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The final day of Music Ally’s Sandbox Summit Global online conference last week started with a session exploring trends in Russia and Eastern Europe.

Vladimir Yurchenko, senior international marketing manager at Warner Music Group, talked about Russia, noting that it is one of the five fastest growing music markets in the world.

“Right now, we are the sixteenth market overall,” he said, referring to the IFPI’s global rankings. “But seeing how fast we are growing it could be a top 10 market in four or even three years. And this growth happened because of streaming, first and foremost.”

Yurchenko said that 78% of the 146.7 million Russian population have mobile internet access, and while fewer than 10% have premium music streaming subscriptions, that is growing fast. “The potential for growth is really huge.”

Like China and India, Russia has strong local streaming services: Yandex Music and vKontakte (VK), which are the two most popular by subscribers ahead of Apple Music, Spotify and YouTube Music. Russia’s biggest bank Sberbank has recently got into the music streaming game too.

“They are very ambitious and we believe in the next couple of years they will be one of the most important players in the streaming world,” said Yurchenko, adding that for any label or artist looking to succeed in Russia “you have to do things right on these platforms”.

He talked about some of the ways WMG has run campaigns with these companies, from a five-metre statue of Ed Sheeran in Moscow’s main park and a neural network turning Twenty One Pilots lyrics into pictures (both with Yandex) to the success of artists like Oliver Tree, Nessa Barrett and Ashnikko on vKontakte.

The latter is Russia’s biggest social network as well as a streaming service, with 42 million daily users, and 900m daily video views.

“If you want to be big in Russia you have to launch your own VK page, and you have to feed it with exclusive content,” said Yurchenko. “And you have to attach tracks to your posts so users could listen to those tracks while reading your feed.”

TikTok is also becoming increasingly important for artists and labels in Russia, as it is elsewhere in the world.

Its users there spend an average of 30 minutes a day using the app, which isn’t far behind vKontakte’s figure of 34 minutes. There is also synergy with streaming: 72% of TikTok users in Russia listened to music on VK in April, while 38% did so on Yandex Music.

“And Russian influencers are cheaper than other European influencers,” pointed out Yurchenko, with a view to labels’ influencer marketing campaigns. “You can get more for your money!”

His talk was followed by an analysis of music marketing in Eastern Europe by Alice Halpert, senior project manager at Global Records.

She explained that the key task is understanding the local markets, and the streaming and social platforms that are popular there. This can vary between countries: for example Tidal is popular in Poland, but not used much in nearby Romania, where Spotify is the top service. Turkey, meanwhile, has popular local DSPs like Fizy and Muud.

Global spends a lot of time getting to know the playlisters working within these services, whether local or global.

“We make sure to send them weekly updates to our international tracks, and we send specific requests for each DSP,” said Halpert. “For Spotify we analyse each country’s editorial playlists, and we know what track would work for what playlist, and we ask for that playlist specifically.”

Here, too, TikTok has become an important platform for breaking artists. Global has researched the popular TikTokers in countries across the region, and matches them up with its artists on collaborations and other campaigns.

One example: Olivia Addams released a new version of her ‘Are We There’ track that featured Polish and Romanian TikTokers. “That really gave a burst to the track in the territory,” said Halpert.

Another artist, Inna, livestreamed her new track and a Q&A with fans on TikTok, attracting more than 110,000 unique viewers, and more than 40,000 new followers in Turkey alone following the event.

Hashtag challenges for tracks like Minelli’s hit ‘Rampampam’ have also worked well, with more than 2,000 videos created using that track as part of a #DoTheRampampam challenge.

“You have to get to know the culture of each territory you are promoting to. You have to know the culture of how they are listening to music, and the culture of everything they do,” said Halpert.

Photo by Alexander Smagin on Unsplash

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