Music companies across the globe are stepping up to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On Feb. 24, Russia invaded Ukraine, leaving hundreds dead and many injured. Russian President Vladimir Putin is demanding that Ukraine demilitarizes, and is aiming to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO, a defensive alliance of 30 countries including the United States. Since the invasion, various music companies have halted business with Russia — the world’s 16th-largest music market, according to IFPI’s most recent “Global Music Report,” with revenues of roughly $200 million in 2020.
Billboard has compiled a growing list of music companies that have spoken out about how they are working to aid those in Ukraine and denounce the actions of the Russian government.
SONY MUSIC GROUP:
In a statement calling for “peace in Ukraine and an end to the violence,” Sony Music Group announced on March 10 it had “suspended operations in Russia and will continue our support of global humanitarian relief efforts to aid victims in need.” Sony has roughly three dozen employees in Russia. A source familiar with Sony’s decision tells Billboard that the company will continue to provide financial and wellbeing assistance to the affected employees but could not elaborate further.
WARNER MUSIC GROUP:
Warner Music Group announced on March 10 that the company would be suspending operations in Russia over the country’s invasion of Ukraine. WMG’s statement added that the company would be halting all investments, promotional activities and manufacturing, among other actions. It also pledged to fulfill any obligations to staff and artists, and, like Sony, to continue supporting humanitarian efforts. “We will continue to fulfill our agreed upon obligations to our people, artists, and songwriters as best we can as the situation unfolds,” the company said. “We remain committed to supporting the humanitarian relief efforts in the region.”
SoundExchange announced on March 11 that it will terminate its agreement with Russian collecting society VOIS, citing the “horrific events in Ukraine.” CEO Michael Huppe outlined the decision to sever ties with Russia in a note to staff, writing that “ultimately, the flow of performance royalties between SoundExchange and VOIS is not significant, but as a matter of principle, we believe this is the right course of action.” He added, “I’m proud that SoundExchange, by taking these actions today, is speaking with a clear voice in saying that all people deserve to live in peace in a vibrant, free society.”
Publishing company Kobalt announced on March 10 that the company would suspend all business activity in Russia. Kobalt also said it supported “any decisions that would cut off the local Russian collection society RAO from the network of collection societies.” In addition to condemning the invasion of Ukraine, Kobalt said it made donations to Global Giving – Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund, International Rescue Committee and Save the Children.
Music distribution and marketing company FUGA informed clients that the company was suspending delivery of new music it aggregates to Russian-owned DSPs and content platforms including Yandex, VKontakte and Sberzvuk (formerly Zvooq). The company says it is in constant contact with its employees in Ukraine and offering support however they can. In addition, FUGA is matching employee donations to Red Cross and Unicef. FUGA is also reaching out to its Ukrainian partners to ensure the company is supporting them and alleviating any financial burden, wherever possible, during this time.
On March 10, global music company Downtown Music Holdings said it suspended all business with Russia in a letter from CEO Andrew Bergman. “This means we will not distribute any new music to Russian DSPs including Yandex, VKontakte and Zvooq, we will terminate all local music publishing royalty collection activities and we will exclude Russia from all worldwide synchronization licenses,” Bergman wrote. The company is also matching donations to organizations helping in Ukraine including the International Rescue Committee and UNICEF that supports activities on the ground in Ukraine as well as the more than 2 million refugees that have been forced out of their homes.
UNIVERSAL MUSIC GROUP:
Universal Music Group, the world’s largest music company, said it would be pulling out of Russia on March 8. “Effective immediately, we are suspending all operations in Russia and closing our offices there,” the company said in a statement sent to Billboard. “We urge an end to the violence in Ukraine as soon as possible.” UMG added it was “adhering to international sanctions and, along with our employees and artists, have been working with groups from a range of countries (including the U.S., U.K., Poland, Slovakia, Germany, Czech Republic and Hungary) to support humanitarian relief efforts to bring urgent aid to refugees in the region.” The label’s Russian subsidiary, based in Moscow, has been operating in the country since the mid-1990s.
TikTok suspended most of its services in Russia on March 6 as the government cracked down on what people and media outlets could say about Russia’s war in Ukraine. TikTok said Russian users of the popular social media app would no longer be able to post new videos or livestreams and they also wouldn’t be able to see videos shared from elsewhere in the world. TikTok spokesperson Hilary McQuaide said the TikTok app in Russia now appears in “view-only” mode and won’t let people post or see new videos or livestreams. They can still see older videos, but not if they came from outside the country, she said. “The safety of employees is our top priority,” she said, adding that the company — part of China-based tech company ByteDance — didn’t want to put either its Russian employees or users at risk of severe criminal penalties.
In response to the invasion of Ukraine, Spotify announced on March 3 that the world’s leading streaming music brand was closing its office in Russia. The digital music giant opened an office in Moscow in 2020 after a long-coveted expansion into Russia. Spotify is also “providing individual support to our personnel in the region as well as our global community of Ukranian employees.” The music streamer’s team reviewed “thousands of pieces of content” since the conflict escalated Jan. 24, and has restricted the discoverability of dubious, propaganda-leaning content. As a result, all content from Russian state-backed news channels RT and Sputnik has been from its platform in the European Union and other markets.
On March 2, the world’s largest concert promoter Live Nation publicly stated its support for Ukraine in a social media post with the image of a Ukrainian flag that stated “We will not promote shows in Russia. We will not do business with Russia.” In a statement provided to Billboard, the promoter added, “Live Nation joins the world in strongly condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “We’re in the process of reviewing our vendors so we can cease work with any and all Russian-based suppliers.”
On March 1, YouTube began blocking Russian state-backed news channels RT and Sputnik across Europe and the U.K. “Due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, we’re blocking YouTube channels connected to RT and Sputnik across Europe, effective immediately,” Google Europe said in a statement posted on Twitter. “It’ll take time for our systems to fully ramp up. Our teams continue to monitor the situation around the clock to take swift action.”
OAK VIEW GROUP:
Global development and entertainment company Oak View Group openly condemned Russia’s actions and pledged not to do business in or with Russia. In addition, OVG vowed not to serve Russian brands in any of their global venues, effective immediately. OVG runs arenas, stadiums and theaters including the newly renovated Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle and the UBS Arena in New York. “We stand with the people of Ukraine, we condemn the actions of Russia, and we hope our stance inspires others in our industry to take action where they can,” the OVG statement concluded.
ABSOLUTE LABEL SERVICES:
Absolute Label Services, owned by Utopia Music, is suspending the delivery of content to Russia’s Yandex and VKontakte streaming services in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and in solidarity with the Ukrainian people. The policy will not affect content that has already been delivered to those platforms. In a statement, Absolute managing director Henry Semmence said, “We have to do what we can to show our solidarity with Ukraine in its desperate time of need. We know that this is not a war the people of Russia and our partners in the Russian music industry have asked for, but we have to unite with countries, industries and organisations across the free world to take a stand against this senseless act of aggression.”