since we started taking this approach, many more companies started pursuing more unofficial mixtapes or free release tracks in addition to official solo projects. I believe in some way Big Hit helped enrich the music market.
我不完全認為他們的獨特性來自於獨立。有很多 K-Pop 偶像在達成某些階段的成功後都會想到 solo 事業，然後開始 solo 計畫。這不是因為 Big Hit 給他們更多自由所以他們才做，獨特的地方在於 Big Hit 不會製作 solo 計畫，我們強調的是團體形象。當然每個成員都是個體，他們有自己的身份，所以我們鼓勵也支持他們製作混音帶跟免費發行音源，讓藝人們可以在比 solo 計畫更小的責任下表達自己。自從我們開始以這個方向進行後，有更多的公司都開始在正式的 solo 計畫外，發行這種非正式的混音帶或是免費音源，我相信 Big Hit 在某方面豐富了音樂市場。
You recently acquired Source Music, and expressed an interest in forming a new girl group. How is that going?
您最近收購了 Source Music 也表達了組成新女團的意向，事情進展得如何？
Regarding [Source Music group] GFriend, they’ve released great content so far. What we’re trying to do is refine and streamline a storyline, a concept, so that when they’re on their next project it would make sense how they arrived at a new style. We are also going to be promoting an audition for a girl group with us and Source Music. Just like with Disney — animations, family movies, Marvel and Star Wars — I am trying to approach market segmentation while retaining the virtues of K-pop.
關於（Source Music 女團）GFriend，目前為止她們發行的內容都很棒，我們想要做的是完善跟整合故事線，有個概念，讓她們在啟動下一個計劃的時候，如何進行到新風格能有個更合理的規則。我們也會宣傳跟 Source Musice 一起的女團試鏡，就像迪士尼一樣有動畫、家庭電影、漫威與星球大戰，我也試著在保有 K-Pop 的優點下嘗試進入不同的市場區隔。
One thing we haven’t mentioned yet is ARMY (the fandom name of BTS’s avid supporters around the world). You’re planning a lot to involve the fans, from the development of Weverse (a fan app) and Weply (an e-commerce platform) to movies. What should BTS fans and Big Hit followers be looking out for?
有一個我們還沒有提到的是阿米（BTS 全球狂熱支持者的粉絲名稱），您在規劃很多粉絲能一同參與，例如開發 Weverse（粉絲 app）和 Weply（點子商務平台），BTS 粉絲們跟 Big Hit 的跟隨者們可以期待些什麼？
First, the next album. It’s going great. As you know, many people are saying that BTS is the Beatles of the Youtube era, or that they’re the Beatles of the 21st century. I know they haven’t reached that stature, though I’m honored. But I believe there is some connotation to this title, which is that BTS was able to create a global fandom, which was very rare. Through that gigantic fandom, they were able to reshape the order of commerce; they are creating new forms of communication. And they’ve embodied a certain spirit of the times and formed a new musical message. So in that way, it’s reminding many of the Beatles.
首先，下一張專輯，會很棒。就像你知道的，人們說 BTS 是 Youtube 時代的披頭四，或是說他們是二十一世紀的披頭四，雖然我感到很榮幸，但我知道他們還沒有到達那個程度。不過我相信這個稱呼有它的意義在，也就是 BTS 有辦法創造出一個全球粉絲團體，這是非常少見的。通過巨大的粉絲群體，他們能重塑整個商業秩序，他們在創造一個新的溝通形式，而且他們體現了一定的時代精神，組成了新的音樂訊息。以這方面來說，這讓人想起了很多跟披頭四相關的事情。
I hope to protect that honorable title and remain heroic figures down the line like the Beatles. To get there, it would be good if BTS could continue to receive recognition in major global arenas. It would be nice to get some reaction from the Grammys; ARMY has long awaited a BTS performance at the Grammys. I was fortunate to become an Academy member, so I’d love to discuss this further with the Grammys [team] because I believe we have something symbolic to contribute.
我希望能保護這個光榮的稱呼，並保持像披頭四這樣的英雄人物。為了達到這個程度，如果 BTS 能繼續在國際主要領域受到認可就好了，如果能得到葛萊美的一些反應會很棒，阿米一直在等著 BTS 上葛萊美表演。我很幸運能成為葛萊美學院的成員，我也很願意跟葛萊美團隊進一步討論這件事，因為我相信我們有象徵性的東西能貢獻。