I've been into Kpop for over eleven years, and during that time I've seen groups come and go, groups disband, member changes, members leaving, being kicked out, and scandals that would shake your soul.
Disbandment is the natural end of a group's era. All bands reach that stage at some point...
Almost all groups!
There are a few exceptions, really just a few, but I wholeheartedly believe that, given the right conditions, BTS can become such an exception.
When trying to predict the future, we look to the past. Events tend to repeat themselves and by looking at past trends it is possible to predict future ones (to all of you in school, this is why history is an important subject as it helps to predict the future).
So, trying to predict BTS's future, I'm going to look at some examples of past and current groups and compare them to BTS's situation.
I've grouped the blog into 8 topics that are crucial to consider when talking about why groups disband.
That time all Kpop fans fear: when their idols are in talks about contract renewals!
Nowadays it usually happens at the 7 year mark after a group's debut and that year is known as the jinx year for Kpop groups as many disband at this point in their careers.
Contract renewals is the biggest reason for Kpop group disbandments!
It's also a time at which member replacements often happen, because companies refuse to give contracts to a specific member, or because a member decides to leave the company, unable to come to an agreement.
Members leaving at the time of their contract renewals happens to a lot of groups; Minzy from 2NE1, Jia from Miss A, Seulong and Jinwoon from 2AM, Lee Joon and Thunder from MBLAQ, and Nicole and Jiyong from Kara, to mention a few.
The idol group Shinhwa is interesting to talk about here. Shinhwa is the longest promoting kpop group ever. They have been together for almost 19 years, and still promote together as an idol group.
Jungkook filmed Celebrity Bromance with Shinhwa member Minwoo and together they talked about what it takes for a group to survive for so long and avoid disbandment. We'll talk more about this later, but first let's look at what happened to Shinhwa when their contracts were up for renewal.
Shinhwa originally debuted with SM Entertainment and when their contracts expired SM offered them new contracts. Just one little catch: SM didn't offer a new contract to member Dongwan.
This didn't sit well with the other members, especially leader, Eric, who strongly protested. Still, SM didn't want Dongwan, so Shinhwa took a stand. The other members refused their contracts with SM and they all signed with a different company so they could continue to be together.
They even went to court against SM in order to gain the rights to call themselves Shinhwa (SM saw the brand name as their own property) and won the case.
If that isn't a badass success story of a group standing together, I don't know what is.
At the original writing of this blog BTS were on their forth year since debut. Since then, BTS have renewed their contracts once. Another contract renewal will be coming up around 2021-2022.
Contract lengths vary from company to company but the industry standard is seven or five years after debut, so that leaves a few years before BTS have to re-consider their contracts and future plans.
The best way for a company to ensure that their idols stay with them, is to ensure that the idols are satisfied.
Keeping their idols happy is something SM Entertainment has consequently failed at doing. DBSK, Super Junior, EXO, SNSD, and f(x) have all lost members. Some of the idols were pushed out by the company, while others left because of a need to focus on other things, or because of disagreements with the company and to escape the harsh terms of their contracts. All things I would definitely consider a failure to keep their idols happy.
Minzy from 2NE1 is another example of an idol who was side lined and consequently left her group. Due to 2NE1's inactivity after member Park Bom's scandal, Minzy was left completely on her own while the others had solo careers. Without being able to promote with the group and with her company not supporting and encouraging her to pursue a solo career, Minzy was essentially put on standby and couldn't do anything, trapped because of her contract. It doesn't come as much a surprise that this prompted her to switch companies when her contract with YG entertainment expired.
More dramatic was U-KISS's popular member, Dongho's, decision to leave not just his group, but the entire celebrity life. His main reason was his declining health due to harsh schedules.
Looking at BTS, I actually worried a lot about the issue of member satisfaction when Suga had his mint hair. During the Run days they were all especially overworked and sleep deprived.
Suga often talked about being dissatisfied. While we all took it as a joke, and while he might partly have been joking, Suga is also the sort of straight forward person who wouldn't say something like that unless he actually had issues with the company.
The way he talks about his debut, almost as if he was scammed into becoming an idol instead of a hip hop group, also makes me feel that he has had a lot of dissatisfactions with BigHit.
On the upside the fact that he was given black hair for the entire WINGS comeback, as he had requested himself, suggests to me that BigHit does take their idols seriously and does want to listen and keep them happy and satisfied. Suga seems a lot happier these days.
Jin and J-Hope are not as outspoken about their issues but they strike me as people who have certain expectations that aren't met because they both tend to keep quiet and give more importance to everyone else in the group.
I do worry a little about the possibility of Jin deciding to quit the group some day, because he wants to become an actor or wants to leave the celebrity industry entirely. What makes me put those worries to rest is the fact that he truly seems to love his members, and I believe that he would want to stay a part of the team because of that love, and because of what they all have together.
Jin getting the ost for Hwarang with V was a huge deal for me exactly for this reason! I felt like it was BigHit trying to get him something that he wanted, in the same way that J-Hope's solo trailer (with its awesome choreography) seemed to be a way to keep J-Hope stimulated and happy. I feel like these are a efforts on BigHit's part and I hope to see more of it in the coming year.
BigHit also backed up and fully supported both Rap Monster and Suga's mixtapes. Again this, to me, suggests a willingness from BigHit to keep BTS satisfied. They even filmed MVs, despite not being able to make money off the mixtapes. I think that truly says a lot about BigHit!
Which gets us to the next point...
Support from the company is something that ought to be a given and yet something that so many idol groups don't have.
Look at the way SM have famously ousted idols from their groups, like Jessica from SNSD. JYP has done the same, with Jay Park who used to be the leader of 2PM before some of his old social media posts were dug up and caused a stir. Instead of standing by Jay Park, JYP Entertainment decided to oust him. As it turns out, Jay Park is on the winning side now, with a successful company and solo career, but it was tough for a long while.
Talking about the Big Three, YG entertainment also provided little to no help when their idols were caught up in scandals (on numerous occasions) and they instead grounded their idols for years, waiting endlessly for the heat to pass.