Russian digital music service Zvooq has closed a $20m Series A funding round, led by local retailer Ulmart, with Finnish private equity firm Essedel Capital chipping in. Zvooq plans to spend the money on developing its service, which offers a mixture of paid downloads and subscription-based streaming music, while also striking distribution deals with mobile operators, handset makers and internet firms. Its funding announcement comes as music rightsholders hope for a turning point in their ongoing battle to reduce online piracy in Russia – and particularly as the three major labels duke it out in court with local social network vKontakte, which they’re suing for facilitating piracy on its platform. “We’ve been in beta for a couple of years, but we had a launch of our fully-featured app in June this year, and we have over half a million installs already,” co-founder Victor Frumkin told Music Ally in an interview. He added that it’s in talks with “the leading social networks in Russia” over potential partnerships – could Zvooq be vKontakte’s path to licensed music? – while suggesting the country is “a completely untapped opportunity” for the industry. For more of Frumkin’s views on Russia, artists and how Zvooq has “unbundled the music app”, click the link below.

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