Get Together

Meet the huge, leaderless web of fans fueling BTS 🎶 Ashley Hackworth, BTS A.R.M.Y.

Episode Summary

An interview hosted by Mia Quagliarello, Maggie Zhang, and Mira Zhang (Maggie’s little sister) with Ashley Hackworth, a savvy community builder who’s a leading force in A.R.M.Y. (adorable representative MC for youth), the K-pop supergroup BTS’s incredibly loyal, benevolent, and powerful fan base. We talked with Ashley about how fans gather initially around BTS’s music, and then stay and unite for bigger causes.

Episode Notes

"We are a part of their success. We are a part of their team.” - Ashley Hackworth

BTS is a seven-member South Korean boy band. They became the fastest-growing group since The Beatles to earn four US number-one albums, doing so in less than two years. The rise of BTS is in part thanks to a huge leaderless web of dedicated fans who call themself A.R.M.Y. 

People like Ashley Hackworth host accounts that serve as informational and even emotional hubs for millions of fans. They don’t just love BTS’s music, they support each other through mental health issues and other very human challenges, many of which the band sings about in their music. They have banded together to impact the outcome of political movements (including foiling a Trump rally this summer), raised millions of dollars for the Black Lives Matter movement, and flooded social media platforms to drown out racist voices. Members feel like they are part of this big family across the world, a point that Maggie’s 14 year-old sister Mira, a BTS superfan who helped co-hosted the interview, emphasized to us.

Activism is as important as the catchy tunes for Ashley, Mira and their fellow fans. Ashley manages one of the biggest UK fan accounts for BTS. Not only does she report on what's happening with the band in the region, the account also serves as a hub for worldwide BTS news and media requests, translation requests, fundraising, and more.

We talked with Ashley about how fans gather to support each other in many ways without formal leadership and beyond music. 

Highlights, inspiration, & key learnings:

👋🏻Say hi to Ashley and learn more about the BTS A.R.M.Y.

✨Say hi to Mia and Maggie, “Get Together” correspondent.

📄See the full transcript.

This podcast was created by the team at People & Company. 

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Episode Transcription

Note: This transcript is automatically generated and there may be some errors. Timestamps may vary slightly based on episode announcement & commercial placement.


Mia (00:08):

Welcome to [inaudible]


Mia (00:13):

Our show about ordinary people, building extraordinary communities. I'm today's host Mia quality relo get together correspondent and longtime community builder at places like YouTube Flipboard, Bernie man, and now a startup called matter. And I Maggie Zang get together correspondent today, hosting with Mia and currently working as a community manager at Spotify. Each episode we interview everyday people who have built extraordinary communities about just how they did it. How did they get the first people to show up? How did they grow to hundreds, thousands, more members today we're talking to Ashley Hackworth, a savvy community builder who is a main force in army. That is adorable representative MC for youth AKA K-pop supergroup. BTS is incredible loyal and powerful fan base army is so big. There's even a fan or two in Antarctica. It's a huge leaderless web of dedicated fans, like Ashley, who serve as informational and even emotional hubs for millions of fans, army, don't just love the music.


Mia (01:11):

They support each other through mental health issues and other human needs. They band together to impact the outcome of political movements like foiling a Trump rally this summer and have raised millions of dollars for the black lives matter movement and flooded social media platforms to drown out racist voices for them. Activism is as important as the catchy tunes and English teacher in South Korea by day actually manages one of the biggest UK fan accounts for BTS her group. Not only reports on what's happening with the boys and the region, but they also serve as a hub for worldwide BTS news and even media requests, translation requests, fundraising, and more so Maggie, I'm wondering what stood out to you from our conversation today with Ashley, a lot of things stood out.


Maggie (01:49):

I mean, your summary captured it so well. BTS army is just amazing at everything they do. But the thing that was most impressive to me was how much army functions like a family. Ashley talks about how, when she meets other members of the community, she feels like it's immediately an older sibling, younger sibling relationship. And they just do really incredible things together. Not only does army help to support BTS through fundraising and spreading the word, they also take on a lot of volunteering projects to do social good. And they also support each other wholeheartedly. As humans within army people will help you out if you're struggling with finances or with your homework or health advice, it's basically like its own mini world and Ashley, she had a really touching story about someone whose relative needed a blood transfusion and needed someone to match the same blood type. So people in army started sharing it, BTS, even shared it. And then eventually they got a match.


