On Sunday, K-Pop fans woke up to see that some K-Pop songs were no longer playable on Spotify, including myself. As the day moved on, the number of removed K-Pop songs grew into the hundreds. This is what happened.
Spotify had a global licensing agreement with Kakao M, one of the largest Korean music distributors. The agreement allowed for every song and album released under Kakao M to play on the streaming service with no problem. Unfortunately, that agreement expired when the clock hit midnight on March 1 in Korea. When that happened, it made all songs under Kakao M unplayable.
“Due to the expiration of our original licensing agreement with Kakao M on March 1, 2021, we are no longer able to provide its catalog to fans and listeners all over the world,” said Spotify in a statement.
“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.”
Kakao M released its own counter-statement on Monday, claiming that Spotify chose to not renew the agreement.
“Unrelated to our preexisting global licensing agreement with Spotify, Kakao M has been separately negotiating with Spotify regarding a domestic contract for the supply of music,” said Kakao M.
“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.”
Who Was Affected?
Artists affected by the expiration include Seventeen, Monsta X, Victon, Pentagon, The Boyz, Loona, IU, Epik High and several others. Some groups and soloists lost some of their Spotify discographies, while others lost the entire thing.
Twitter user @lemonphobic also created a thread of tweets with all of the affected artists that you can see below.
Epik High member Tablo voiced his feelings on the matter, revealing that artists were not contacted about their music getting removed, and said that the two companies most likely came to a disagreement.
“Apparently a disagreement between our distributor Kakao M & Spotify has made our new album Epik High Is Here unavailable globally against our will,” he said. “Regardless of who is at fault, why is it always the artists and the fans that suffer when businesses place greed over art?”
Several K-Pop fans and listeners agreed with Tablo’s statement about how this event affects both artists and fans.
A Possible, Temporary Fix?
On Monday, Tablo released an update to fans about trying to recover the missing album. While the group could re-list the album, they lost all of their streams.
“Did all we can to restore our music,” he said. “Lost the streaming numbers & playlisting. Heartbroken but what matters is that u can hear the music again. Throw us a streaming party.”
Like Tablo, other affected also artists decided to take matters into their own hands. Hyuna and Jessi, two solo artists signed under Psy’s P NATION label, reuploaded their albums under the new label.
Fans also found that they can now see placeholders for the albums and songs that were missing on Sunday, showing that there is hope for their return.
Spotify recently launched in South Korea last month. Additionally, Kakao M is home to the country’s most popular streaming service, MelOn. This led people to originally believe that the Spotify launch possibly caused some sort of disagreement between the companies.
For now, it’s unknown when or if all of the missing songs will return to Spotify. As a K-Pop fan, I understand how important these groups are to others; I also know about how their music helps their fans located all over the world, so this is a huge blow. The only advice I have for everyone is to patiently wait for them to return, or switch platforms for now.
Spotify did not immediately respond to Grit Daily’s request for comment.