Cover Epik High performing at G Market concert in Seoul. (Photo: STARNEWS / AFP)

Despite just having launched in South Korea earlier last month, hundreds of K-pop releases were abruptly removed from Spotify and people are not happy

UPDATED MARCH 11, 2020

Kakao Entertainment Corp. (previously Kakao M) has announced that the company has reached an agreement with Spotify, making the content available on their platform across the globe, including in South Korea.

"Kakao Entertainment Corp.(previously Kakao M) has entered into an agreement with Spotify and will sequentially provide its music content to Spotify for service in and beyond Korea. Through its diverse partnerships around the world including Spotify, Kakao Entertainment hopes that music lovers around the world can easily access its artists’ and music content to enjoy K-pop. Kakao Entertainment remains committed to the Korean music ecosystem and its growth and will continue protecting the rights of artists, labels and local rights holders going forward," a Kakao Entertainment spokesperson said in a statement.

"We are pleased that Kakao Entertainment Corp.’s content and artists are back on Spotify, allowing our 345 million+ global listeners across 170 countries to once again enjoy the music they love. Spotify’s mission has always been to connect artists to their fans all over the world and to give listeners access to all of the world’s music. We are delighted that our Korean listeners will now also be able to enjoy this local music alongside our 70 million+ songs and 4 billion+ playlists. We remain committed to making a positive impact on Korea’s music streaming ecosystem through our partnerships with artists, labels, and local rights holders," Spotify added.

Songs by the likes of K-pop artistes such as IU, Hyolyn (former Sistar member), Hyuna, Monsta X, GFriend, Mamamoo, CL (former 2NE1 member), Epik High and more were seemingly wiped off global streaming giant Spotify's catalogue yesterday after the company failed to reach an agreement for a new licensing deal with distributor Kakao M, leaving both fans and artistes devastated.

For the uninitiated, Kakao M is an entertainment company that's currently one of the largest co-publisher companies in South Korea and distributor of thousands of K-pop music. Kakao M also owns and operates Melon, South Korea's most popular music streaming service which boasts 3.2 million customers

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In a statement to Soompi, Spotify said: "We've 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 artistes’ music available to fans all over the world, as well as our 345 million users in 170 different regions. In spite of this, we were unable to reach an agreement about renewing our global license."

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“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. We remain committed to working with local rights holders including Kakao M, to help grow the Korean music market and overall streaming ecosystem together," Spotify added.

Hip hop artiste Tablo of Epik High took to his Twitter to voice his frustrations, suggesting this was all due to a disagreement between Spotify and Kakao M. "Regardless of who is at fault, why is it always the artistes and the fans that suffer when businesses place greed over art?” he wrote.

EN Management founder Eddie Nam, who manages Epik High, echoed Tablo's sentiment in a series of tweets which read: "This is heartbreaking as a manager, friend and fan. There needs to be a solution ASAP. Knowing the years of hard work the guys put into those projects, it really really hurts to see this." Artistes signed to YG Entertainment, SM Entertainment, JYP, and BigHit Entertainment (excluding BigHit Labels), however, were unaffected by the removals.

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YouTube Music trended on Twitter after scores of fans said they would opt-out of Spotify and switch over to the YouTube-owned music streaming service in support of their favourite Korean artistes' music. "As GFriend’s discography isn’t available on Spotify for now, we highly encourage Buddies (GFriend fans) to stream on other platforms until this issue gets resolved. One of the streaming apps we recommend is YouTube Music," a GFriend fan account with over 109,500 followers tweeted.

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Meanwhile, Kakao M has released a separate statement claiming that Spotify had been the one who chose not to renew their agreement. “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. 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," Kakao M said, adding that they're continuing their negotiations with Spotify.