Zvooq, Russian Independent Streaming Service, Licenses Its Final Major

Thanks to a recent contract with Sony Music, Russia's Zvooq has become the country's only fully licensed and independent music service, while the company's unique strategy makes it stand out in the digital music segment.

"For a long time, Sony Music's extensive catalog was what we missed, and now we're glad to have begun working with that company," Tanya Mulkidzhanova, head of content at Zvooq, tells Billboard. "Sony Music is the owner of one of the largest international catalogs, and our cooperation with that company will allow Zvooq to present the entire volume of international music to our users."

This past summer, Zvooq added to its catalog tens of thousands of albums, including Michael Jackson and AC/DC (whose streaming rights opened only recently), to recent hits by the likes of Justin Bieber and A$AP Rocky.

However, Zvooq isn't limiting its offerings to major label catalogs. "For us, as a music service targeting mass audiences, it is important to give every user an opportunity to find something that suits their tastes and any situation," says Mulkidzhanova. "For someone, major hits are enough, but someone [else may be] interested in obscure music or narrower genres. So we work with distributors of indie music as well as global and local leaders of the music market."

In line with that strategy, Zvooq recently signed a deal with independent digital distributor Syntax Creative.

Zvooq is one of the leaders in Russia's music streaming segment. Its main competitor is Yandex.Music, the music service of the internet giant Yandex. Still, Zvooq insists it has something unique to offer to users.

Currently, Zvooq uses a freemium model -- incorporating both ad-sponsored and subscription tiers -- and is planning to introduce a new subscription model for the market, in which a specific advertising brand will pay for subscriptions of selected users.

"In exchange for that, during the period of access to premium functions, only that brand will communicate to a user within the service through advertisements," Mulkidzhanova, adding that the service will match users and brands.

Zvooq was founded in 2011. Last year, major Russian electronics retailer Ulmart and its partners invested $20 million in the service.