• Billboard released a cover story featuring BTS
  • The magazine asked BTS members if their fans are involved in bulk purchasing of albums that paved the way for their songs to be on top of the music charts 
  • BTS leader RM said they are easy targets because of "high fan loyalty"

Fans of South Korean superstars BTS lashed out at Billboard on Friday demanding an apology from the magazine that fielded controversial questions regarding the boy band fans’ involvement in album sales and chart manipulation in its latest cover story about the group.

The group’s fans said they are boycotting the magazine and spreading the word about it.

#BillboardApologizeToBTS became a worldwide trending topic on Twitter on Thursday along with the line “Don’t buy the Magazine” as fans voiced their distaste over Billboard’s claims about the supporters of the world’s current most famous boyband.

In an interview, Billboard asked BTS members their thoughts about being South Korea’s cultural ambassadors, their overloaded schedules, and singing in full English. But what caught the ire of the group’s loyal fandom, widely known as the “ARMY”, was Billboard’s questions regarding the ARMY's participation in pumping the sales records of the group.

“Through above-board means, ARMY has long exploited loopholes in music chart rules (including those of Billboard ) to propel BTS singles’ performance. Billboard’s rules, for example, allow people to buy a certain number of versions of songs or albums per week, and any sales per version exceeding that cap do not contribute to the artist’s weekly sales total or chart placement,” Billboard said in the article.

“For a K-pop group like BTS that typically releases multiple versions of a particular single — including both digital and physical — that can add up to multiple sales per consumer. (“Butter,” for instance, had six digital versions plus two physical singles.)... So while other singles on the Hot 100 typically rely on streaming for the majority of their weighted points (followed by airplay and then sales), the chart-topping performance of BTS’ “Butter” in July, for example, was propelled mostly by sales, the bulk of which flowed directly through BTS’ own webstore," say sources familiar with the matter,” the Billboard article added.

According to the article, BTS and its record label are coming under “scrutiny” for the boy band’s recent chart successes, which fans of some competing acts claim are achieved through “manipulation,” citing the case of “Butter” and “Permission to Dance” -- both debuted at No. 1 at Billboard’s Hot 100.

But both Big Hit Music and BTS rejected these accusations.

“It’s a fair question,” RM, the boy band’s leader and spokesperson, said in the interview while talking about claims of ARMY’s involvement in chart manipulation.

“But if there is a conversation inside Billboard about what being No. 1 should represent, then it’s up to them to change the rules and make streaming weigh more on the ranking. Slamming us or our fans for getting to No. 1 with physical sales and downloads, I don’t know if that’s right ... It just feels like we’re easy targets because we’re a boy band, a K-pop act, and we have this high fan loyalty,” he added.

Asked if the record label itself organizes fans to manipulate the charts, Big Hit Music President Shin Young Jae said: “Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually had the ability to mastermind such a thing? I get that there are market developments [related to BTS] that are head-scratchers for some people. But I don’t believe the U.S. market is one that can be handily topped by downloads alone. We think the songs’ impact was shown in many ways, and we are proud of that achievement.”

BTS Eating
South Korean group BTS enjoy churros during a taping of The Morning Mash Up' On SiriusXM Hits 1 Channel at SiriusXM Studios on April 12, 2019 in New York City. Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for SiriusXM