Maggie (02:39):

So just these really human stories opened my eyes that when a group really stands for something, it can unite members beyond what they came there for. They could have been part of army because he loved BTS as music and the band itself, but then they support each other in so many other ways.


Mia (02:53):

And Maggie, this was our first episode together. It was so fun. And also we had a special guest at your sister Mira, tell us why she joined. Yeah.


Maggie (03:01):

So I told me that this interview was happening and she's a huge fan of BTS. She has the latest album. She bought the learn English with BTS set. Her whole phone background is pictures of BTS. Her room is filled with stuffed animals, mugs with them and she just loves being part of army. So I wanted to get her in on this interview to share her perspective too.


Mia (03:21):

It was so great to have her there. All right, Maggie and Ashley, let's do this. Ashley, Maggie and I were so excited to talk to you because we're both big music fans and we're fascinated by the BTS army. I mean, it's the most like insane example of a passionate, engaged fan base. And I'm so curious about how you yourself fell into this rabbit hole.


Ashley (03:40):

I'm a really huge music fan myself. I grew up around it because within my family, a lot of them did stuff with like Atlanta records and within rural town, one of my friends, her niece was having a hard time and we connected more and she was showing me on YouTube, this group called BTS. I was watching some of the videos with her and I was like, Oh, I should learn more about them because they're really good from then on, I started watching more videos and then American hustle life came out and I've watched the TV show and it showed their personalities. And I was like, Oh yeah, they're great performers. And they're hilarious. They're like normal. They're humble. I really enjoy this. I started paying more attention to the music and what's going on. I was always on Twitter and I moved to the UK for schooling.


Ashley (04:31):

I noticed there wasn't a lot going on there. So I started reaching out to accounts that were based in the UK. And I was like, I'd love to do BTS events, bring the fans together. Because in America we have events where the fans all ages connections and it would make BTS more popular. It would give, you know, big, hit a reason to pay attention to them, to bring the guys over. And I found one account that I was like, yeah, it would be totally interested. Would you want to be our event coordinator? And I was like, yeah. And that was that. So I've been getting way more deeply involved.


Mia (05:04):

My sister has just been nodding along as you were talking about like your journey falling in love.


Ashley (05:11):

It's more like a migration than love because it's like, they're so cool. And I like what they represent. If I put my younger siblings, I would want them to listen more to BTS and any other artists, they are like great role models, do represent what should be presented to younger audiences, even older audiences, they just connect with us pretty well.


Mia (05:34):

Do you want to introduce yourself quickly and share about how you became part of the army?


Mira (05:39):

Yeah, sure. I'm Euro I'm. Maggie's 14 year old sister. One of our family friends in 2016, show me the music video for save me. So ever since I been hooked. Oh my God. That's my all time. Favorite


Ashley (05:58):

Music video. Me too. Yeah. Oh, wow.


Maggie (06:01):

I was talking to Mira before this recording and she was talking about how being part of army. She feels like she's part of this big family across the world. And I'm curious for you cause you're based in Korea. Right. But then the fans are all over the world. So how do you feel to be part of the community?


Ashley (06:15):

Yeah. I just moved to Korea for work. I'm older. So I treat all the younger fans more like an older sister, very protective and watching over because a lot of the army I met are quite young and they're going through a lot of hard stuff at a younger age than when I was at their age, especially because they liked K-pop. I went through that, you know, like K-pop, isn't that cool. It's cooler now. But like these kids don't have anyone to meet or to talk to who likes the same thing and they don't really have the support and they're going through a lot more issues now.


Ashley (06:47):

So like a lot of us older K-pop fans want to support the younger ones and let them know it's okay. And that they have someone there. And I think it's great to see everything going on. If someone's struggling with finances and you know, it's legit, everyone's going to help out. If someone is struggling with self-esteem or they're getting bullied, you know, we're there to support them. I just feel like it's okay to like this group. It's okay to like a song in another language. I went through it and I want to help those that went through it because I would love to have had someone there there's even like ARMY homework help. Like there's the army Academy and they help with tutoring services. So it's an every subject. There's a medical field one. So these are medical ARMY they're doctors and nurses. They help with giving tips on health. There's one for cooks and chefs. We have similar experiences, not just to the boys, but with each other. And we want to make sure that everyone stays okay and safe because like the guys saying, it's okay to be who you are. Don't let anyone bring you down. And I think that's why we're very protective and we take care of each other as best as we can.


