A Week Without Music for Spotify Kpop Stans



Dispute between Spotify and Kakao M.

Priscilla Ngantung, Journalist

On February 28, Kpop listeners who use Spotify woke up to the worst imagined scenario: half of their music has gone and disappeared. Thousands of Kpop songs were removed from Spotify without any warning, among the artists that had their music removed were IU, Seventeen, Loona, The Boyz, Mamamoo, Astro, and even more.

Kakao M is a music distribution company and talent agency which is known for buying South Korea’s largest music streaming platform, Melon. As a distributor, they hold licensing rights to IU, scores of major Kpop groups such as Seventeen and Loona, and many more.

According to NME, “Kakao M controlled distribution for nearly 40 percent of the songs featured on one popular ‘Top 400’ Korean chart for the year 2020.” This day was a devastating blow for Kpop listeners.

Spotify logo on the Spotify building. (Daniel Kalker)

“The outcry from fans was immediate: #SpotifyIsOverParty started trending on Twitter, and users reportedly canceled their Spotify subscriptions in droves,” said Aja Romano from The Vox. “The streaming service took down the entire platform temporarily for maintenance, though some fans believed it was done to prevent them from canceling their accounts en masse.” Many fans were comparing this event to Thanos’ snap from Avengers: Infinity War because half of their songs had disappeared.

Even artists woke up to their own music being removed from Spotify. Epik High’s Tablo posted his frustration on Twitter: “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?”

On the day of, my friend who listens to Kpop on Spotify had asked me, “did your playlists on Spotify shrink?” Once I had checked the Spotify app, I found my playlists losing hours of listening time; My Kpop playlist had gone from 60 hours to 40 hours. With Seventeen as my #1 listened artist on Spotify, I was extremely devastated to find out that my favorite artist’s music was removed from the streaming platform that I use and paid for.

Not a day goes by where I don’t open the Spotify app to listen to music, so it had felt as though I had lost a huge part of myself. Seeing that I could no longer listen to most of my favorite artists’ music, I was extremely frustrated. It felt difficult to move on because I had worked so hard on curating my Kpop playlists. I even considered canceling my Spotify plan and switching over to Apple Music or Youtube Music, even though I had favored Spotify’s format and features far more than the other streaming platforms.

Kpop group Seventeen on The Late Late Show with James Corden.

Over time, I would listen to less music and I realized that I had felt a lot less happy and less motivated to do anything. Though I could have just searched up their songs on Youtube, I felt that I had a better listening experience when I shuffled one of my playlists and hearing a compilation of all of my favorite songs.

Fortunately, Kakao M and Spotify had come to an agreement and restored the music that they removed. What felt like a month was only 11 days without my favorite music. This had taught me to be much more appreciative of the music I have access to and appreciative of the artists that so passionately create the music.

In hopes that nothing like this happens again, music distributors should understand that removing music for their own greed and selfishness does nothing but harms the artist and their fans. Music should be easily accessible to anyone and should not be gate-kept for the sake of one’s own money-grubbing intentions.