Spotify’s launch in Russia this July put the spotlight back on one of the more intriguing music markets in the world – historically dogged by piracy, but now with a collection of global and local services trying to turn the tide back to legal music.

Now Spotify, Yandex, vKontakte, Apple Music and others have a new rival to contend with: state-owned bank and financial services firm Sberbank.

The news actually broke last week in Russia when Sberbank announced the acquisition of an existing music streaming service called Zvuk, which has more than six million registered users, and is available in Russia and 10 other countries in its region.

Swiftly rebranded as SberZvuk, the service has a catalogue of more than 40m tracks from the three global major labels plus independents and local rightsholders, as well as audiobooks and podcasts.

Bigger plans are afoot. Sberbank has already added SberZvuk to its SberSpasibo loyalty program, letting its customers redeem points for premium subscriptions to the music service. SberZvuk is also part of the newly-launched SberPrime bundle, an Amazon-style offering blending streaming video and music; grocery deliveries; cloud storage and discounts on mobile tariffs (oh yes, Sberbank has a telco division too).

Meanwhile, Sberbank has also just launched its own smart display (the SberPortal) with its new music service integrated, and it’s also just unveiled not one but three voice assistants: Sber, Joy and Athena, which will be available on its devices and mobile apps.

The entry of such a firm into the Russian music streaming market would be fascinating enough even before the state-owned aspect: in April, the Russian government paid $28.5bn to buy a majority stake in Sberbank from the country’s central bank.

Talking of Russia, Spotify has revealed who the most popular artist was on its service there in the early days after its launch.

“In analyzing the first 30 days listening data, we discovered that BTS was the most popular artist among Russian listeners,” said Spotify’s MD of Russia and CIS Ilia Alekseev, in an interview with the company’s own blog.

However, Alekseev also noted that homegrown artists including Morgenshtern, Scriptonite, kizaru, and Max Korzh also ranked highly.

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Music Ally's Head of Insight

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