Spotify removes K-pop music licensed by Kakao M after deal expires, fans upset

Music by K-Pop artistes under Kakao M has become unavailable on Spotify due to the end of a licensing agreement. — AFP Relaxnews

Music by the likes of K-pop artistes such as Epik High, IU, Seventeen and more have become unavailable for streaming on Spotify after the company failed to reach an agreement for a new licensing deal with distributor Kakao M.

The company confirmed in a statement to website NME that music by artistes under Kakao M’s catalogue are no longer available to users worldwide from March 1 as its licensing deal has ended.

“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 company said in its statement.

The company said it has spent the last 18 months negotiating a new global licensing agreement with Kakao M.

“The fact that we have not yet reached agreement on a new global deal is unfortunate for their artistes, as well as for fans and listeners worldwide. It is our hope that this disruption will be temporary and we can resolve the situation soon,” said Spotify.

Kakao M has responded to the issue saying that it is still in the midst of negotiations with Spotify over the licensing agreement, according to a statement by website Soompi.

A check on Spotify showed that listeners will now be limited to a few singles or older releases for artistes whose music is licensed under Kakao M. For example, IU’s catalogue now only features music from 2012 to 2013 and duets with other artists.

Hip hop artist Tablo of group Epik High told fans on social media that their latest album has become unplayable on Spotify because of the license expiration, adding that the issue is affecting both artistes and listeners.

On social media, fans have responded to the issue with frustration and some posted memes to reflect Spotify's ongoing situation with Kakao M.

Some fans, such as daily streamers working towards helping their idols achieve milestones such as one billion streams, have also claimed that their artistes’ progress have slowed down since the catalogue removal.

One fan on Twitter claimed the group Seventeen was most affected by the issue as it has lost a significant amount of streams.

Rival streaming service such as YouTube Music became a trending topic on Twitter today (March 1) after fans suggested that the company will benefit as it gains more new listeners who are opting out of Spotify due to the recent issue.

In South Korea, Kakao M owns and operates Melon, the country's most popular music streaming service. Its website stated that the platform has 3.2 million customers. Parent company Kakao acquired Melon in 2016, according to a report by Billboard.

Spotify only recently became available in South Korea, where it launched on Feb 2.

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