Why hundreds of K-pop songs disappeared from Spotify

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 01 2021 01:09 PM | Updated as of Mar 01 2021 07:03 PM

IU and Epik High. Instagram: @dlwlrma/ @ blobyblo

(UPDATED) Hundreds of songs from South Korean artists have become unavailable from Spotify since late Sunday after the reported lapse of a licensing deal between the music streaming service and distributor Kakao M.

Spotify topped the list of trending topics on Twitter—both worldwide and in the Philippines—overnight after fans discovered that some of their favorite K-pop acts’ discographies have either completely disappeared or become incomplete on the service.

British music website NME later reported that a spokesperson for Spotify confirmed that artists with licensing deals under Kakao M, a Seoul-based music distribution giant, are no longer available to the streaming platform’s users around the globe.

“Despite our best efforts, the existing licensing deal we had with KakaoM (which covered all countries other than South Korea) has come to an end,” the Spotify spokesperson said.

“It is our hope that this disruption will be temporary and we can resolve the situation soon. We remain committed to working with local rights holders including KakaoM, to help grow the Korean music market and overall streaming ecosystem together,” the spokesperson added.

In a report by Soompi, a news site dedicated to K-pop, Kakao M said Spotify was the party that decided not to renew their global licensing agreement.

The company said it was separately negotiating a global licensing agreement with Spotify as well as a deal to provide music to Spotify’s South Korean service.

“Due to Spotify’s policy that they must proceed with the domestic and global contracts at the same time, our global contract has currently expired,” it said in the Soompi report.

Tablo of the Korean hip hop group Epik High took to Twitter to lament the removal of their latest album, “Epik High Is Here,” from Spotify, which has hundreds of millions of listeners globally.

“Apparently a disagreement between our distributor Kakao M & Spotify has made our new album Epik High Is Here unavailable globally against our will,” the 40-year-old rapper-songwriter wrote in a Twitter post.

“Regardless of who is at fault, why is it always the artists and the fans that suffer when businesses place greed over art?” he added.

Filipino singer Lea Salonga, who listens to Epik High’s music, expressed disappointment after learning that the album was unavailable on the platform.

“That sucks. This album is so effing good and needs to be heard by as many folks as possible,” Salonga said in a Twitter post, replying to Tablo.

In early February, Spotify launched its services in South Korea—the sixth-largest music market in the world—without the music of Kakao M artists, such as superstar IU, according to a report by The Korea Herald. 

Kakao M runs Korea’s largest music platform, Melon.

Acts affected by the issue include Zico, CL, Seventeen, GFriend, Nu’est, Mamamoo, Monsta X, WJSN, Loona, Golden Child, The Boyz, Momoland, and Pentagon, among others.

Music by artists from K-pop’s “Big Four” companies—SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment, JYP Entertainment and BigHit Entertainment (excluding BigHit Labels)—are still available on the service.

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