5 Questions (and Answers) with David Sang Wook Park, Spotify Korea Managing Director

In 2014, Spotify debuted our first K-Pop playlist, K-Pop Daebak, on the platform. From that day on, we’ve served as a global stage and partner for Korean artists and helped them introduce their music to the world. We doubled down on that commitment in 2015 with the launch of our K-Pop hub, enabling us to further introduce Korean music—including K-Pop, hip-hop, indie, OST, and R&B—to fans globally. 

Then, this February, Spotify launched in South Korea, creating an opportunity to amplify Korean musicians and spread their music to listeners like never before. And that opportunity expanded even more when, just 50 days later, Spotify became available across 80+ more markets for a total of 178.

For the Record caught up with David Park, Spotify Korea Managing Director, to talk more about why now was the right time to launch in South Korea, his own background supporting content creators, and Spotify’s mission to connect artists to fans in Korea and across the world. 

It’s been 50 days since Spotify launched in South Korea. What are some initial reactions you can share?

We’re taking into account feedback both from listeners and artists, constantly working to improve and innovate our service. From the artist community, we have generally received a warm welcome and positive feedback that our launch has activated the local music streaming market. We’re hoping that more listeners will be able to connect with a more diverse range of artists and music genres, both in Korea and around the world. Our team on the ground is deeply committed to this. 

From listeners, we continue to get extremely positive feedback on our unmatched personalization and discovery technologies. They’re seeing a very high level of music-related editorial input, powered by data and the depth of our algorithmic machine learning. We already see how listeners are discovering new artists and music, expanding their listening range and experience.  We believe in Spotify as more than a listening platform, but as a tool that brings the world of audio to you.

Tell us about your professional background prior to Spotify. How did that prepare you for your current role?

I’ve worked in the intersection of content media and IT/tech throughout my career, most recently founding a startup and setting up a business in Korea for a global company. One of the highlights during my career was definitely fostering and nurturing the video creator community and ecosystem in the APAC region. Helping Korean creators boost their presence not just in Korea but around the world—through the support of tools and data—was one of the key experiences that helped set me up for this role. There was one fact prevalent throughout the different roles I had taken: that content is king.

Spotify has been avid in serving as K-Pop’s bridge to the world years before launch. Can you talk about the timing of this launch? Why was now the right time?

While Spotify’s been very active in serving Korea’s music streaming market, it is a highly mature, unique, and complex one. With that, we had to invest an immense amount of time, resources, and research years before the launch. In every country we enter, we have to take market specificities into consideration and align with the local industry. 

All in all, building up a strong foundation to our long-term vision in Korea took some time, and we’re taking a step-by-step, hyper-sophisticated approach by considering market specificities and all relevant stakeholders. Our focus is on democratizing audio and music in the long run, and helping to accelerate the growth of Korea’s entire music streaming ecosystem, benefitting creators, labels, distributors, and fans. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. 

How will Spotify support Korean artists, both through launch and going forward?

We’re now hoping to take Korean music and artists’ global popularity to another level. Just recently we saw a variety of different artists, such as ROSÉ, DPR IAN, SHINee, Epik High, CHUNG HA, and more landing in the top 10 of the global Spotify debut charts. Korea’s music industry has been the epicenter of new cultural trends and music for many years, and it’s important for us to embed even further into this unique market, forging closer relationships with even more artists and labels and connecting them with fans across the globe. An example is our Spotify for Artists master classes, which we’ve proactively held for labels and artists so that they can better leverage our data and tools alongside our music team’s guidance and support. We want to empower them to connect with even larger audiences—both local and global.

What’s Spotify’s ultimate vision and goal in Korea?

Our ultimate goal is to provide the best audio experience to our listeners in Korea, and to continue to connect artists and fans on a scale that has never before existed. For listeners, we are committed to creating an environment in which they can enjoy a personalized experience tailored for their lifestyle, as well as diverse new content from all over the world. 

We see ourselves as a catalyst for additional growth in the market, with discovery of new artists and music being a key strength. We’re proud of that and are actively refining our algorithms to enable even more fan discoveries of new artists each month. We’re also confident that there is ample room for Korea’s music market to grow further as listeners’ audio and music consumption habits transform gradually. The shift has already begun. It’s only a matter of time and we’re working hard to speed things up. As our CEO, Daniel Ek, mentioned at Stream On, “It’s just the beginning.”

Ready to discover music and playlists for yourself? Check out David’s top working playlists—Lo-Fi Beats, Lo-Fi Cafe, and Lo-Fi House—or one of his new favorite playlists, In The K-Indie. “Recently, youra is a new gem I discovered through it. There’s just so much musical talent like youra in Korea that needs to be heard both in Korea and globally.”