Hundreds of K-pop releases have been removed from Spotify worldwide as the streaming platform continues to try and reach an agreement with distributor Kakao M.
Spotify launched in South Korea on February 1, 2021, but did so without music from artists with licensing deals under Kakao M, including IU, Zico and more.
Now, releases distributed by the Korean label have been removed from Spotify around the world. Kakao M distributes a large share of Korean popular music, with 37.5 percent of the songs featured on the 2020 Top 400 Yearly Song Chart from Gaon Music Chart under the company.
In a statement given to NME, a spokesperson for Spotify confirmed that Kakao M’s catalogue would no longer be available to users around the globe from March 1, 2021 “due to the expiration of our licence”.
“We have been working with KakaoM over the last year and a half to renew the global licensing agreement, so that their artists’ music would remain available to Spotify’s 345M+ listeners in nearly 170 markets around the world,” they said. “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 fact that we have not yet reached agreement on a new global deal is unfortunate for their artists, as well as for fans and listeners worldwide. 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.”
Kakao M’s parent company also owns and operates the MelOn streaming service, one of the top digital music platforms in South Korea. Epik High’s Tablo suggested on Twitter that a disagreement between the Korean company and Spotify had led to the issue.
“Apparently a disagreement between our distributor Kakao M & Spotify has made our new album Epik High Is Here unavailable globally against our will,” he wrote. “Regardless of who is at fault, why is it always the artists and the fans that suffer when businesses place greed over art?”
Apparently a disagreement between our distributor Kakao M & Spotify has made our new album Epik High Is Here unavailable globally against our will. Regardless of who is at fault, why is it always the artists and the fans that suffer when businesses place greed over art?
— 에픽하이 타블로 | Tablo of Epik High (@blobyblo) February 28, 2021
When Spotify launched in South Korea, a spokesperson for Kakao M told the Korea Herald: “We are still talking with Spotify [about distributing our songs through their platform].”
Twitter user @lemonphobic has compiled some of the artists affected by the issue, including IU, Cherry Bullet, Cravity, GFriend, Mamamoo, CL, Nu’est and many more. You can see their full thread of artists here and a sample below.
artists that had their stuff on spotify deleted, a thread
— ً (@lemonphobic) February 28, 2021
Artists signed to SM, YG, JYP and BigHit Entertainment (excluding BigHit Labels) are unaffected by the removals.
.@pledis_17 Total on Spotify
— SEVENTEEN;Spotify (@svt_spotify) February 28, 2021
Fans have reported artists losing massive amounts of streams on Spotify due to the removal. A fan account dedicated to SEVENTEEN’s Spotify statistics and updates said the group, who are signed to Pledis Entertainment, had lost nearly 1billion streams after their music was removed from Spotify.
Meanwhile, earlier this month SM Entertainment found Lee Soo-man said he believes that K-pop needs to expand into the Chinese market in order to continue growing. The Korean music industry’s influence in China has been muted in recent years due to a ban on South Korean culture in the East Asian nation that stemmed from a political dispute.