Swedish audio streaming provider, Spotify’s licensing agreement with one of the largest record companies in South Korea, Kakao M has expired. This has led to the removal of the majority of songs from Spotify which are under Kakao M. The sudden action took place on 1st March 2021, according to KST.
A statement released by Spotify says that due to the expiration of their original licensing agreement with Kakao M on March 1, 2021, they are no longer able to provide their content to fans and listeners around the world.
They have been making efforts over the past year and a half to renew the global licensing agreement with Kakao M so that their artists’ music is available to fans worldwide. In spite of this, they were unable to reach an agreement on global license renewal.
In response to Spotify, Kakao M also released their own statement countering that Spotify had been the one who chose not to renew their agreement, even after a request from Kakao M. They claim that they were still in the midst of discussion whether its content would be made available on the South Korean Spotify.
Kakao M says that although the negotiations were being made for domestic licensing in South Korea, due to Spotify’s policy that proceeds with the domestic and global contracts at the same time, the global contract too has currently expired.
Fans are devastated as Spotify is one of the most affordable platforms where Korean songs can be streamed. Although, it seems that the artists affected by this change weren’t notified either, considering their reactions on their respective social media accounts.
Apparently a disagreement between our distributor Kakao M & 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?
— 에픽하이 타블로 | Tablo of Epik High (@blobyblo) February 28, 2021
Artists and fans deserve better.
— DIVE Studios (@thedivestudios) March 1, 2021
There are many artists signed under Kakao M – some have had their complete discography removed where for some, few of their songs remain.
The albums or songs that were specifically distributed by Kakao M are primarily affected like- IU‘s ‘Celebrity‘, Epik High‘s ‘Epik High Is Here‘, Zico‘s ‘Any Song’, The Boyz‘s ‘Reveal‘, Seventeen‘s ‘Teen, Age‘, and more.
Artists under entertainments like SM, JYP or YG are safe. Yet, the list of affected artists remains huge.
artists that had their stuff on spotify deleted, a thread
— ً (@lemonphobic) February 28, 2021
A few artists and labels seemingly are coming in contact with other distribution companies as their songs are now being restored on the app.
Source tells me artists and labels distributed by Kakao M are actively connecting with their other distribution partners (some agencies have different distributors for different acts)
P NATION's HyunA and Jessi have already done this, I see their music back on Spotify (USA)
— Jeff Benjamin (@Jeff__Benjamin) March 1, 2021
Jessi’s ‘NUNU NANA’ and Hyuna’s ‘I’m Not Cool’ are now back on Spotify.
Both Spotify and Kakao M have stated that the matter of the global licensing agreement is unrelated to the launch of Spotify’s service in South Korea a month ago on 1st February 2021. Spotify is one of the major platforms which hosts rookie and aspiring artists. It also engages international listeners and introduces them to new as well as established artists. Moreover, Kakao M’s streaming service, Melon is not available for international listeners. For these reasons, the issue is evidently keeping both the artists and the fans on the edge.
Spotify spokesperson also apologized saying that the current situation is unfortunate for many artists, as well as fans and listeners, and they hope to quickly resolve it. Kakao M too states that they still are continuing to negotiate on the distribution rights.
The capitalistic approach to art is killing both the art as well the artist, hindering their potential to do better and have a farther reach. The fans have an emotive attachment to the songs too. Unfortunately, neither the artists nor the fans are given thought to in this situation.
We expect a holistic outlook of the companies towards the matter. Hopefully, they come to a better conclusion which benefits both the artists and the fans.