• Andrew Buczek

Why Did 38% of the Korean Top 200 Disappear From Streaming Overnight?

Last week, the night before the 28th of February, something awful happened. Two Loona albums I absolutely love were taken off of streaming. Needless to say, this has ruined my entire semester. How can I go on?


Just kidding.


The problem is actually far more interesting and far more wide-reaching. Those two Loona releases were two of hundreds of releases taken off of Spotify among hundreds of Korean artists and groups (my main K-pop playlist on Spotify has been cut in half). And why? Because the biggest music distributor in South Korea refused to bow to Spotify’s very recent endeavor into South Korea, and the distributor’s unwillingness to give them the license to stream their music in South Korea led Spotify to revoke their global license.


Now some background on the distributor, Kakao M: out of the top 200 releases on the Gaon charts, Kakao M is responsible for around 38% of them (all of which cannot be found on Spotify anymore). The release dates of their catalogue range from groups in their 1st and 2nd years, to idols that were setting the stage for modern K-pop more than 15 years ago. As a Loona fan, I happened to hear about this distributor years ago due to the almost laughable mismanaging they did of their releases, including neglecting to put a new release on iTunes on the release date, as well as even putting their music under the wrong artist name.


Okay so they’re a shit company, fine, but that doesn’t necessarily explain Kakao M’s motive here to not renew their license with Spotify now that it’s finally opened up domestically.