Spotify, the world’s leading streaming music brand, is closing its office in Russia following the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
For some years, Spotify had coveted an expansion into Russia. That dream finally became a reality in 2020, when the digital music giant opened an office in Moscow and expanded into another dozen European markets, a rollout that Spotify hoped would expose its brand to 250 million potential new listeners.
A year later, the Russian business is halted.
“We are deeply shocked and saddened by the unprovoked attack on Ukraine,” reads a statement from the company, seen by Billboard. “Our first priority over the past week has been the safety of our employees and to ensure that Spotify continues to serve as an important source of global and regional news at a time when access to information is more important than ever.”
In response to the crisis, Spotify has taken several steps. “We have closed our office in Russia indefinitely and we are providing individual support to our personnel in the region as well as our global community of Ukrainian employees,” the digital specialist notes.
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.
Spotify’s hard line on Russia should appease some its critics, many of whom slammed the business on a range of issues, including its paltry royalties to creators, to its executives’ pay-packets, and the controversial Joe Rogan Experience podcast for which the company reportedly licensed for about $100 million.
As a result of those issues and others, Neil Young led an exodus of artists from the platform, taking their content with them.
For years, Spotify had tried, and failed, to storm Russia with its popular app. In 2015, Spotify announced it would bail on its planned entry into the market, citing a growing list of negative factors in the country. Russia is forecast to be a Top 10 streaming market by 2030. More than 87% of listeners in Russia can now access music through streaming, according to Spotify. Currently, more than 61% of the world has adopted streaming, including 68% of U.S. music consumers.
Spotify is the latest multi-national music business to cut ties with Russia. Earlier, Live Nation announced it will “not promote shows in Russia, and we will not do business with Russia.” The concerts giant also took to social media Wednesday to make its stance clear, with posts accompanied by the image of the Ukrainian flag and the hashtag #STOPWARINUKRAINE.
Live entertainment developer Oak View Group has also openly condemned Russia’s actions and, yesterday, YouTube blocked RT and Sputnik, which are said to have become mouthpieces for Russian president Vladimir Putin.