Kakao M (formerly Seoul Records, YBM Seoul Records and LOEN Entertainment) is an entertainment company founded by Min Yeong-bin in 1978. It is currently one of the largest co-publisher companies in South Korea. The company operates in the field of music and media production, licensing and distribution. 93.9% of the company’s revenue are coming from online music sales. The label also distributes CDs of some other entertainment agencies in South Korea through its branch LOEN Music, but makes less than 5% of its revenue through them.
The company was founded under the name Seoul Records in 1978 by Min Yeong-bin as a subsidiary of YBM Sisa, a company mainly involved in creating language-learning tapes. It was officially registered in 1982, and in 1984 it began to produce and distribute records of classical and traditional music. In the year 2000, the company's name was changed to YBM Seoul Records and since then it was listed in the Korean Securities Dealers Automated Quotations (KOSDAQ). The company joined the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) in 2003. 60% YBM Seoul Records shares were bought by SK Telecom in 2005, and YBM Seoul Records subsequently became part of SK Group.
The company was renamed to LOEN Entertainment in 2008. The acronym LOEN stands for “Live On Entertainment Networks” and “LOve + Entertainment”. In 2009 LOEN Entertainment took charge of SK Telecom's online music distribution service, MelOn which is currently the most used online music sales site in South Korea.
In 2012 LOEN Entertainment signed a deal with streaming site Viki. The agreement included that the artist from Viki’s site (i.e. IU, Brown Eyed Girls and Drunken Tiger) would be featured on LOEN Entertainment’s distribution sites. In August 2012, the recording artists under LOEN Entertainment collaborated to release a collaborative EP titled “LOEN Tree Summer Story” under the collective title 'LOEN Tree'.
On July 18th, 2013 52.56% of LOEN Entertainment 's shares were bought by Affinity Equity Partners, through its subsidiary Star Invest Holdings Ltd., leaving SK Group with only 15% of the shares. Subsequently the company was reorganized to include two labels: "LOEN Tree" (Jo Yeong-cheol) and "Collabodadi" (Shinsadong Tiger). On December 18, 2013, LOEN Entertainment acquired 70% of shares in Starship Entertainment and made an independent subsidiary of the company.
LOEN Entertainment was acquired by Kakao Corporation on January 11th, 2016. In May 2017, Kakao M announced its strategic alliance with CJ E&M's drama production subsidiary Studio Dragon Corporation. With this alliance the activities in the field of acting should be AUSGEBAUT by producing dramas based on web novels and webtoons on KakaoPage and Daum Webtoons.
In February 2017, Sean Seong-hoon Park resigned from both his positions as CEO of the company and chief strategy officer of its parent company, and later moved to Netmarble Games. He was replaced by Melon division head Lee Jae-wook. In a board of directors meeting in December it was decided that the company will be named Kakao M from March 2018 on. The letter M in the new corporate name stands for three things: Melon (the company's flagship online music service), Music (the company's core business) and Media (another business that the company will advance to in the future). Furthermore a catchphrase for Kakao M was introduced: ”We Entertain”.
On June 27, 2018, Kakao M further expanded its activities in field of acting and made strategic investments and created partnerships with three actor management agencies BH Entertainment, J,WIDE-Company, Management SOOP, and Korea’s leading advertisement model casting agency Ready Entertainment. On January 13, 2019, Kakao M announced to acquire Blossom Entertainment. On February 13, 2019, Kakao M announced that Plan A Entertainment and Fave Entertainment will be merging on April 1st.
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Sources for this article was own research.