Over the weekend of 18th-19th April, millions of BTS fans around the world enjoyed a 24-hour concert streaming marathon entitled ‘Bang Bang Con’. The title was derived from the first syllable of the group’s full name (방탄소년단 / Bangtan Sonyeondan) and the Korean word for ‘room’ (방 / bang) and the event was thus advertised as a chance for fans to enjoy the BTS concert experience from the safety and comfort of their own rooms.
The announcement was naturally met with excitement from the group’s fans — known as ARMY — particularly those who had planned to see BTS in concert during the Map of the Soul: 7 tour, much of which had already been postponed, and the rest of which (including two London dates in July) was looking doubtful. Bang Bang Con was thus a unique opportunity for fans (or indeed anyone with a passing interest in the world’s biggest boy band) to experience some of the highlights of BTS’ career so far, featuring a mix of concerts and fan meetings. In a time of staying home and social distancing, the event also brought together fans remotely as they shared the highs and lows of each era via social media.
The concert series was broadcast in two chunks of approximately twelve hours each, allowing fans across the world to tune in for at least part of the experience regardless of their time zone. Of course, there were also many who watched (or attempted to watch) the whole thing, including a number of UK-based fans who woke up at 4am two days in a row to avoid missing out. The strength of this format was that anyone could tune in for as long as they liked, at a time that suited them, free of charge. Drawing in over 50 million views in total, with a peak of 2.24 million watching at the same time, this was an inclusive fan experience that could be enjoyed on many levels.
Between each concert recording, BTS music videos played, punctuated with video messages from the group reminding fans to eat, stretch and drink water, and encouraging them to watch together with family or pets to further enhance their Bang Bang Con experience. These fun appearances between concerts gave fans a more direct connection to the members and a sense of experiencing the concerts together, despite being unable to gather in person. Adding to the feeling that Bang Bang Con was an event in itself, rather than simply a replay of past concerts, was the fact that owners of ‘ARMY Bombs’ — the official BTS lightstick — were able to link their devices via Weverse for a splash of globally synchronised lighting.
For both long-time fans reliving precious concert memories and newer fans discovering BTS’ past eras for the first time, Bang Bang Con brought ARMYs together and took them on a journey through the group’s growth over the years. Over the course of a weekend, fans witnessed in fast-forward the progression in the group’s musical and lyrical themes, as well as the development of their artistry and stage presence. As the members took time to speak to fans at each concert, Bang Bang Con viewers were able to reflect on the hardworking and humble attitudes that have helped BTS achieve global success.
Overall, Bang Bang Con was a joyful celebration of BTS, their fans, and their journey so far. The experience gave fans an opportunity to take a break from current events and step back in time with their idols for a weekend. At the end of the final concert, a message appeared on the screen stating that BTS “will return to ARMY’s rooms in June,” leading to speculation over what the group’s next major online event might entail.
Since Bang Bang Con, it has been announced that the Europe leg of the Map of the Soul: 7 tour have been postponed. While this was a major disappointment for many fans, if not a wholly unexpected one, BTS have provided further online entertainment through regular VLive and YouTube broadcasts, and have revealed that they are currently working on their next album. With touring unlikely for the foreseeable future, BTS and other K-pop artists are working hard to come up with innovative ways of engaging with fans. It may be a long time before London-based fans are able to see BTS in person again, but when we do, it will be all the more special. What Bang Bang Con made clear was that in the meantime, fans will continue to connect with and support each other online.