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Sony Music and Warner Music suspend their operations in Russia


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Universal Music Group suspended its operations in Russia and closed its offices there earlier this week, in response to the invasion of Ukraine. Now Sony Music and Warner Music Group are following suit.

“Sony Music Group calls for peace in Ukraine and an end to the violence. We have suspended operations in Russia and will continue our support of global humanitarian relief efforts to aid victims in need,” announced Sony this afternoon.

“Warner Music Group is suspending operations in Russia, including investments in and development of projects, promotional and marketing activities, and manufacturing of all physical products,” announced WMG a matter of minutes later.

“We will continue to fulfil our agreed upon obligations to our people, artists, and songwriters as best we can as the situation unfolds. We remain committed to supporting the humanitarian relief efforts in the region.”

This afternoon, distribution firm FUGA has also suspended delivery of new music to Russian-owned digital music services, including Yandex, vKontakte and Sberzvuk. “For the time being, we have not taken any measures to remove content already live on these services delivered via the FUGA Aggregation license,” wrote CEO Pieter van Rijn in an email to clients.

The news came shortly after streaming service Spotify confirmed that it was suspending its premium tier in Russia, and expected to lose 1.5 million paying subscribers as a result.

Previously, Live Nation had announced that it would not promote shows in or do business with Russia, while collecting societies PRS for Music and BMI have suspended their relationship with Russian equivalent RAO.

According to the IFPI, Russia was the 16th biggest recorded music market in the world in 2020, generating revenues of $199.2m that year. Our recent country profile of Russia, published just before the invasion, highlighted the positivity about growth there from both Sony and WMG.

“I’m hugely optimistic about the future of the Russian digital music industry. We have an almost unique situation, whereby we have a strong presence of global services, such as Apple Music and Spotify, but also popular local services, such as Sberzvuk, VK and Yandex Music, that are powerful parts of the ecosystem,” Warner Music Russia MD Alexander Blinov told us.

He estimated that around 20 million Russians were subscribed to digital music services in November 2021, with around 70% of streams going to local artists. “We have several significant drivers – good market competition, a large population and a high level of online penetration, which perfectly position us for growth.”

“Whilst the industry is still very much in its infancy here, Russia is one of the fastest growing markets in the world, and it will continue to grow,” added Arina Dmitrieva, MD of Sony Music Russia, in that profile. “The numbers that the market currently demonstrates and overall big interest to music and digital services allows us to be very optimistic.”

That optimism may be fading fast now, with all three global majors having suspended their operations in Russia. Given this week’s news reports coming out of Ukraine, it is hard to see those operations resuming in the near future.


Written by: Stuart Dredge