IU returns to Spotify as service reaches deal with Kakao

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IU returns to Spotify as service reaches deal with Kakao

Spotify and Kakao Entertainment have finally reached a licensing agreement which will see a score of top K-pop songs return to the music streaming service from Friday.
The agreement comes 10 days after Spotify stopped providing work from artists affiliated with Kakao M, including IU, globally, citing the expiration of the license contract. Earlier this month, Kakao M merged with another affiliate and changed its name to Kakao Entertainment.
It also means that Spotify's Korean listeners can listen to Kakao artists for the first time, as the label's music was blocked from the service since it launched here last month.
“Kakao Entertainment has entered into an agreement with Spotify and will sequentially provide its music content to Spotify for service in and beyond Korea,” the company said in a statement, Thursday.
“Through its diverse partnerships including with Spotify, Kakao Entertainment hopes that music lovers around the world can easily access its artists and music content to enjoy K-pop,” it added. “Kakao Entertainment remains committed to the Korean music ecosystem and its growth and will continue protecting the rights of artists, labels and local rights holders going forward.”
On March 1, K-pop songs solely provided by Kakao were blocked globally on the streaming service.
Kakao Entertainment is the largest music distributor in Korea with a more than 35 percent share of the market, and had provided songs to Spotify since 2016. Over the years, the contract between the two was renewed without much change — that is, until this year, as Spotify officially launched in Korea.
Despite more than a year of discussions, Spotify and Kakao failed to reach a licensing agreement on the global IT firm’s domestic service. As a result, K-pop songs distributed by Kakao were unavailable to Spotify’s users in Korea since its February launch, except for on accounts that were created overseas.
When the global licensing contract between Kakao and Spotify expired in late February, Kakao wanted to renew the global contract while discussions for local services were still ongoing, according to a source familiar with the matter.
But Spotify wanted a single contract to cover both domestic and global markets and that disagreement created a temporary global block on Kakao’s songs, except for those whose global distribution was handled by other companies.
During that period, complaints piled up among Spotify’s users and Kakao’s artists. Global K-pop fans protested on Twitter, making the #KakaoM-out hashtag trend. Epik High’s Tablo also complained in a March 1 tweet, asking why it’s “always the artists and the fans that suffer when businesses place greed over art?”
“That was a situation none of the two parties wanted,” said a Kakao Entertainment spokesman. “Each country has a different ecosystem when it comes to music copyright. It did take time for us to reach common ground, but both parties worked hard to close the matter as soon as possible.”
Spotify also welcomed the agreement.
“We are pleased that Kakao Entertainment content and artists are back on Spotify, allowing our 345 million global listeners across 170 countries to once again enjoy the music they love,” the company said in a statement, Thursday.
“We are delighted that our Korean listeners will now also be able to enjoy this local music alongside our 70 million songs and 4 billion playlists.”
BY SONG KYOUNG-SON  [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]
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