The most painful way to welcome a premium subscription renewal
What would you do if, hypothetically, most of your favorite songs disappeared from Spotify? As in, your curated playlists have more skips than tracks that can be played, and your favorite songs are nowhere to be found. It sounds like hell, right? Well for K-pop stans, it wasn’t a what-if situation. It became a reality.
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On March 1st, stans who were reliant on Spotify for their K-pop fix found out that hundreds of songs suddenly disappeared from the platform worldwide. No one was spared from the takedown. Smaller singers such as BIBI’s singles disappeared from her profile, while popular acts like IU, MAMAMOO and SEVENTEEN had four to five years’ worth of discography taken down. Luckily for groups under labels like SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment, BigHit Entertainment and JYP Entertainment, songs were left unscathed.
One Twitter user made a thread of artists whose tracks disappeared from Spotify and the list is long. It’s one thing to take down a single, but for half of the K-pop industry to disappear at the drop of a hat? The incident had casual listeners and superfans alike getting worked up and emotional about the loss of their favorite bops and the ruining of their day-to-day playlists.
WHEN I SAID FREE ME FROM KPOP I DIDNT MEAN DELETE HALF THE KOREAN INDUSTRY FROM MY SPOTIFY
— jade ???? (@H4NIYA) February 28, 2021
In a statement Spotify gave to NME, the tracks were taken down from the app worldwide due to the expiration of their licensing agreement with major South Korean label and distributor, Kakao M. The deal covered the availability of Kakao M’s artists in areas outside of South Korea. Its end, which lacked a resolution, entailed the abrupt removal of their acts on the app. Spotify hopes that the disruption is temporary and that they can resolve the issue soon. Though Kakao M countered with their own statement, citing that it was Spotify that refused to renew the agreement.
Fans can’t help but consider switching to different streaming platforms where K-pop libraries remain still diverse and untouched. It’s understandable, especially since neither Kakao M nor Spotify have given any updates on a resolution. Days later, K-pop playlists are still missing a lot of songs. The sudden re-evaluation of premium memberships are highly warranted when the content you signed up for is gone.
To add salt to the community’s wound, the artists weren’t aware that their music has been made unavailable. For example, Tablo, a member of legendary hip hop trio Epik High, took to Twitter to talk about the incident. He cites how his fans notified them about the issue instead of hearing the news from their distributor.
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?
— ???? ??? | Tablo of Epik High (@blobyblo) February 28, 2021
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He does have a point. Instead of pointing fingers at who’s in the wrong, artists and fans are left to suffer the consequences. At least acts like Epik High have the platform and the means to restore their music, but what about the smaller artists? You can’t help but empathize with them and their fans—AKA us—the ones just caught in the middle of this dispute.
Thankfully, the K-pop drought in Spotify ended 10 days (that felt like a whole lifetime) later. On March 11th, news outlets reported that Kakao M and the streaming platform were able to renew their licensing agreement. That night, all the missing K-pop tracks and albums were put back up and made available worldwide, much to the glee of all listeners (including me!).
We aren’t exactly sure on what spurred both entities to take such immediate action. But the public’s response, whether it’s switching streaming services or their feedback, and the artists’ behind-the-scenes work must have made an impact. Discographies are now complete and playlists don’t have unsolicited skips anymore. Yes, the balance has finally been restored.
Art Alexandra Lara