Balkan Indie Labels Launch Trade Lobby to Promote 'Level Playing Field,' Expand Streaming

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As the music industry becomes ever more globalized and hits are increasingly able to break out of anywhere, some of the world's smallest markets are stepping up their operations to tap into the opportunities that streaming brings.

One region that's looking to grow its international profile is the Balkans, also known as the Balkan Peninsula, which has seen a number of its biggest independent labels come together to launch a new trade body. 

Named RUNDA – standing for Regionalna udruga nezavisnih diskografa – the Zagreb-based non-profit association will cover the whole of the former Yugoslavia (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Macedonia), as well as Albania. 

Set up by indie labels Menart, Dancing Bear Records, Dallas Records (all based in Croatia), Moonlee Records, NIKA (Slovenia) and Serbia-based Kontra, IDJ and Ammonite Records, the trans-national organization claims to be the first of its kind in Eastern Europe and aims to promote a level playing field throughout the Balkans' highly fragmented music market, where Spotify is not available. 

Tidal and Apple Music do operate in Slovenia, but for many people in the region Deezer and YouTube are the only streaming platforms to choose from. 

"RUNDA is the very first step on a long journey for the Balkans independent record labels," said inaugural president Dario Drastata. 

"It is our intention to be the voice for all indie labels in the region no matter how big or small or where they come from. We know there will be many challenges on the way but, as the saying goes, we want to believe that luck favours the brave," Drastata stated about the newly-founded association, which is a member of European indie label trade group IMPALA.

Following today's launch, RUNDA's first public engagement will be hosting two Spotify workshops at MENT, a three-day festival and music conference, held in Ljubljana, Slovenia, 30 January to 1 February. Aimed specifically at record labels and artists/managers, the presentations will be hosted by Jeff Stempeck, Spotify's New York-based account manager, artist services and will be the streaming giants first ever industry workshops in the Balkans. Representatives of RUNDA are also due to outline the association's future plans at MENT.   

"We are convinced that RUNDA is a stride in the right direction to tackle the many issues faced by regional independent record labels. There is incredible quality in the regional music sector, it is necessary to make sure it is properly empowered and allowed to thrive," said RUNDA vice-president, Nikola Jovanovic in a statement. 

According to IFPI's latest Global Music Report, Croatia is the biggest music market in the Balkans region and is positioned 48th in the world rankings, generating $14 million in recorded music sales in 2017, the vast majority of which (75 percent)  came from performance rights.