Josh’s View | Fans Frustrated: These K-pop acts were removed from Spotify

A conflict between Spotify and entertainment company Kakao M resulted in a mass exodus of Kakao M groups.

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The boy band Seventeen was among the list of acts that disappeared from Spotify. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons / 티비텐 (TenAsia)

Joshua LeBerte, Contributing Writer

Feb. 28 was a day shrouded in infamy for K-pop fans.

As of Sunday, the South Korean entertainment company Kakao M is in a dispute with Spotify for reasons unknown. Disagreements between Spotify and Kakao M left millions of international listeners without some of their favorite listening material following the removal of dozens of K-pop singles and albums.

The hashtag #Spotify began trending Sunday morning along with several artists totally or partially removed off of the platform. The Spotify hashtag totalled at 1 million tweets by 10:40 a.m., with a growth of 150,000 tweets in 30 minutes. It was the No. 1 hashtag trending worldwide, tied with the company, Kakao M.

Some K-pop fans speculated this mass removal may be due to Kakao M attempting to migrate its listeners to Melon, a South Korean online music store and streaming service. However, no statement has been made by a Kakao M representative or the streaming service. 

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Though discographies were left untouched on other streaming platforms like Melon or Apple Music, many fans simply do not wish to use them. And few wish to uproot their listening habits. 

They instead recommended that others listen over YouTube Music or purchase their favorite physical albums and merchandise. 

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While others saw this deletion as inevitable for the platform.

Affected Kakao M repped artists also trended on Twitter. 

Boy groups Seventeen and Monsta X trended with total tweets topping out at 300,000. Seventeen’s hashtag was also trending worldwide on Twitter at No. 14 as of Sunday.

To show how integral Spotify is to associated acts, one user provided a number gathered by adding together the total streams of songs lost. Monsta X lost all songs released before 2018. The total number of streams removed from the platform totaled over 333 million.

And this is merely scratching the surface. Artists like girl group GFRIEND lost all but three songs and their associated instrumentals. Prior to the loss, the group had more than 1.5 million monthly listeners.

Another girl group, Mamamoo, had its latest album, “Travel,” removed just 25 days after its release aside from Japanese singles. The removed songs had more than 70 million streams, with one song, “Dingga,” reaching nearly 30 million of those streams. Mamamoo’s associated solo acts, Moon Byul, Hwasa, Solar and Whee-In had their songs removed too.

This matter does not leave solo artists out of the equation. 

Artist IU lost her entire Spotify discography. She has held a prominent online presence for over a decade. Her largest song, “eight,” was just released last year and held more than 122 million streams. It is now gone.

Similarly, artist Younha lost all of her discography after 2013, more than eight years of work. Her song “Winter Flower,” produced by BTS rapper Rap Monster, was trending on Twitter with nearly 40,000 tweets.

Though numbers vary, an estimated 40 or more artists were affected by the feud. Some or all Spotify streams were lost following the track and album deletions.

Despite this strife, South Korea’s biggest moneymaker, BTS, had no songs or albums removed. BTS is with the entertainment company Bighit Entertainment.

Joshua LeBerte is a sophomore studying news media. His column, “Josh’s View,” covers national pop culture items and runs regularly.