Mia (07:53):

Okay. Since I'm like the grandma of this call, I think, I feel like I need this like explained like a little bit more to me. Because like on the outside, you know, I might say that they're just like a bunch of pretty boys playing catchy music. So yeah. How does the band itself like promote these values?


Ashley (08:10):

A lot of it's through their music. And the funny thing is, people don't know that until they turn on the captions. So you turn on the captions, you'll see it within their lyrics. One song that really connects to a lot of the army is "Magic Shop." And it's really talking about when you're feeling depressed, when you are struggling with your personal mental health issues, we can go within to this magic shop to let all of our beers go. They're basically saying, let's go in together. Like I also have these problems. I also struggle with depression. I also struggled with low self-esteem. I also struggled with all this and they do it through their music and they also do it through like their live discussions. Sometimes on YouTube. They're tagging with the bands and they're just open and honest about it. They're always talking about know, like I'm having a hard time and I'm trying to get through it.


Ashley (08:59):

And I'm trying to love myself. And I hope you guys can learn how to love yourself because you guys love me and me is helping me love myself and us loving you should help you as well. It's just by their actions as well. So they're donating to charities and stuff, and that's kind of been ingrained in army army. Doesn't do it just to be like in the news. And it might go like, Oh my gosh, look how much we raised because they've been doing this type of stuff. Since the beginning, since 2013, the guys have been, were donating their time and services army, especially out here in Korea have been donating to environmental issues, such as planting trees for RMS birthday to donating blood, helping raise money for a school. It's always been a part of what they do and army kind of follow suit because that's what they agree. That's what they believe in as well. So yeah, it's do their actions. It's through their songs and it's through the conversations we have with the guys or they have with us mostly.


Mia (09:55):

How big is army and how does the group you lead kind of fit into the big picture. Okay.


Ashley (10:01):

Hmm. How big his army army is so big. There's even a fan in Antarctica. Like, wow. Yeah. One of my friends, she runs a research army account and she takes the stats of anyone interacting with like BDS content. And, you know, we have like one or two fans in Antarctica. We're quite massive. It's all over the world. And the account I'm a part of is the biggest UK account. And so it's a bit of pressure. They rely on this account to stay up to date on stuff within the UK. But we also update on what's going on around the world at the same time. So it's like, okay, we know what's going on in the UK with BTS, but also this is what's happening in Egypt. This is what's happening in Nigeria. This is what's happening in China. I guess we're like local representatives. And a lot of times when the media or the press wants to know more about BTS, they contact us and they do interview us and ask us questions.


Ashley (10:58):

We also played the role for representing them with concerts. A lot of the accounts are able to help raise money and make the banners that is traditional with K-pop concerts. Especially with BTS. We have the permission from it to raise money through the fans and to choose the design and to choose the slogan. But we use the people that follow us, their votes and stuff like that. And then we submit it's a big hit. And then it gets printed because we have a large following. It's kind of like, we're a hub. You want the latest information. You want to know what's going on. You want us to talk to someone to try to plan stuff where, who you would go to, but in every country there are multiple fan bases. And some of them even have roles of just really strictly talking about voting their task is they're telling you how to vote when to vote the best way to vote, how to get extra votes. And then there's those that do charts. We have this med a huge account run, no army of charts, data. And his thing is just telling us about charting. It's mostly us charting, but you know how many albums we need to sell? How many streams we need to get? How many singles we need some buy just replacement on the charting. So that's just a few examples.


Maggie (12:12):

Yeah. It's really interesting because in the New York times article that you were mentioned in, they referred to you as the BTS fan lead. And it sounds like you lead the UK account, but it also seems like there's no official leader for army, right?


Ashley (12:25):

Yeah. That's the thing, what I told them is there is no leader. I made the comment, it was like a joke. I was like, we're kind of like a corporation. Everyone has a certain space where they work and the company, you know, it's certain levels, certain areas, but we're not really led unless it's by big hits or BTS, they're the CEO, right? So we have the translators, we have the fan bases. And within the fan bases, you have those that are representing the countries. Those that are representing voting. Those who are representing charting, those who are reps, who are magazines. So we even have magazines. Those who are representing radio, then we have health and mental. You have academics. We have the research army who play a huge role in helping us understand more about ourselves as well, because they dedicate their entire time researching. They even did an army census. So we can, you know, how many of us are around the world? And so it is literally like small little world of our own, but I made the joke of like, yeah, it's a corporation, you know, our roles. And we work with BK as best as we can. They use crowdsourcing, which we've took on and boom.


