Spotify and Kakao Entertainment (previously Kakao M) have reached a global licensing agreement to restore K-pop releases on the streaming platform after a bitter dispute.
In early March, Spotify confirmed that songs distributed by Kakao – which included music from IU, MAMAMOO, Cherry Bullet and Cravity – would be unavailable on its platform to users worldwide due to the expiration of its license with the South Korean entertainment company. Now, both companies have renewed the deal to restore access for users.
“Kakao Entertainment’s content and artists are back on Spotify, allowing our 345M+ global listeners across 170 countries to once again enjoy the music they love,” a spokesperson from Spotify said today (March 11) in a press statement.
A rep for Kakao also confirmed the renewed agreement. “Kakao Entertainment Corp. (previously Kakao M) has entered into an agreement with Spotify and will sequentially provide its music content to Spotify for service in and beyond Korea,” the company said.
“Through its diverse partnerships around the world including Spotify, Kakao Entertainment hopes that music lovers around the world can easily access its artists’ and music content to enjoy K-pop.”
It’s currently unknown when the removed K-pop releases will return to Spotify. At the time of writing, some songs distributed by Kakao – including new releases by MAMAMOO, older SEVENTEEN albums and SISTAR‘s entire discography – are still unavailable.
Spotify initially confirmed to the press on February 28 that Kakao’s catalogue would no longer be available to worldwide users from March 1 “due to the expiration of our licence”. At the time, the global streaming platform stated it had been working to renew “over the last year and a half”.
However, Kakao maintained that it was still in negotiations with Spotify, while citing the latter’s firm policy that requires simultaneous domestic and global music deals with the streaming service as a hurdle. According to a source for Variety, reactions on social media spurred Kakao to return to negotiations, “with terms not dramatically different from those originally offered”.
The suspension drew criticisms on social media, both from fans and artists alike, including Tablo of Epik High, whose albums were also removed from the platform. “Regardless of who is at fault, why is it always the artists and the fans that suffer when businesses place greed over art?” the singer had written on Twitter.
Epik High’s music was eventually re-uploaded onto Spotify on March 2, although the original streaming numbers were lost.
Kakao distributes a notable portion of Korean popular music, with 37.5 per cent of the songs featured on the 2020 Top 400 Yearly Song Chart from Gaon Music Chart under the company.
Spotify launched in South Korea on February 1 this year. It made its late entrance into a crowded market of streaming platforms, which includes Melon, currently owned and operated by Kakao’s parent company.