International K-pop fans, who use Spotify to stream their favorite artists, faced a huge blow on March 1 when songs and even entire discographies of some K-pop acts represented by the label Kakao M were abruptly removed for users outside Korea after the global streaming service’s deal with Kakao M, an offshoot of South Korean internet giant Kakao Corp, expired and was not renewed. This comes after Spotify launched its music streaming service in Korea last month, competing with the country’s most popular streaming service, MelOn, which is owned by Kakao Corp.
According to BBC News, the streaming giant announced that its existing licensing deal with Kakao M had “come to an end” but the disruption is hoped to be temporary. Acts including Sistar, IU, Epik High, and Monsta X are among those to have had music removed from Spotify’s catalogs. Spotify confirmed the removal in a statement.
Kakao M is the biggest music distributor in South Korea, and operates the country’s most popular music streaming service, MelOn, which has a monthly active user base of nearly 9 million people.
The removal of the songs has been criticized by fans and some figures in the Korean music industry, including Epik High’s frontman and producer Tablo.
“Why is it always the artists and the fans that suffer when businesses place greed over art?” wrote the artist on Twitter, claiming that the band did not want their most recent album Epik High Is Here (Part 1) removed.
In its official statement, Spotify said: “The fact that we have not yet reached agreement on a new global deal is unfortunate for their artists, 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.”