Maggie (13:30):

Wow. But that's so fascinating because in so many communities, there's usually a clear leader leading by example, especially for communities that seem really unified in their values, their behavior. So how do you think that army functions so well without a clear leader, right?


Ashley (13:47):

Because the armies that participate are the ones or whatever projects you participate in. Everyone is into that project. There are so many of us, there will always be someone wanting to do what you want to do. Someone pitches an idea, Hey guys, let's do this. You're going to find army who agree. Like I like that. Yeah. Let's do it. And let's work together on it. And so it's more like, you know, there's project managers, I guess you would say where they pitched the idea and then people join in, they form a team and everyone works on it together. It's not like, Hey guys, we need to do this bigger accounts taken. What other people say who are making the full decision? So no one's ever making full dessert. There's always input by those participating in stuff. So I think that's what kind of distinguishes it is that there's always someone so far for the projects or stuff that are pitched.


Ashley (14:34):

There's always someone money to do the same thing. For example, black lives matter, one army matched that donation there, one army, she was a black army. Just like I am, there's a lot of us black armies. Uber's just like, why don't we match this money? Like, I feel very appreciative that the did that. Why don't we do the same? And then another army who was like, well, let's call it magic million. And then it just went from there. It was literally a conversation. And other people were like, yeah, this sounds great. And started retweeting it and sharing it. And other people like, that's amazing. Let's keep going. And boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, and, and army, you know, once we're onto something, we don't really stop. So you started seeing it in the press. You started seeing them share it with anyone and everyone. They know it's also kind of similar with like dynamite, dynamite. It's promo was fantastic because you even had gamer army, you know, playing video games. And when they were dying saying, you know, stream dynamite. And so a lot of locals as we call the public were like, yeah, I listened to it because someone kept telling me the stream dynamite, you know? So it, it's just kind of like, we're really into doing the same thing as the other person. So why not just join along? Everyone takes their own route on how they do it, but we all have the same goal.


Maggie (15:47):

It's really cool how you said like, yeah, once you're on something you don't really stop. I, I feel that way just witnessing BTS fans and how they're not just like normal music fans that attend concerts or buying merchandise, but there's also that element of working really hard to support whether it's helping to translate content or running an advertising or social media campaign. And all of it is unpaid, which I think is fascinating. Even my sister has spent so much time texting her friends, including me to stream dynamite. So it can go up to number one on the billboard hot 100. And I just thought that was so interesting.


Mira (16:19):

That's the best thing about fan sourcing.


Mia (16:22):

Exactly as big. It must be so happy. What do you think motivates each member of the community to just work so hard?


Ashley (16:29):

They feel a part of the community. What big hit does a good job at is making us feel a part different than a lot of the other fan communities. We get so much information on what's going on. We don't just get content from the members, but we get to know what's going on. They always do like this quarterly debriefing that we get to watch live and see what big hits planning, and they're letting us inside. They're letting us know, okay. So we're putting into this kind of content, this kind of stuff with BTS. They give us that insight. They give us information, they're letting us know the know-how. And I think a part of that makes us feel like we are a part of their success. We are a part of the team. Maybe I can look at it as like, you know, interns, because you actually can take these experiences and use it as like an internship.


Ashley (17:12):

One of my friends on our team, she's a graphic designer and she's done some amazing graphics for BTS stuff. And she was able to take all this. And I was like, look, you know, this is like a mini internship project. She can put together and make a portfolio and get a gig. And she actually did get a job. All these experiences in these projects do benefit us in a way for future work, because it's like, look, this is what we did. This is after districts. So big. It's kind of giving back in a way that way, allow us to do all this content, but it helps big hit because they can check what we're doing. We're providing extra stats and analysis that they're not able to check. There's only so many of them in the company. So they have to be able to keep up what's going on.


Ashley (17:50):

And there's so many of us, so we've assist them in that way. But then also it helps the boys they're really talented and passionate and we really enjoy their content. And a lot of us want really great success, especially those that's been there from the beginning and seeing the way that they were treated. And especially those who are industry gatekeepers, who are trying to tell us what is acceptable and what isn't. So a lot of us were kind of rebelling a little bit. Like, no, they're great artists just because they don't see an English doesn't mean they can't be successful. So I'm going to show you and you don't want to take the time to turn on the captions. And one more about them where I'm going to show you what they do. That's kind of the wool we've taken on


Mia (18:29):

In terms of like attracting new people to army. Is it happening organically or are there things that you do to have people join you?


