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Hundreds of K-pop acts removed from Spotify

By | Published on Monday 1 March 2021

Epik High

Music by hundreds of K-pop artists has been removed from Spotify worldwide, after its licence with South Korean distributor Kakao M expired yesterday.

Although some bigger name artists such as BTS, Blackpink and Twice are unaffected, many well-known acts from the genre have seen some or all of their music completely disappear from the streaming service. Kakao M represents a significant portion of South Korean pop releases, as shown by these lengthy lists of affected artists compiled by fans.

When Spotify launched in South Korea itself earlier this year, it did so without Kakao M’s catalogue being available in its home market. The distribution company told local media that it was “still talking with Spotify” about doing a licensing deal specifically for the use of its music in South Korea. However, the latest development relates to Kakao M’s existing licence that covered the rest of the world, and which was up for renewal.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Spotify says: “We have been working with Kakao M over the last year and a half to renew the global licensing agreement, so that their artists’ music would remain available to Spotify‚Äôs 345 million+ listeners in nearly 170 markets around the world. Despite our best efforts, the existing licensing deal we had with Kakao M – which covered all countries other than South Korea – has come to an end”.

“The fact that we have not yet reached agreement on a new global deal is unfortunate for their artists, as well as for fans and listeners worldwide”, they go on. “It is our hope that this disruption will be temporary and we can resolve the situation soon. We remain committed to working with local rights holders, including Kakao M, to help grow the Korean music market and overall streaming ecosystem together”.

But according to Kakao M, its global deal not renewing is, in fact, linked to the ongoing talks regarding a licence covering South Korea. It says: “Unrelated to our pre-existing global licensing agreement with Spotify, Kakao M has been separately negotiating with Spotify regarding a domestic contract for the supply of music … We separately received notice of the expiration of our [global] licence on 28 Feb, 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”, the company goes on. “We are currently continuing our negotiations about the supply of music”.

One of the acts affected is Epik High, whose latest album, ‘Epik High Is Here (Part 1)’, which came out in January, has been removed.

Commenting on Twitter, band leader Tablo wrote: “Apparently a disagreement between our distributor Kakao M and 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?”

Other affected artists include rapper and former 2NE1 member CL, whose Spotify profile now only features a handful of singles, mainly from early on in her solo career. However, somewhat fortunately, her new single, ‘Wish You Were Here’, which came out last week, remains streamable.