The Korea Herald


Spotify seeks expansion in Korea

By Kwon Yae-rim

Published : March 24, 2020 - 13:06

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(Yonhap) (Yonhap)
The world’s largest music streaming platform Spotify is ramping up to launch its services in Korea.

According to industry sources on Tuesday, Spotify has recently set up its Korean office at a WeWork building in Daechi-dong, southern Seoul, with Peter Gradelius, the firm’s head of corporate legal, registered as the Korean chief.

Speculation has been growing about Spotify’s imminent launch here. During its second-quarter earnings call last year, CEO Daniel Ek pointed to Korea along with Africa and Russia as top-priority markets for expansion.

A Spotify official declined to confirm the Korean launch.

Korea is the sixth-largest music market globally, bigger than that of China, Canada and Brazil, according to the IFPI Global Music Report 2019.

The sheer size makes Korea not only attractive, but also a necessary target for the Swedish company that operates services in 79 countries. Adding to that is the continuous rise of boy band BTS and K-pop in general.

K-pop’s share on Spotify has surged an enormous 1,800 percent between 2014 and 2020 with more than 134 billion minutes streamed.

The firm has also been promoting K-pop actively. It launched its K-pop playlist K-pop Daebak in 2014, which now boasts more than 2.4 million followers. The K-pop team, currently based in Singapore, has also been growing as Korean-speaking content curators and partnership managers have recently been joining the service.

Sources say a key challenge for Spotify in Korea would be in obtaining copyright contracts from Korean labels and copyright collectives. The nation’s streaming market may already be crowded with local platform operators, but its official launch would pave the way for it to further expand its presence in the burgeoning K-pop scene.

“We once entered a discussion with Spotify, but no official contracts or steps are being taken as of now,” an official of the Korea Music Copyright Association, one of the major copyright collectives, told The Korea Herald on condition of anonymity.

The nation’s streaming market is estimated to reach 1 trillion won ($800 million) in sales this year. The big three players by market share – Kakao’s Melon (40 percent), KT’s Genie (25 percent) and SK Telecom’s Flo (20 percent) – dominate the market as they maintain close ties with music labels, publishers and copyright associations.

Apple Music, launched in 2016, has not yet gained traction here due to limited offerings of Korean artists’ tracks.

By Kwon Yae-rim (