Ashley (18:37):

Honestly, I don't try to push anyone into anything. If you are a follower of mine, because my account isn't technically a Stan account. It's my personal account. I've had forever, but I do post about beats. Yes. I'll share a bit of content. And if you're intrigued and you ask me questions, I will answer them and then they're gonna continue. You're going to always ask more. And that's usually how it is. It's like, or you just want to know, Hey, what's this person's name? He's cute. Oh, what's this person's name. He has a great voice. And then once you start doing that, you start wanting to learn more and more and more and more. And then yeah, that's, that's it you're already in. So that's how I usually do it. I will share a song. I will share their songs and the ones that I'm like, Hey guys, if you're interested, you know, this vibe is more than disco pot.


Ashley (19:19):

That's how I was with dynamite. This is what this called pop. And I know a lot of my family's into it. So you guys should really check it out. And because you guys have a hard time with it being another language, this isn't English. So you guys should have no issue. And they're like, Oh, awesome. Okay. We're going to check this out. And they actually loved it. My mom loves just go by. My family loves it. Or if I'm talking to someone, they know I'm army, but I guess because I'm older, they don't treat me as poorly as they treat other army. The way I carry myself is a little different. So they're always like, okay, so what do you like about BTS? What genres do they do? And I'm like, okay, so what genre are you into? Are you into rock? We got a song for that. Are you into pop have for that? Are you into hip hop, alternative hip hop, R and B. They tell me there's genres. And I'm like, okay, listen to this on this, on this song, I'm going to like three. And then they do it. So it's usually people who are approaching me because they're interested. Or those are just curious as to like why I liked them and whatnot. And I give them a little sample and they're just like, that's cool. I see why you like them.


Mia (20:15):

I bet you have some incredible stories of how fans look out for each other. I would love to hear some of them.


Ashley (20:20):

Let me see, Oh, this was amazing. Actually be helped with this one. So on weavers, which is like a private app for army and BTS or other big artists. Kay diamond, her, I think it was at her grandfather or her needed a blood transfusion and needed someone that can match the blood type. And she was asking on there and then other people started asking and it was trending and it turned it so much that VI actually got involved in sharing it as well. And so army was sharing it and it'd be, was sharing it. And the person was able to find someone that would match the blood. Cause she'd put the blood type and she said, it's emergency. And all that can happened. They may match someone because it was a dire situation. So that's one way another is, from what I've seen from my end, I've seen army, the family found out that they were gay and that's still a situation that's quite raw, but they'll get kicked out of home and they have no place to go.


Ashley (21:16):

And so I've seen an ARMY open up their home, like where are you based? You can stay at my place. Are you looking for work? My job is hiring. Do you have cash app? Do you have PayPal? We can help support you for a bit. So there's that as well. I've seen that actually quite frequently. Also what the elections, same thing, those that come from families that are mainly Republican, those teens or young adults are getting kicked out as well. There's also a lot of support that I've seen on my side, fortunately, of those with very, very low self-esteem and or those unfortunately who are having really suicidal thoughts and there are ARMY who will come on and try to talk to them, see how they're doing, see what's going on and just keep conversating with them over a period of time until they're in like a better mental state. I feel like a lot of ARMY, they feel like they can find someone to talk to. They're having a really hard time and you may not know this person, but there are ARMY so you kind of feel like, okay, I can share this with you because you understand what I'm going through. And it usually creates a good friendship. It usually does help the person from what I've seen on my end.


Mia (22:23):

Where are these conversations happening? Twitter.


Ashley (22:26):

Yeah, we have Instagram. We have Facebook, but our main hub is Twitter. Sometimes you see this on weavers and I think it's really cute. It's homework help. Right? So when it's like, I have this math problem I can't solve. Can you help me? And then there's someone that counts on there. Oh, okay. So you do it like this and like that. And boom, they help them with their homework, but yeah, for more serious situations, it's usually on Twitter because there's so many of us and you'll see someone stepping up on another person. Like I am getting bullied because I like K-pop, I don't really have many friends. Is there anyone in my area? And I know the account I was part of would share that, you know, Hey, is there anyone in the city or other big accounts would share it? And then all of a sudden people from that area or nearby will comment. And there you go, you got someone to talk to within your area so that you don't feel


Mia (23:10):

Actually, what are some of the things you learned the hard way about building this community?


