K-POP Songs “Thanos-ed” from Spotify

March 10, 2021

On March 1st (KST), hundreds of K-pop songs were removed globally from Spotify without any warning, leaving many K-pop artists fans in agony. Major K-pop artists (IU, SEVENTEEN, (G)I-DLE, Monsta X, GFRIEND, PENTAGON, etc.) and their songs were negatively affected in various scales. Some artists experienced a total loss of multiple albums while some songs remained untouched. Moreover, some artists’ entire discographies disappeared.  

Later in the day, Spotify officially announced licensing issues with KakaoM, a Korean music distributor company with Spotify. According to Spotify, despite their efforts with working with KakaoM over a long period to renew the global licensing agreement, the existing licensing deal with KakaoM has expired as of March 1st. 

However, there are numerous suspicions on deeper potential reasons for this tragedy. KakaoM is one of Korea’s largest music distributors who also owns Melon Music, Korea’s most used music streaming platform. As Spotify launched in South Korea just one month ago on February 1st, many speculated that Spotify’s rivalry presence against Melon Music owned by KakaoM was a contributing factor in failed negotiations between the two companies. 

Without any doubt, this led many K-pop fans to be upset and even led to them deciding to switch music streaming platforms from using Spotify.

“I was so sad that all of these songs were removed and then when I saw the list of artists whose songs were removed I thought that this was so unfair and frustrating. I was lowkey mad and so sad throughout the whole day and kept ranting about it””

— Jane Cho

Kpop songs missing in a playlist after being “thanos-ed”

“I felt really annoyed and sad about it (K-pop songs getting removed from Spotify). A lot of the artists who I listen to got their songs removed and my playlists that originally contained the removed songs have been cut down quite a bit. As an avid user of Spotify Premium too, I feel extremely aggravated since I’m paying them a lot of money for them to just take off the songs that I regularly listened to.””

— Elizabeth Diaz

Spotify charges $9.99 per month for Spotify Premium which provides full access to all music and ad-free service. For its expensive price, it is more than apparent that the Spotify premium users who listened to K-pop songs on Spotify Premium are in agony.

Not only did this impact the listeners around the world, but it most negatively impacted the artists as some artists’ entire profile, albums, even discography was removed from Spotify. Jane shared her thoughts on the artists’ perspective on this: I also felt like this was so unfair for not only international fans but also the artists themselves too because all of their songs are suddenly gone and since streaming numbers are important for them I also felt bad that they were suddenly all gone” 

Epik High, a well-known hip hop group in South Korea affected by this right before their new album release globally on Spotify, made a statement on Twitter that led many to recognize the seriousness of this event:

Whether you’re a Spotify user who enjoyed listening to K-pop songs or not, It is worth noting the negative impacts of jeopardizing music for the benefits of businesses and industries instead of promoting them fully for the art in the expression of the artists and appreciation of the fans.