Hundreds of K-pop tracks pulled from Spotify globally

Songs distributed by Kakao M were removed due to the expiry of licensing agreements.

Sarah Chan

Likes museum trips and is sometimes artsy. Can be found in pattern prints.

Published: 4 March 2021, 11:11 AM

On Mar 1, Spotify users around the world were met with missing K-pop albums and tracks from various artists following the expiry of licensing agreements between Spotify and Kakao M.

Kakao M is a major distributor of K-pop music and the parent company to several labels housing popular idol groups and soloists. Hundreds of K-pop songs were said to have been removed overnight, deleting millions of streams off the artistes’ profile.

Affected artistes include IU, MAMAMOO, DPR Live, The Boyz, ZICO, SF9 and many more. A list of affected artistes was compiled by a Twitter user here.


Most of singer IU’s catalogue, that garners almost six million monthly listeners, had been greyed out and made unavailable. PHOTO CREDIT: SCREENSHOT FROM SPOTIFY


According to K-pop columnist Jeff Benjamin, artists and labels distributed by Kakao M are currently connecting with other distribution partners. PNation artists HyunA and Jessi have seen a partial return of their music as of Mar 3.

Artists under SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment, JYP Entertainment and BigHit Entertainment, which handles groups such as EXO and BTS, are unaffected by the issue.

Expiration of licensing agreements

The removal of all music distributed by Kakao M follows the expiry of a global licensing agreement between Kakao M and Spotify. Both companies have since released statements addressing the sudden removal of all music.

Spotify, which has more than 345 million users worldwide, stated that discussions on licensing renewal had been underway for the past year and a half but both parties were unable to reach an agreement.

The removal comes just a month after Spotify was officially launched in South Korea where domestic competition is high among other established platforms such as Genie and Melon. The music streaming giant clarified that the matter was unrelated to the launch.

Kakao M also released a statement on the current negotiations about the supply of music. They also stated that they have been in negotiation for a domestic contract separate to the global licensing agreement.

Online reactions to music removal

Tablo of Epik High was one of several prominent artistes who voiced his frustrations on the matter in a recent tweet.


The group’s latest album, which was released in Feb, was later made available via a different music distributor. PHOTO CREDIT: TWITTER/@BLOBYBLO


Fans have also taken to social media to express their anger and disappointment since Spotify is a popular platform for K-pop fans to access their favourite artiste’s music.


In true K-pop fashion, memes of the situation have been circulating online to poke fun at the situation. PHOTO CREDIT: TWITTER/@DUMPFLIX AND TWITTER/@KIWIBYUL


With artists such as IU currently preparing for the release of her new album on Mar 25, many are looking forward to streaming their favourite music again and fans can only hope for the matter to be resolved soon.

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