LOEN Entertainment 로엔 엔터테인먼트, formerly Seoul Records 서울 음반, was established by Min Yeongbin in 1978. It is one of the largest co-publisher companies in South Korea.
As of 2015, LOEN is the leading record company in South Korea by net revenue. It is also the second leading company in terms of album sales. Since January 2016, LOEN has been a subsidiary of Kakao.
Online music sales account for most of the company's profit, with 93.9% of revenue 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.
As of October 2017, the company's chief executive officer is Park Seonghoon.
LOEN Entertainment was founded as Seoul Records in 1978 by Min Yeongbin as a subsidiary of YBM Sisa, a company mainly involved in creating language-learning tapes. The company was officially registered in 1982, and in 1984 it began to produce and distribute records of classical and traditional music. It was registered as a venture capital company in 1999 when it began to sell albums while operating an online shop. In 2000, the company's name was changed to YBM Seoul Records and it began to operate on KOSDAQ. The company joined the IFPI in 2003. Korean conglomerate SK Telecom bought a 60% share of the company in 2005, and YBM Seoul Records subsequently became part of SK Group. As of 2008, the company has been known as LOEN Entertainment.
LOEN took charge of SK Telecom's online music distribution service, MelOn, in 2009. MelOn is currently the most used online music sales site in South Korea.
In 2012, the company signed a deal with streaming site Viki so that content from their artists (such as IU, Brown Eyed Girls, and Drunken Tiger) would be featured on their site.
In August 2012, the recording artists under LOEN collaborated to release a collaborative EP titled LOEN Tree Summer Story under the collective title LOEN Tree.
On July 18, 2013, Affinity Equity Partners, through its subsidiary Star Invest Holdings Ltd., bought 52.56% of LOEN's shares, leaving SK Group with only 15%. Five months later, Star Invest Holdings acquired RealNetworks, Inc.'s 8.83% stake in the company.
On December 18, 2013, LOEN acquired 70% of shares in Starship Entertainment, making it an independent subsidiary of LOEN.
On January 11, 2016, LOEN was acquired by Kakao Corporation.
On May 11, 2017, LOEN announced its strategic drama production alliance with CJ E&M's drama production subsidiary Studio Dragon Corporation. On August 25, LOEN announced that its joint venture with Studio Dragon would be called "Mega Monster."
LOEN Entertainment signed actress Kim Sohyun, setting up her own independent label, E&T Story Entertainment, led by her long-time manager Park Chanwoo.
Upon approval by the company's board of directors in a December 20 meeting, LOEN Entertainment will be known as Kakao M Corporation 주식회사 카카오엠 starting March 2018. 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). The company will now also have a corporate catchphrase, "We Entertain.”
As of 2015, LOEN uses two types of catalog number codes for its releases: the L10000**** series and the L20000**** series.
LOEN, along with then-parent SK Telecom, was one of the 15 companies fined and sued by the Korean FTC for price rigging in 2011. The company was fined $9.6 million for its role in the scheme.
On October 9, 2016, the Supreme Court of South Korea handed out a 100 million won fine each to LOEN and its closest competitor Genie Music (then known as KT Music) for colluding in price fixing, dating back to a case filed in 2008. Co-CEO Shin Wonsoo, who was the sole CEO at the time being, was also sentenced to pay 10 million won.
In 2013, LOEN made a deal with C-JeS Entertainment to promote and distribute Junsu's second studio album Incredible. Days before the album's release, C-Jes was notified by LOEN that they would distribute the album but had scrapped plans for promotional marketing and broadcasting Junsu's upcoming showcase on MelOn, although they would be able to broadcast it on LOEN TV. Promotional banners regarding the album's release on MelOn also disappeared from LOEN's social media accounts. C-JeS subsequently threatened to remove mentions of LOEN from Junsu's upcoming showcase and to file for a civil appeal to the Fair Trade Commission and Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission. In response, LOEN stated that they were still in discussions regarding the album's promotion and that nothing had been confirmed prior to the relevant article's release. They pointed to the showcase event page on MelOn's homepage still being up as evidence that promotions were going ahead as planned. C-JeS responded saying that they had begun receiving pre-orders for the album and entries for the showcase event without a response from LOEN. Following media attention, the two companies met on July 8 and resolved the dispute. Incredible was promoted and distributed by LOEN as planned.
MelOn Biz is LOEN's online music service division, operating MelOn, short for "melody on." MelOn is the most popular music service in Korea, with 59% of all users in South Korea as of November 2013. That year Soompi ranked MelOn as the third most influential entity in the K-pop industry.
Contents Biz is responsible for LOEN's content production division 1theK, which was known as LOEN Music before February 2014. The name "1theK" indicates its aim of creating one source for worldwide K-pop content. According to LOEN it distributes over 300 titles per year, working with independent agencies to invest in music production.
Production Biz is LOEN's artist management division, formerly known as Artists Biz. LOEN Entertainment manages their artists under LOEN Tree, renamed as Fave Entertainment in February 2017.