On March 1, international fans were shocked to discover that many of the songs of their favorite K-Pop artists could no longer be played on Spotify. Among the notable artists who had the majority or some of their discography removed are IU, SEVENTEEN, MAMAMOO, SF9, LOONA, and many more.
In a press release, a Spotify official shared that “because of the expiration of the existing licensing agreement with Kakao M, the catalog will no longer be available to fans and listeners around the world from March 1, 2021. We have been working in all directions for more than a year and a half to continuously provide Kakao M artist’s music to fans around the world and more than 345 million users in 170 countries as of today. Even so, we have not reached an agreement on a new global license.”
This non-agreement is affecting both artists and fans. Tablo of Epik High, who just released Part 1 of their comeback album, EPIK HIGH IS HERE, expressed his frustration in a tweet:
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
“We realize that it is a pity for many artists and fans and listeners around the world, and we sincerely hope that the current situation will be resolved as soon as possible. We will continue to do our best to contribute positively to the shared growth of the music industry and streaming ecosystem,” shared Spotify in a statement.
Kakao M, the largest music distribution company in Korea, recorded a distribution share of 37.5% of the 400th-ranked music sources on the Gaon Chart last year.
Spotify made its debut in the Korean market last February 2, providing access to over 60 million songs across multiple genres as well as more than 4 billion playlists curated by users from around the world.
Although most K-Pop songs seem to be out of Spotify right now, not all are inaccessible. Songs by artists from the “Big 3” (SM Entertainment, JYP Entertainment, and YG Entertainment) as well as Big Hit Entertainment (BTS’ entertainment company) does not seem affected.
The removal of songs is said to be temporary until the two companies come to an agreement.
For a comprehensive list of affected artists, you may check this tweet thread from user lemonphobic.