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Heads Up, K-Pop Fans: Spotify And Kakao M Have Already Renewed Their Licensing Agreement

Back to listening to our faves!
PHOTO: (LEFT TO RIGHT) Instagram/edam.official, Instagram/saythename_1
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Article updated: March 11, 2021, 7:00 p.m.

Ten days after a number of K-pop songs disappeared on Spotify, the music streaming platform and Kakao Entertainment (previously Kakao M) have confirmed that they've settled their contracts.

In a statement, Spotify said: "We are pleased that Kakao Entertainment’s content and artists are back on Spotify, allowing our 345M+ 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.”

In the same vein, Kakao Entertainment also announced: "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.”

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If you're a K-pop fan whose daily routine includes listening to their curated playlists on Spotify, then you might have noticed that some of your favorite K-Pop songs have mysteriously disappeared. It has nothing to do with your internet connection, and it's not because you don't have a Premium subscription. It's actually because of the expired licensing agreement between the streaming service platform and South Korea's largest music distribution company, Kakao M.

Soompi reported that Spotify has released an official statement regarding the issue: “Due to the expiration of our original licensing agreement with Kakao M on March 1, 2021, we are no longer able to provide its catalog to fans and listeners all over the world. We have 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 artists’ music available to fans all over the world, as well as our 345 million users in 170 different regions. However, in spite of this, we were unable to reach an agreement about renewing our global license.”

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Fans have speculated that the issue rooted after Spotify launched in South Korea early last month, which might have led to intense competition between them and Kakao M's own streaming service platform, Melon. However, Spotify clarified that "The matter of our global licensing agreement is unrelated to the launch of our service in South Korea.”

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Kakao has also issued their side, saying that they have requested a renewal, but Spotify declined“Unrelated to our preexisting 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.”

A lot of K-pop artists are affected by this issue, and some of the idols whose tracks have been removed from Spotify include IU, NU’EST, SEVENTEEN, MAMAMOO, Epik High, MOMOLAND, CL, BTOB, and PENTAGON, and more. On the other hand, songs from artists under SM Entertainment, JYP Entertainment, YG Entertainment, and Big Hit Entertainment (except those from Big Hit Labels) are still available on Spotify. K-drama OSTs can still be accessed, too.

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The albums and tracks removed per artist varies. For example, the only remaining IU songs on Spotify are those from 2012 to 2013, while most of MAMAMOO's remaining tracks are their Japanese singles. One of the K-pop artists who were greatly impacted by the expiration of the licensing agreement is SEVENTEEN, who previously had more than one billion streams on Spotify and is now down to 290 million.

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K-pop fans were deeply saddened by Spotify and Kakao M's situation, and the keywords related to the two have trended on Twitter overnight until today. Aside from this, the artists themselves also voiced out their thoughts on the issue, including Tablo from the legendary K-pop group, Epik High.

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As of present, it was reported that negotiations between the two companies are currently ongoing.

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