Spotify enters Korea, but K-pop songs are disappearing

March 1, 2021

Spotify, with 60 million titles and 4 billion playlists, is now available in South Korea.

South Koreans waited for many years for Spotify to enter the market, but once it happened, the music of many popular K-Pop artists started missing on the streaming platform. Why? The reason is a failed deal with Kakao M, the Korean distributor, which serves a large part of the Korean music market.

Why do K-pop songs disappear from Spotify?

Spotify officially launched its music service in South Korea on 01.02.2021. The streaming service will provide Korean users access to millions of songs, and playlists from around the world. However, there is one serious problem, and K-pop fans are furious! Due to a conflict with a Korean service called KakaoM (which owns a competitive streaming platform called Melon), Spotify removed the songs of K-pop artists. KakaoM and Spotify don’t seem to have found a fair agreement for both parties, as KakaoM is trying to promote their local music streaming service. That’s why Spotify is starting to remove K-pop songs distributed by KakaoM.

A month after Spotify landed in South Korea, many K-pop groups are becoming unavailable

Korean pop fans were unpleasantly surprised when they logged onto Spotify on February 28 and found they couldn't listen to their favorite artists. Whole discographies and separate songs of some of the K-pop singers disappeared without warning. Music by CL, SEVENTEEN, Monsta X, GFriend, Mamamoo, IU, Epik High, Pentagon, and over a hundred other bands is currently unavailable. And while the companies are waging a music war, erasing K-pop tracks from Spotify, fans of Korean music are storming Twitter in a rage (or posting memes all over the place), including hashtags #KAKAOM_OUT, #kakaoisoverparty, or #kakaoMgiveusoursongsback.

Artists were not informed...

Not only K-pop fans were shocked when they found their favorite music missing. Artists also weren't informed about the whole procedure and fight between Spotify and KakaoM.

EPIK HIGH informed their fans in a tweet that their music, unfortunately, can’t be heard on Spotify. Other K-pop artists also reacted. Eddie Nam, managing director of EN Management, calls for an immediate solution. Code Kunst, a singer, and producer was surprised that his music disappeared. He posted a screenshot of his album in his Instagram story.

code kunst removed from spotify

As one can see, this situation affects both artists and fans.

Fortunately, not all Korean pop music has disappeared from the giant music streaming service: BTS, Blackpink, EXO can still be found on Spotify.

...but what does this situation mean to them?

KakaoM doesn’t want Spotify to enter the local market - the Korean company protects its own interests. However, no matter what, foreign fans won’t suddenly use their Melon platform, and the disappearance of K-pop music in Spotify will make artists less popular, cutting their profits both on Spotify, and Melon. K-pop songs removed from Spotify will surely lose their popularity once they are no longer available to a large part of fandom. No wonder, that singers and bands are worried about this situation.

Who’s to blame? Spotify vs KakaoM

According to Spotify, their license agreement with Korean music distributor Kakao M expired on March 1. Therefore, all the music that is listed under this label is no longer available on the service. A Spotify explained that over the past year and a half, the service and Kakao M have been in talks trying to reach an agreement so that K-pop fans and 345 million Spotify users in 170 different regions can listen to Korean music. But the companies didn’t agree, and the global license expired.

On the other hand, Kakao M released a statement that it was Spotify’s decision not to renew its agreement with a Korean distributor. The Korean company said it’s continuing to negotiate a partnership. Kakao M agrees for Spotify to distribute their music all over the world, except South Korea. In their home country, they want to keep the Melon streaming service at the top. But Spotify wants to become a popular platform both internationally and in South Korea.

Before the launch in South Korea, Spotify's Chief Business Officer Alex Norström said he was delighted to work with the South Korean music industry. Now he claims that this situation is unfortunate for the company.

Spotify alternatives for K-pop lovers

Korean artists have long enjoyed international popularity and are now being discussed all over the world. But Spotify removed songs and entire albums from at least 250 artists from South Korea, and the K-pop fans aren’t happy about these changes. Now, the company can expect a slump in the number of subscribers - many users will certainly resign from the giant streaming service. We suggest using the FreeYourMusic app, with which you can easily move all your songs and playlist from Spotify to YouTube Music or from Spotify to Apple music.

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