Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

BTS debuts at no. 1—thanks to CDs

For a second week in a row, an old-fashioned format has helped push a new release to the top of the Billboard album chart

By Ben Sisario
Published: Dec 1, 2020

BTS debuts at no. 1—thanks to CDsIn this image released on November 22, J-Hope, Jin, RM, Jimin, V, Suga, and Jungkook of BTS perform onstage for the 2020 American Music Awards on November 22, 2020 in South Korea; Image: Big Hit Entertainment/AMA2020/Getty Images via Getty Images

(The Charts)

The music industry has a hot new format, one that can generate huge sales, demonstrate fan loyalty and dominate the weekly charts.

It’s called the compact disc.

This week, K-pop superstars BTS opened at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart for the fifth time with their latest release, “Be,” which had the equivalent of 242,000 sales in the United States, according to Nielsen Music. Of that total, 177,000 were for copies sold of the eight-song LP as a complete album. Two versions were available: a $9 digital download and a $51 “deluxe edition” CD that came with a photo book, seven postcards, a poster and other goodies.

Last week, AC/DC topped the chart with a similar strategy, selling its latest CD, “Power Up,” in a $49 box that displayed the band’s logo in neon and played a guitar riff from a built-in speaker.

The CD format has been dying a slow death for years. In 2019, just 52 million albums were sold on CD in the United States, down from a peak of 943 million in 2000, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. But some acts, like BTS, have found ways to move discs by super-serving fans with collectible packages, even as streaming remains the default format for most listeners. In its opening week, “Be” had 49 million streams.

The loyalty and promotional power of BTS’ fans is so great that it was considered a major factor in the success of a $4 billion initial public offering this fall by Big Hit Entertainment, the South Korean management company behind the band. (Big Hit derives almost 90% of its revenue from BTS.)

Megan Thee Stallion’s “Good News” opened at No. 2 with the equivalent of just over 100,000 sales, including 116 million streams. Last week, BTS and Megan Thee Stallion received their first Grammy nominations. BTS got one nod and Megan had four, including best new artist and record of the year for “Savage.”

Ariana Grande’s “Positions” is in third place, while Pop Smoke’s “Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon” is No. 4; Future and Lil Uzi Vert’s “Pluto x Baby Pluto” fell three spots to No. 5 in its second week out.

Taylor Swift’s “Folklore” rose 23 spots to No. 6, after the LP’s vinyl version went on sale in Target stores and her new film, “Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions,” began streaming on Disney+. (Swift is up for six Grammy nominations, including album of the year.)

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