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Spotify to launch in Korea in first half of 2021


The world’s largest music streaming platform Spotify on Friday announced that it would officially launch its service in South Korea in the first half of 2021.

“We are excited about our upcoming launch in South Korea, a market recognized as an epicenter for music, culture and tech innovation,” Alex Norstrom, chief freemium business officer of Spotify, said in a statement.

According to Spotify, South Korea -- the sixth-largest music market globally -- is an important market for accomplishing its mission to connect creative artists with music fans worldwid. The global audio streaming subscription service will give Korean listeners access to over 60 million tracks and over 4 billion playlists, the company said.

The streaming platform operator, known for its AI-based music curation service, highlighted that it will enable diverse Korean artists to reach local music fans, as well as Spotify’s 320 million global listeners.

Although this is the first time that Spotify is entering Korea‘s streaming market, it is not its first time working with local musicians. The Swedish audio streaming provider debuted its first K-pop playlist in 2014. Since then, its users have have streamed more than 180 billion minutes of the genre and added K-pop tracks to more than 120 million Spotify playlists. The share of K-pop listening has increased by more than 2,000 percent in the last six years, according to Spotify.

According to the local music industry insiders, the global streaming giant’s performance in the Korean market will depend on whether it can successfully provide Korean artists’ tracks through the platform by joining hands with large K-pop powerhouses here.

In 2016, another global audio streaming service provider, Apple Music, entered the Korean market, signing contacts with three entertainment companies — S.M. Entertainment, JYP Entertainment and YG Entertainment. However, it failed to provide tracks of Kakao M’s artists, which include popular singers like IU. This has been considered one of the limitations to Apple Music’s expansion in the local market, according to music industry sources.

Currently, Kakao runs Korea’s largest music streaming platform Melon, which has a more than 35 percent share of the local market, followed by Korean platforms Genie and Flo. The three platforms together account for more than 80 percent of the market here.

Regarding questions on whether it had signed contracts with all the main local entertainment companies and how many Korean tracks it will provide to Korean users, Spotify declined to answer.

“We cannot comment on specific licensing agreements,” a Spotify spokesperson told The Korea Herald on Friday. “We are committed to ensuring close alignment and partnership with key stakeholders through mutual, collaborative and transparent discussions.”

By Song Seung-hyun (