Following Tuesday’s decision by Universal Music Group to pull out of Russia in response to its military invasion of neighboring Ukraine, its two biggest rivals have followed suit. Within moments of each other on Thursday, Sony Music Group and Warner Music Group separately announced they were suspending operations in the increasingly isolated nation.
In a statement calling for “peace in Ukraine and an end to the violence,” Sony announced 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.
WMG issued its own statement, which 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.”
UMG, the world’s largest label, announced its decision to pull out of Russia on Tuesday. The big three labels had already been dealing with cratering sales across Russia, along with logistical challenges brought on by sanctions that are making it challenging to pay artists and employees there.
Russia is the world’s 16th-largest music market, according to IFPI’s most recent “Global Music Report,” with revenues of roughly $200 million in 2020.
In addition to labels, other major music companies that have ceased or altered their operations in Russia in the last week include Spotify, YouTube, TikTok and Live Nation, among others. Additionally, digital distributor FUGA informed clients that it would be “suspending delivery of new music it aggregates to Russian-owned DSPs and content platforms.”