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Can Spotify disrupt Korean music streaming market?

Spotify, the world's largest music streaming platform, is preparing to launch its service in Korea this year, but industry officials predict that the Sweden-based service will have minimum impact in the local streaming market unless it secures licenses for Korean pop music, or 'K-pop'.

Launched in 2008, Spotify has gained global popularity with its music-suggesting algorithm which shows new music according to users' preferences, offering a wide choice of playlists of all genres, and an attractive user interface.

In its Feb. 5 earnings report, the streaming giant said it had 271 million active monthly users in 79 countries as of last year.

Though Spotify is yet to make an official announcement on advancing into South Korean market, reports say the company recently opened an office in the bustling district of Gangnam, southern Seoul, as a necessary step ahead of the official launching of its service here.

Many music fans are excited for the local launch, as it means users will have the chance to access a slew of songs produced outside of the Korean Peninsula and not currently available on streaming services here. Some fans, who are being tired of "rampant chart manipulations" by song makers, are expecting Spotify to "cleanse the domestic music market."

However, officials in the music streaming industry in South Korea say that Spotify must secure the licenses of as many K-pop songs as possible to succeed here, given Korean listeners' huge preference for local, rather than Western, music.

"When Apple made its foray into the Korean market with the streaming platform Apple Music in 2016, industry officials were fearful of being conquered by the U.S. technology heavyweight. But, after it failed to offer a large enough number of K-pop songs, Apple now has no impact on the market," an official from one of the local music streaming services said.

"If Spotify wants to be successful here, it should analyze the music tastes of Korean listeners and make an effort to offer a customized service. Many listeners have had a long time to get used to using local platforms," the official added.

Regarding the possibility of Spotify's entry into to the Korean market, an official at SK Telecom's FLO ― one of the sector leaders ― welcomed the plan, remarking that advance, if it happens, could be a plus in terms of widening choices for Korean listeners. FLO's local market share was 22.2 percent in 2019, up from 14.9 percent in 2018.

"In respect to local listeners, they will have a wider choice of streaming services (should Spotify enter the market). However, we are sure that many listeners here already have experienced FLO's quality curating service," the official said.

According to the Korea Creative Content Agency's 2019 survey of 3,000 music listeners, 94.6 percent answered that they preferred to listen to Korean songs. This was followed by a preference for English songs at 79.2 percent; and Japanese songs at 5.3 percent. The survey showed that the ratio of Koreans preferring to listen to English songs had decreased by 7.8 percent year-on-year.

Currently, about 10 million people in South Korea are subscribed to a paid music streaming service, with four major companies fiercely competing for their share of the world's sixth-largest music streaming market, following the U.S., Japan, the U.K., Germany and France.

According to market research from firm Korean Click, Melon, an affiliate of internet company Kakao, has the largest share, with around 3.8 million monthly active users as of December 2019. This is followed by mobile carrier KT's Genie with 2.57 million, and FLO, serviced by SK Telecom.





source: The Korea Times
Tags: technology / electronics
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