Hundreds of tracks and albums from K-pop musicians have become unavailable from Spotify due to licensing contract lapse. In an official statement, Spotify announced they have pulled out K-pop music distributed by Kakao M, cutting worldwide users’ access.
For clarification, Spotify explained that a licensing expiration issue caused the suspension of content from Kakao M. Kakao M influences the Korean music industry widely, taking up 37.5% of the songs included in the Gaon Digital Chart’s Top 400 Yearly Songs last year.
“We have been making efforts in all directions over the past year and a half to renew the global licensing agreement so that we could continue to make Kakao M artists’ music available to fans all over the world,” said Spotify.
Recently, the global audio streaming service launched in South Korea, establishing close competition with Kakao M’s music streaming service Melon. Aside from Kakao M’s Melon, Spotify competes against local music providers, including KT’s Genie Music and SK Telecom’s Flo.
As of 2020, Melon is South Korea’s top music service provider, supporting nearly 9 million monthly users. Genie Music follows Melon with over 4 million users, and then Flo with nearly 3 million users. Spotify’s spokesperson added that the licensing issue with Kakao M is not related to Spotify’s South Korean release.
Affected K-pop Acts
Since Kakao M and Spotify have not yet reached an agreement, various major K-pop artists’ music became unavailable for streaming. Some of the affected K-pop artists include IU, Seventeen, (G)I-DLE, Mamamoo, Loona, Monsta X, GFriend, Momoland, Sunmi, and The Boyz. The licensing lapse also affected Epik High, Cherry Bullet, CL, Zico, CNBLUE, Dreamcatcher, APink, Pentagon, Infinite, NU’EST, and many more.
Epik High’s Tablo commented on the issue, questioning why artists and their supporters suffer when “businesses place greed over art.” Additionally, EN Management’s founder Eddie Nam appealed to the two companies, stating that they need to resolve the issue promptly. Luckily, Spotify’s Kakao M music removal did not affect K-pop artists signed to Big Hit Entertainment, JYP, SM, and YG.
Kakao M’s Response
“Unrelated to the domestic contract, which we are still negotiating, we separately received a notice of the expiration of our license on February 28,” said Kakao M in its official response statement. “We requested a renewal of our existing global contract,” added South Korea’s largest music distributor.
According to Kakao M, the suspension was due to Spotify’s policy of settling both domestic and global contracts simultaneously. Currently, Kakao M continues to negotiate with Spotify regarding the domestic music content.
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