BTS’s Virtual Concert, Map of the Soul ON:E

by The Cowl Editor on October 29, 2020

Arts & Entertainment

The Show that Won Big with Creative Technology

by Sara Conway ’21 A&E Co-Editor

BTS’s most recent title track, “On,” has a lyric that goes, “Can’t hold me down cuz you know I’m a fighter,” and no line fits the seven-member group better than this one. Not much has deterred the band, who is arguably the most famous group in the world right now. In the past two weeks, BTS has won the Top Social Artist Award at the Billboard Music Awards (BBMAs) for the fourth year in a row, held the No. 1 and No. 2 spots on Billboard’s Hot 100 (for “Savage Love” with Jason Derulo and Jawsh 865 and their English single, “Dynamite,” respectively)—a feat only four other artists have accomplished—and successfully held a two-day online concert amidst the chaos of COVID-19.

The band’s original Map of the Soul world tour was supposed to kick-off in Seoul this past April, but all of the dates were eventually canceled. Then, on Aug. 13, Big Hit Entertainment, BTS’s company, announced Map of the Soul ON:E (MOTS ON:E). This new concert had an in-person component for those in South Korea, but due to COVID-19, fans around the world attended the concert virtually on Oct. 10 and 11. The change of plans did not limit BTS and their crew from executing above-and-beyond performances.


MOTS ON:E tickets were sold through Big Hit’s app called Weverse. For once, the BTS ticket buying experience was not accompanied by the fear of the event selling out. The live concert was in 4K or HD if fans were utilizing the multi-view, starting at 6 a.m. EST on Oct. 10 and 3 a.m. on Oct. 11. Big Hit also added a delayed viewing option that would open a few hours after the live version had ended. According to Billboard, almost one million fans from around the world attended this BTS weekend concert.

The innovative sets and technology utilized for MOTS ON:E created a memorable online concert experience, especially for those who had never attended one before. MOTS ON:E included multi-view live streaming, extended reality (XR), and augmented reality (AR). Following the concert, fans had the option of purchasing entrance into the virtual BTS Exhibition Map of the Soul ON:E (오,늘) to continue enhancing their concert experience.

BTS concerts are well-known for their high-quality performances and creative use of technology, and MOTS ON:E was no different. Out of the four stages they used, the group started with the one that featured a jutting rock, a symbol taken from the music video of “On,” which was also the opening song of the concert. This stage captured the metaphor for all of the mountains BTS has overcome together over the past seven years and for the current struggle of COVID-19. However, just as the lyric from “On” says, BTS fought through these challenges, especially seen in how they held a concert for themselves and their fans in the middle of a pandemic.

The innovation did not stop there. During leader RM’s solo song, “Intro: Persona,” a giant version of him appeared with the help of AR technology. Rapper Suga started the performance of his track, “Interlude: Shadow,” in a horizontal hallway of flexible white screens, reminiscent of the song’s music video, where people behind them leaned in to touch him, causing the space to grow even smaller. The youngest member, Jungkook, multiplied himself through screen projections during his solo, “My Time.” An infinite number of Jungkooks were reflected behind him, following the real artist’s movements and creating a funhouse effect.

BTS showed off the capabilities of the XR stage through their performances of “DNA,” “Dope,” and “No More Dream,” their debut song. Fans saw the seven members dance their famous “DNA” choreography in a brightly colored outer space scene, and their performance of “Dope” inside of a racing retro elevator, which occasionally stopped in different worlds like a snowy mountain landscape. “No More Dream” was less visually overwhelming than the other two but no less engaging and exciting. Playing off of the Korean meaning of BTS’s name (“Bangtan Sonyeondan” translates to “Bulletproof Boy Scouts”), this stage featured flying bullets that seemed like they would hit the seven members and explosions that erupted at their feet as they sang about not having a dream.

The closing song of the concert, “We are Bulletproof: the Eternal,” also referenced BTS’s name and linked their journey with their ARMY (“Adorable Representative M.C. for Youth,” the acronym for their fans) who have always supported them. A group of fans from around the world was included in the last part of the concert via video, so BTS could see some faces of their ARMY. During this finale, other fans were projected onto floating cubes, adding to the idea that BTS and ARMY form their own mini universe.

As RM said in his ending statement, “BTS is not just a story of seven people. It’s a story of you, me, and everyone.” BTS’s MOTS ON:E virtual concert emphasized togetherness, regardless of being separated by time and screens. With its innovative use of technology to enhance the group’s dynamic performances, BTS and their fans created new connections through this event, even in a world divided by COVID-19.