Why Have Hundreds of K-Pop Songs Disappeared from Spotify?

March isn’t off to a great start for K-pop fans.

This isn’t a good time to be a big K-pop fan. 

At the stroke of midnight on Sunday (February 28), fans noticed that hundreds of K-pop songs disappeared off of Spotify. The scrubbing seems to have occurred worldwide as affected listeners took to social media to air their distress.

The affected songs are from artists whose records are distributed by KakaoM, whose parent company also owns Melon, one of the top streaming services in South Korea.

Spotify launched in South Korea in February 2021.

In a statement sent to music platform NME, Spotify confirmed the removal of the K-pop songs on its platform, citing the “expiration of our license.”

“We have been working with KakaoM over the last year and a half to renew the global licensing agreement, so that their artists’ music would remain available to Spotify’s 345M+ listeners in nearly 170 markets around the world,” NME quoted NME as saying. “Despite our best efforts, the existing licensing deal we had with KakaoM (which covered all countries other than South Korea) has come to an end. 

“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,” the company added. “It is our hope that this disruption will be temporary and we can resolve the situation soon. We remain committed to working with local rights holders including KakaoM, to help grow the Korean music market and overall streaming ecosystem together.”

Some of the artists affected by the issue include IU, Cherry Bullet, Cravity, GFriend, Mamamoo, CL, Nu’est, and others. A Twitter user compiled all of the artists in this thread. 



Songs by artists under the so-called “Big 3” labels (YG Entertainment, JYP Entertainment, and SM Entertainment) plus Big Hit Entertainment, which is the home label of K-pop superstars BTS, remain unaffected and can still be streamed on Spotify.

Founded in 2006, Spotify is the world’s biggest music streaming platform by number of subscribers, according to the website Business of Apps. As of 2020, it had 286 million monthly active users, 130 million of whom are paid subscribers (Spotify Premium). 


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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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