Spotify wipes hundreds of K-pop songs from library

By Maddie James, Staff Writer
[Photo courtesy of Dennis Leupold via Epic Records]

As of Tuesday, hundreds of songs by popular K-pop artists, such as IU, Monsta X and SISTAR, have disappeared from Spotify, reported Pitchfork. Despite the widespread popularity of K-pop, Spotify opted to remove the music due to a licensing issue with Korean music distributors.

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According to Pitchfork, all of the music removed from Spotify is under the license of Kakao M, one of Korea’s largest music distributors. So, when Spotify first launched in Korea in February, the company had to create a rights agreement with Kakao M. According to BBC, the agreement was such that Spotify could stream music licensed by Kakao M globally.  Kakao M would reserve exclusive streaming rights in Korea to help promote their platform, MelOn, the largest streaming service in Korea.

When it came time to renew the global licensing agreement, however, Spotify declined. They claim they are unable to renew despite long negotiations with Kakao M, but sources in Korea allege that the conflict is due to how Spotify typically sets up their licensing agreements, shared Pitchfork. Spotify often requires that their domestic and global agreements are created at the same time. So, when it came time to renew their previously established global agreement with Kakao M, the still unfinalized domestic agreement they’d created in February didn’t line up, causing Spotify to terminate the global agreement. 

Such a loophole, though confusing, appears to provide Spotify with some leverage when finishing its domestic agreements with Kakao M. Spotify may use this new development to try and gain more power when it comes to streaming in Korea.

Though this tangled mess of legal agreements seems to be tipping in Spotify’s favor, the issue doesn’t benefit either party. By refusing to renew their global agreement, Spotify is missing out on money they could receive from K-pop streams, a genre that’s extremely popular worldwide. Meanwhile, Kakao M lost a large portion of their audience, as the majority of their licensed music is now only easily available in Korea. This leaves both companies at a disadvantage, with K-pop artists and fans stuck in the middle, nervously waiting to see what comes of the disagreement.

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