Ashley (23:15):

The thing is there have been those who take advantage of the army community who do fundraising and they'll put up a fake story or they will offer a raffle and you just need to donate towards this charity. And they put in like their PayPal and stuff like that. And the person either never gets the raffle prize or they just take the money and then disappear. So we had to learn about that because when our account was trying to raise the money and this was before UNICEF, like love myself with global, this was before it was very global. So they weren't really taking money directly from our UK or us accounts. You had to somehow find a way to transfer it into the Korean account. And the people on my team are a lot younger. So what they did is they set up a PayPal and it was under the name of the group instead of the person's name, so that they were like, Hey guys, look, we're not going to take the money.


Ashley (24:06):

And they learned the hard way that that's not what you're supposed to do. You need to have it unless the group is registered as a company, at least within the UK, you need to have it under a person's name. Because when they tried to donate, they were having a hard time because of the Korean accounts. And so when they were trying to get access to the account, ended up getting locked out for about a good six months because they had to prove their identity. So finally they got access and they were able to contact UNICEF, love myself based in Korea. And we were able to transfer the money directly to their bank account. Like they gave us more information to make it easier. So yeah, we had to learn the hard way on how to do proper fundraising. Now with one in an army, we learned an even better way.


Ashley (24:47):

Instead of taking the money directly, we just set up one, an account page and you can donate through the account patient. And that keeps it safe because you never too sure on what some of these people who are in the army or taking advantage of army are doing, we're also learning the hard way of, because we've made it so public that we like to raise for charity and stuff. We will get people that are like, hi, I need help for this. And if we're like, no, or we don't really have the time to do that, we'll get attacked. Or they're just like, well, aren't you guys this and all that. So we've taken on a larger responsibility. So we have to kind of be careful on what we're promoting and what information we're giving to the public. That's probably the biggest lesson. I think everything else has been fine.


Mia (25:31):

Yeah. It's I guess like a parallel to your experiences. I was reading about those people who run the BTS translator accounts and how they also get burnout because so many fans are asking, can you translate this? Why have you not translated this yet? Oh, you gave all this attention to this one member. How about the other member? I feel like it's really easy to just get exhausted by the amount of requests. And it's only a few people, you know, like you're still human


Ashley (25:55):

Yeah. With our child because there's so many people, we get thousands of questions and there was only like 10 of us on the Twitter account. I think now it's down to five because a lot of us are busy and we have other work. We just don't have the time and they're having to go through it and they get really upset if you miss something or if you make an error. And so sometimes we have to be careful with how you write things, because it can create a bit of chaos. It's hard. I wish sometimes those who follow the accounts do realize how much effort we're putting in how much time and energy translators are putting in. And those who run fan bases and stuff. Cause it's like a second part-time job. You're doing a lot of hours of work for really no pay or anything just cause we want to. And it feels good when people are fished, they're excited. They're happy, but it feels bad when get a lot of hate and threats and I'm comfortable confrontation.


Mia (26:48):

Yeah, for sure. It's hard when you're, I guess catering has such a large community of really passionate people and especially because so much is online, it must be hard. Like things get lost in translation, right? Like you can't read tone of voice from like, so I've heard army is just known for being like the most tech savvy strategic business base. I mean, you just joked about it being a corporation. And I think it's interesting how fans will really pay attention to metrics like album sales, YouTube views and music streaming. And I heard even after league hits corporate meetings, people actually look for the business strategy documents to read them because they're just fascinated. So really? Wow. So I'm just curious, like why is that? So yeah. Why, why did you look at it? Why is this an important tactic? Why do you think army is so tech savvy and pay attention to the numbers so much?


Ashley (27:38):

I am an entrepreneur. I do a lot of freelance stuff within events and within music. I enjoy reading business documents and everyone thinks like army so young that we wouldn't understand stuff like that. But a lot of us are really interested in tech or really interested in businesses and seeing how the label is being run and all that because we either want to do it ourselves or they're studying it if they're in college also, because we want to find a way to make sure that the boys get the support that we believe they deserve. They get a fair shot, they get a fair chance. Like I said earlier, we're kind of rebellion against the norm. You know what the gatekeepers are saying is a lot. And a lot of us feel like this is great music. They're saying they're sending great messages and everyone should hear it, but no one's given it a chance just because they're minority or they're speaking another language, we can understand what's going on in the company.


