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Spotify’s Push Into Key Markets of Russia and South Korea Delayed by Pandemic

Other than China, the countries are the biggest music markets Spotify doesn’t serve yet

Illustrations Of Netflix, Spotify And Uber Logos
Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Spotify Technology SA’s long-awaited push into Russia and South Korea, two of the biggest music markets it doesn’t yet serve, has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, according to people familiar with the situation.

The Swedish music-streaming giant is still looking to expand into the markets this year, though the rollout won’t be as soon as originally planned, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private. With in-person meetings on hold, it’s been harder for the company to hammer out the complex arrangements needed to get established in the countries. 

Spotify secured rights to those markets as part of a recent deal with Warner Music Group, one of the world’s three major music companies, and also has similar rights from Sony Corp., the people said. And it’s been negotiating a new global deal with Universal, the world’s largest music company. But Spotify has yet to get rights from some of the local record labels.

The pandemic has hurt the broader music industry. Quarantines and lockdowns have been a boon to video-streaming services such as Netflix Inc., but people are spending less time on the go — when they might listen to music — so audio use is down. Podcasts, a potential growth engine for Spotify, have been especially hard hit. The Stockholm-based company will give an update on its situation when it delivers quarterly results on Wednesday.