Kpop vs Capitalism: The heartbreaking ballad of Netizens towards the lost songs on Spotify
05 Mar 2021
It was a very early start of March for international Kpop fans, and it was not exactly a happy one. You may have noticed that Twitter’s worldwide trending topics were filled with Kpop and Korean Artists or idols more than usual on late February 28th. You may have also noticed Spotify topped the trending topic lists with over 1 million posts about the popular music streaming application alone in just a few hours. Well, it turns out that late Sunday night, the globally loved music streaming platform, Spotify had removed a bulk-load of Kpop songs, and fans were very quick to notice and catch on to this sudden change in music catalogue and their music playlists on the application. Fans were also quick to catch on why over a hundred Kpop releases were removed from the Spotify music catalogue, connecting the dots early on to what the deleted songs had in common.
As most people already noticed, Kpop (along with Korean Hip Hop and as followed) has become an internationally adored music genre that it’s no doubt global Kpop fans were affected the most. Based on Indonesia’s trending topics alone, Spotify, Kakao M, Melon, and Apple were the lead topics during February 28th and March 1st, followed by Mamamoo and GFRIEND.
Not too long after Spotify became a worldwide trending topic on Twitter, a Twitter base account for K-Pop chart updates finally posted about the situation, shedding light on the topic for Netizens, especially in the K-Pop side of Twitter affectionately known as “stan Twitter”. The account @kchartsmaster posted that all songs distributed by local Korean music distributor Kakao M have been removed from Spotify.
The tweet from @kchartsmaster generated 171.4k engagements and 3.3k replies, and it was all that fans needed to connect the dots and initiating various discussions about why music distributed by Kakao M, whether the pull of these songs were initiated by Kakao M or Spotify, and why international fans are experiencing the loss of these songs from the platform if this was a issue primarily for Spotify Korea.
News about this issue continued with an article posted by a Korean wave media portal. Koreaboo, explaining more about the matter, along with Epik High’s (a popular Korean Hip Hop group) Tablo tweeting that there was a disagreement from both Kakao M and Spotify that resulted in the artist and fans suffering from the loss of their music on the popular streaming platform. Tablo’s tweet became viral quicker than Kakao M or Spotify’s official statements were released, generating 114.1k retweets, 257k likes, and 4.2k replies.
After a series of updates and official statements from both companies the following morning, it was revealed that Spotify had licensing issues to songs distributed from Kakao M when Spotify was officially entering the Korean music industry, which resulted in Spotify having to legally remove songs that were distributed by Kakao M.
Spotify’s official statement claimed that there was an expiration in Kakao M’s licensing agreement with Spotify, hence the discontinuation of the numerous Korean artists’ discography. However, Kakao M claimed that this discontinuation was unrelated to the release of their own streaming service, Melon Music. This claim was also backed up by Spotify. However, this point created more of an uproar on Twitter, as angry, disappointed, and sad Kpop fans along with Korean Hip Hop fans quickly tweeted their speculations and opinions that Kakao M ‘s primary interest was to protect their own assets or partners and monopolize Korean music streams through their own streaming service stated above, namely, MelOn Music. This particular issue pushed the speculations and discussions online in which Capitalism was brought up and discussed in over 6K tweets in just a few short days.
Among the artists whose discographies have been at least partially affected are SEVENTEEN, NU’EST, MAMAMOO, Epik High, CL, GFRIEND, MONSTA X, Apink, Sunmi, (G)I-DLE, LOONA, SF9, HyunA, 4Minute, VIXX, INFINITE, Dreamcatcher, MOMOLAND, ASTRO, Zico, Block B, BEAST, Jessi, WJSN, AOA, BTOB, Golden Child, VICTON, Lovelyz, PENTAGON, ONEUS, Hyolyn, KARD, Brave Girls, CNBLUE, DIA, Younha, SECHSKIES, and many more. Meanwhile, artists such as THE BOYZ, IU, and VIXX had most of their albums removed completely leaving only very little of their discography alive on Spotify due to their exclusive contracts with Kakao-M to distribute most of their albums, for both old and current tracks.
In true local Netizen fashion, Tweets about this issue varied from jokes, criticism, to expressions of disappointment, we wanted to take a closer look at the common themes of these conversations and just what a lot of local Netizens plan on doing now that half of their K-Pop, Korean R&B and Korean Hip-Hop playlists were removed so unfairly. There was over 16K total buzz in Indonesia alone within just three days about Spotify and almost 6K buzz surrounding the topic Kakao M followed by Kpop reaching over 5K total buzz and over 400 tweets mentioning Korea's local music streaming platform; Melon, as this issue was very much related to the topics mentioned above.
Of course, fans demanded their favorites to return to Spotify, but a lot of local and international Netizens were also considering signing up to other streaming platforms such as Apple Music, YouTube Music, and JOOX. Apple quickly became a trending topic due to this issue, with over 400k tweets worldwide and 1.042 tweets mentioning apple music in Indonesia alone, 5% among local netizens are considering switching over to Apple Music. YouTube Music or YouTube Premium was also another option that 6% of netizens are considering. Despite the mainly negative sentiments surfacing during this debacle, some fans and Kpop-streamers still continue their subscription with Spotify Premium. Surprisingly, only 1% of netizens were on their way to uninstall or cancel their Spotify premium subscription based on the conversations our tool captured.
What about your Kpop Spotify playlist? Is it still safe or are you considering switching streaming platforms too?
All we know is that negative sentiments on social towards Spotify have dramatically increased and that must have been hazardous for their PR and social media team both locally and for Spotify international, negative sentiments increased to 38% in just three days, with only 14% positive sentiments, and not to mention how Spotify became the top trending topic in less than 3 hours on Twitter as netizens were furiously tweeting and wanting clarification all through the night of February 28th. Meanwhile, Spotify’s statement was only posted the following morning of March 1st 2021.
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