Ashley (28:26):

We can make sure the guys were okay, make a, see what big hit has planned and then how we can assist them. And so I feel like it's a whole bunch of those things. They want to see how the boys are doing, what's going to be happening with them. Or they're interested to see the method or the way that big hits taking. Some of us may want to work with the kids. Some of us may want to work with a company and seeing how they run things could influence them and their business plan ideas. So it's more of like an interest. It just is a big hit giving us more of an insight, which now it's become like, it's a right for us because we're so involved. We have the right to know what's going on. So yeah, I mean me, it's just because I'm an entrepreneur and I want to do more stuff with the music and I like to see how they're running and managing the label a bit.


Mia (29:11):

I'm so curious as to if the IPO has changed anything about the tone of this community. I mean, you could say that it wouldn't have happened at all without your hard work.


Ashley (29:19):

Well, but here's the thing, as I explained with the New York times, it's like a triangle to three-way thing without big head, there'd be no BTS or army without army. There's no big kid of BTS. And without BTS, there's no army because it's literally like a shared thing. I can't really say that it's more one person more than the other. It's all three of us together. And I think with IPO, people were just intrigued. A lot of the media made it seem like all these kids are going to be throwing their money and they don't understand what's going on. But a lot of the army were just intrigued. They're like, what's an IPO. How does this work? How does this benefit big hit? How does this benefit BTS? So it was more of an entry on like, will this help the guys, will this give them more exposure?


Ashley (29:59):

Will this give them a better opportunity? So it created more interest and excitement because they're like, okay, they can get more money, more funding and we're supporting them, you know? So it's like, okay, through our merch, who's going to be taking on shares. Are we going to be into wanting to support this? So it was more like that from what I was seeing, there was a lot of army who actually do invest in things that were explaining stuff. Very, very simplified version, like the ice cream version, where they're like, if you're at an ice cream store and there was a lot of that going on, I was a part of a discord where there were a lot of army investors who were interested in investing in vacant as well. And so seeing them, you know, they were from the Philippines or something in the U S there was some from Australia and they were talking about, you know, yeah, I've invested in Nike. And so I'm hoping I can do this and that. And so I feel like it just created more interest. It helped them want to learn more about what an investment is, what it will do for the group, what it'll do for the company. That's all it really does is it just creates more interest and some army did get shares, not a lot of army, but some did because they actually had the money. Yeah,


Maggie (31:05):

It's interesting. Cause he talks about like connecting people through discord, through Twitter and then the New York times article, they wrote about how you also plan virtual meetups with people where it's like games and like you have sponsors and you actually reach out to radios agents that promote it. And then even beyond the fan groups, I saw how BTS held that two day concert on leavers with almost a million attendees. And it's just really interesting for us because in the midst of the pandemic, so many communities have been shifting online, but the BTS community has been online for quite a while and worked really virtually. So what kind of advice do you have for existing as an online community?


Ashley (31:42):

Well, the thing is K-pop and technology has always been a really big thing because it's their way of being able to expand into global territory. That's the biggest thing. We honestly did our meetup virtual because we couldn't do it in person every year or every few months. We've always did it in person. Everyone was having a hard time though. And so our team decided why don't we just do it online? We have the resources there, zoom. We have the sponsors because these are people we've worked with in the past. So we can still do the exact same things. But online, we just have to cut out random mansplain and stuff. But the best advice is, you know, look at the resources. What kind of opportunities could you create out of what's available? Have you researched what kind of platforms you can use, what you can do with those platforms?


Ashley (32:28):

Do you have an audience? Do you have the pool to bring people in, to join you, to participate in whatever project you're doing? And if you do, then that can work with sponsors and all that. I feel like we've already had the advantage of having those we've worked with. But if you are interested when you're building the platform and all that, you do need to have the analytics to know how many people are interested. You can do it through like ticketing and where are you going to do the ticketing? You can do it for free off of a website that you create. You have the ticketing options. You can do that like on Wix or you can use Eventbrite's and offer free tickets, which will give you the analytics and stats. And so then when you're pitching to try to get sponsors like, Hey, you know, we have this many people interested. If you're trying to sell them on your idea, you need to make sure that the company you're contacting would actually be interested. Why is it unique? Why is it virtual? Besides, you know, the virus K-pop has always been a huge part of technology advancement because of coming from Korea, which is really advanced in technology itself. So you got to come an understanding of how the technology will work within your field of work or with your group. How do they use the technology and how can he replicate it?


Mia (33:41):

What is leading this army taught you about yourself?


