It’s not so long since Russian social network vKontakte was one of the primary villains for music rightsholders, on account of its platform being a thriving repository of user-uploaded, unlicensed music. But after signing deals and going legit a year ago, the complaints have died down. Now we have a milestone to track VK’s progress in building a legal music business.
The company says it now has 1.5 million subscribers to its music-streaming service, although that’s 1.2 million people paying for it, and a further 300,000 currently on its free trial, according to Billboard. That puts it some distance ahead of Apple Music (600,000 subscribers in Russia, reportedly) as well as Yandex Music (250,000) and Google Play Music (100,000).
Parent company Mail.ru is keen to shout about the progress. “The biggest challenge our service faces is finding the balance between user interests and copyright standards, and it seems that we have found it,” said its CEO Boris Dobrodeev. “We have created a leading legitimate music service while still keeping all of its features and user-generated content. We continue to work on expanding the music library and developing music services.”
The thought of more than two million people paying for music-streaming subscriptions in Russia would have felt like pie in the sky only a couple of years ago, even if that total is still small in the context of the population of Russian internet users (nearly 110 million by the end of 2017). There’s already an impact too: according to the IFPI, Russian recorded-music revenues grew by 14.9% in 2017 to $83.8m, with $22.8m of that coming from subscription streaming. That’s encouraging progress.