Russia's VKontakte, Former Haven for Pirated Music, Reports 1.5 Million Subscribers for Its Legit Streaming Service

Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The VKontakte app shown on an Apple Inc. iPhone 5. 

That tally, while seemingly small, is actually high when compared to other services in the country.

VKontakte, the so-called "Russian Facebook," formerly notorious for fostering user-generated illegitimate music content, reported 1.5 million of subscribers to its legitimate music streaming service, launched a year ago.

VKontakte's owner, Mail.Ru Group, runs the music service jointly with another social network,, and mobile app BOOM.

Of the 1.5 million figure, 1.2 million are paid subscribers and the remaining 300,000 are on trial subscription plans, VKontakte's spokesman told Billboard.

Although the figure may not exactly seem impressive by global standards, it is still high, compared with those for other music streaming services operating in Russia; Apple Music is estimated to have about 600,000 subscribers, Google Play Music roughly 100,000 and the local service Yandex.Music just above 250,000.

"The biggest challenge our service faces is finding the balance between user interests and copyright standards, and it seems that we have found it," Boris Dobrodeev, CEO of Mail.Ru Group, said in a press release.

"We have created a leading legitimate music service while still keeping all of its features and user-generated content," he went on to say. "We continue to work on expanding the music library and developing music services."

Launched in May 2017, the subscription service was a radical step for VKontakte, which for years attracted younger users by the opportunity to be able to listen to just about any music track for free.

The subscription costs 149 rubles ($2.35) a month. Free music is still available to users, but they can listen to it for no longer than an hour per day, and ads are added to music tracks.

VKontakte began to shed its reputation as a major source of pirated music several years ago in the wake of major lawsuits.

The biggest of them was filed in in 2014 by Universal Music Group, Sony Music and Warner Music Group and led to licensing agreements between Mail.Ru Group and the three majors, singed in 2015 and 2016.

According to local media reports, Mail.Ru Group's deal with UMG, Warner and Sony are worth between $2 million and $2.5 million a year for each label, based on minimum guarantee and revenue sharing.

Currently, Mail.Ru Group also has licensing deals with Merlin Network, Believe, The Orchard and local labels and publishers.


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