I pride myself on having reasonable control over my emotions but I too found myself super choked up last night when February ended with a final blow to K-pop stans: the sudden disappearance of a ton of Korean music on Spotify.
In the middle of grave bullying allegations against a number of K-pop idols (some of which have been dismissed as false), Korean artists and their fans now face another issue—licensing agreements and how they can affect music streaming. On Mar. 1, Kakao M artists’ albums (and even entire discographies) were unceremoniously removed from Spotify at midnight KST. Twitter user @lemonphobic made an extensive list of the hundreds of artists affected by the update.
Switching tabs to browse through the list then repeatedly tapping the play button on Spotify just to listen to my favorite tracks was a real-life nightmare. I just couldn’t believe it. What do you mean I can’t listen to Seventeen’s “Aju Nice” or IU and Suga’s “Eight” on loop for an entire hour anymore? Where is Triple H’s artist page? How will I get my daily K-pop sustenance for my sanity while offline now?
artists that had their stuff on spotify deleted, a thread
— ً (@lemonphobic) February 28, 2021
A number of stans likened it to Thanos reducing the population in half when he snapped his fingers while wearing that gaudy gauntlet in “Avengers: Infinity War.” This stan joked that it might be a job for the K-pop equivalent of the Avengers, SuperM. SM Entertainment artists weren’t affected but I wouldn’t mind if the boys step in before this becomes my villain origin story.
kakao m fucking thanos snapped half of k-pop from spotify, thereby creating the villain origin story of millions of stans
— skrrtified freak (@goodbambam) February 28, 2021
Others meanwhile tweeted about how they’re now planning to migrate to other streaming services such as YouTube Music and Apple Music. If your lovingly curated playlists get stripped off half their content, it’s hard not to want to jump ship.
everyone signing up for youtube music and apple music after kakao m screwed over spotify pic.twitter.com/YsjtbJdFvV
— kiwi/salem❕SAPNAP AND PHIL AND TOFI DAY (@ihategeorge123) February 28, 2021
I’m really sorry to say that Jae of Day6’s tweet about Spotify coming to Korea being a godsend aged really badly. We really could not have known though.
Spotify coming to korea was a godsend
— eaJ (@Jae_Day6) February 27, 2021
Spotify has since issued an official statement. “Due to the expiration of our original licensing agreement with Kakao M on March 1, 2021, we are no longer able to provide its catalogue to fans and listeners all over the world,” it states. “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. However, in spite of this, we were unable to reach an agreement about renewing our global license.”
While there have been speculations that the move was brought on by the launch of Spotify Korea in February and its competition with Kakao M’s Melon streaming service, the company denies this is the case. “The matter of our global licensing agreement is unrelated to the launch of our service in South Korea,” said a Spotify representative. “We will continue to do our utmost so that we can keep working with Korean rights holders, including Kakao M, and help both the Korean music market and overall streaming ecosystem grow together.”
Whatever the reason behind the stalled renewal, it’s hard not to feel angry and disappointed on behalf of the artists that it affects the most. Epik High’s Tablo shared a sobering tweet last night: “Regardless of who is at fault, why is it always the artists and the fans that suffer when businesses place greed over art?”
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
While the removal of the songs poses an inconvenience to fans, the move brings harsher consequences to artists, especially those under small labels whose dreams are hanging on thinner threads. I’m heartbroken over my decimated playlists, but even more so for the artists who are losing chances to reach more people with their music.
Art by Neal Alday
Our favorite Kpop collaborations throughout the years
Preen Playlist: Kpop hits that’ll boost your girl power
Self-produced punk band Catpuke is out to help tear down ‘the man’
7 ultrapersonal Filipino podcasts for your weekday senti moments