Spotify is a lifesaver for many international K-pop fans (unless you’re an Apple Music user). More than a decade ago, I remember the only platform I was able to listen to K-pop to was on Youtube.
K-pop has since been a huge culture phenomenon, making it more accessible than ever to listen to your favourite artists. However, two days ago (1 March 2021 KST), many Spotify users around the world were confused and worried when they realized many K-pop songs were not available or suddenly disappeared.
Image via SAYS
The artists that no longer have some of their songs or albums on Spotify are IU, SEVENTEEN, NU’EST, MAMAMOO, Epik High, CL, GFRIEND, MONSTA X, Apink, THE BOYZ, Sunmi, (G)I-DLE, LOONA, SF9, HyunA, 4Minute, VIXX, INFINITE, Dreamcatcher, MOMOLAND, ASTRO, Zico, Block B, BEAST, Jessi, WJSN, AOA, BTOB, Golden Child, VICTON, Lovelyz, and many more.
(The Boyz) Image via Teen Vogue
Spotify gave their statement on the situation later that same morning. They announced the expiry of their licensing agreement with Korean music distributor Kakao M as the reason why some K-pop songs by certain artists are not available anymore.
“Due to the expiration of our original licensing agreement with Kakao M on March 1, 2021, we are no longer able to provide its catalogue to fans and listeners all over the world,” a spokesperson said from Spotify.
"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, as well as our 345 million users in 170 different regions.
"However, in spite of this, we were unable to reach an agreement about renewing our global license.
"The matter of our global licensing agreement is unrelated to the launch of our service in South Korea.
"We feel that this situation is deeply unfortunate for many artists, as well as fans and listeners all over the world, and we sincerely hope that we will be able to quickly resolve the current situation.
"We will continue to do our utmost so that we can keep working with Korean rights holders, including Kakao M, and help both the Korean music market and overall streaming ecosystem grow together."
However, a different story emerges when Kakao M released their statement on the situation. According to Kakao M, Spotify chose not to renew their agreement even after a request from Kakao M.
Additionally, both companies are still in discussion on the possibility of Kakao M’s music to be made available on the newly launched South Korean’s version of Spotify. However, this new launch puts a direct competition against Kakao M’s own music streaming app, Melon.
Image via if Design Award
Kakao M also added that their current expiration of their global licensing agreement was an issue on it’s own and it is unrelated to South Korea’s Spotify launch.
Kakao M explains, "Unrelated to the domestic contract, which we are still negotiating, we separately received notice of the expiration of our license on February 28, and we requested a renewal of our existing global contract.
"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. We are currently continuing our negotiations about the supply of music."
Image via ED Times
At the moment it is still unclear on whether the deleted K-pop songs will be added back again into the streaming service.
Yikes, as a K-pop fan, it is pretty upsetting to know that you can’t listen to your favourite idols’ songs but let’s keep faith and hope that Spotify and Kakao M will come to an agreement to allow the affected songs to be added back. If not... It's Youtube again then!
Credits to Soompi and SAYS for the initial coverage.