Russian online music service Fidel has launched an application that will finally allow domestic iPad and iPhone users to legitimately stream music. iTunes does not currently operate in Russia and it is not clear when or if it ever will.
"The application will allow users to listen music online and offline," Boris Golikov, Fidel's general director, told Billboard. "It will work on both iPhone and iPad. In late April we will launch a version of the application specifically for iPad."
According to Golikov, 30 percent of Fidel's revenues generated from the new application will be paid to Apple.
Fidel, one of the few legitimate online music services in the Russian market, has about 4 million tracks in its catalogue, many of which have been licensed from Warner, Universal and Sony. However, the service's strategy is to focus more on music from independent labels. "Of course, we are offering tracks by Lady Gaga, Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez," Golikov said. "But we also want to bring independent stuff to Russian audiences. We're currently in licensing negotiations with several labels and distributors, including Beggars Banquet, Paradise Distributing and INgrooves."
Tracks licensed from foreign labels account for the lion's share of Fidel catalog. "No one here in Russia has a comprehensive domestic catalog," Golikov explained. "And coming to terms with domestic rights holders is difficult, too."
Fidel operates on the subscription model. For 250 rubles (about $9.00) a month, a user has access to all tracks from the catalogue.
Meanwhile, there have been rumors about iTunes coming to Russia for several years, but it isn't clear when and if the music service is going to be available to domestic users. A spokesman for Apple told Billboard he wouldn't be able to comment on any future plans for the company.
Local industry players, however, say that the arrival in the Russian market might be unprofitable for iTunes. "The cost of entering the market could be higher than potential profits," Golikov said. "The piracy level is high in Russia and there are also issues with [copyright] legislation here."