Ashley (33:45):

I don't really think I'm leading anyone. I think I'm just a participant, but it didn't help me. I've always been quite outspoken and assertive. And I had my firm beliefs. I think it helps me realize that that's okay. And there are people who do think the same as you. You're not as different as you once thought you were because some of us feel like we're the only one that that's the way no one feels the same as us. We stand out, we're two different, we're not accepted. And I feel like with the community, I found people that do accept how I am, what I believe in, who agree with me or who may disagree, but they accept me for who I am and that I'm not some weird outsider type person that I felt when I was younger.


Mia (34:31):

And where do you go from here, Ashley? Like, what are you trying to figure out right now? And what really keeps you going?


Ashley (34:36):

Honestly, I want to work more within K-pop. I want to see more of how they function, but I also want to bring some stuff back into K-pop K-pop is trying to expand more globally and it's starting to do that rapidly actually, but there's still some things that I feel there needs to be changes on within like the areas of culture appreciation versus culture procreation within diversity of the teams. Because as it's going global, people are not going to take it serious when there's a lack of diversity when there's a lack of consciousness within culture around the world. And I love to be able to bring that in because I really appreciate, K-pop mostly BTS to be honest, but to continue support such a great, I guess, genre now. Cause Capops become its own genre, even though it's just pop in Korean.


Mia (35:28):

Yeah. It's exciting. I'm excited to see where it BTS goes the next few years. If you leave to just on this rocket ship, that's just like, like going. So


Ashley (35:38):

Yeah. I hope it's not too fast.


Maggie (35:41):

Yeah. Otherwise it'll be very exhausting for all the fan groups we have. And actually one has been begging to jump in with a question. So I'm going to pass to her cause I know we're going to wrap up soon.


Ashley (35:51):

Mira ask me as many as you can.


Mira (35:52):

So who's your bias shoulda


Mira (35:57):

And used to be Shuga for like two years. And then I finally switched to B


Ashley (36:04):

Y V E. I'm very envious, but yeah, definitely shook up because he's very open. He is like the main going force talking about mental health issues. He just tells it like it is, he's quite assertive. He's quite opinionated. And I'm similar in that sort. He's a bit misunderstood because of that. And so I relate to him and also his rap game is on point.


Mia (36:30):

Yeah. I really wanted to do a dance solo. It's a first love. Oh, that would be, yeah. Have you ever met any of the VTS members?


Ashley (36:42):

No. No. That's like meeting a unicorn and men and like, I guess close vicinity, but like I don't believe my intentions are to meet them. If I happen to meet them, I would want it to be more a project rather than as a fan, because I don't want to put that pressure on them having to play up, meeting a fan. I feel like it puts pressure on them when they do meet the fans that they have to come off a certain way. And I don't want to do that to them.


Mia (37:13):

I have to ask, what is your most coveted bit of BTS merchandise?


Ashley (37:17):

I don't have as much. I didn't think. Okay. I'll say my hats. Yeah. I have a huge collection. I love wearing hats. Seven of those hats are BDS hats.


Mia (37:27):

I read that you were a teacher, a language teacher in Korea. So do you have learn Korean with ETS? Because the mirror is,


Ashley (37:33):

I actually do right now because like Korean, I am learning it, but I was intrigued to see what they do with it because I'm on the neighbors. First one is like, okay. But I really wanted to see, you know, how they going to take this because I'm really a huge advocate for education. So I got it. It's brilliant. It's really well done. And the fun thing that they're doing, because like they hit EDU you know, their new branch that they started. They're doing a whole series where there's named Bora, she's going to Korea. And that's what these books are based off of. Well, they're doing an online series where you can study together with a lot of the armies and then we share your stories and you'll be practicing speaking in Korean. So I'm glad I have this set because I don't just studying alone by yourself. Are you going to be able to interact if we study starting in December with other arteries?


Mia (38:25):

Fantastic. This was excellent.


Ashley (38:27):

Oh, thank you so much.


Mia (38:30):

If you want to connect with Ashley, you can reach her on Twitter at Ashley says, yay. That's a S H a L a Y S a Y S. Yay. And thank you to our team. Thank you. Wild sound for engineering and editing Greg David for his design work and Katie O'Connell for marketing this episode, you can find more about the work that people at company, helping organizations get clear on who their most important communities are and how to build with those people by heading to our website people and that company. Also, if you want to start your own community or supercharge one, you're already a part of the people in company handbook is here for you. Visit get together to grab a copy. It's full of stories and learnings from conversations with community leaders like this.


Mia (39:13):

Oh, and last thing, review us. Subscribe. All right. Thank you.