September 26, 2023
Music Industry

Ever Think of the Music Industry in Russia? Probably Not. This May Help.

Thanks to conversations and song exchanges with various Russian artists (and music visit to Moscow five years ago), I at least have a tiny peripheral knowledge of the Russian music industry. And here’s the gist of my knowledge: compared to what we do in the West, this is a weird place.

Billboard has this story of the rise and fall of the music industry in what was once the USSR.

Twenty-five years ago, construction began on the foundation of Russia’s music industry. Up to that point, nothing resembling a proper music industry had formed under communist rule; music is ideology, and there was no room for competition on the other side of the Iron Curtain.

Today, as Russia’s particular form of capitalism reigns, ideology has returned to the entertainment industry, and has begun to play a major role in the country’s music business and culture.


The dubious privatization deals of the mid-’90s, such as that of metals giants Norilsk Nickel, Novolipetsk Steel Plant, or oil and gas company Surgutneftegaz, helped many of those in orbit around the Kremlin’s power base accumulate significant wealth and influence in the country (as long as they behave). The music industry was spared this cronyist privatization simply because there was nothing of much interest — value — for the country’s burgeoning oligarch class to grab.

Under communism, the country had just one record label, Melodiya, which was strictly controlled by the government, which made sure that only “safe” records and artists were released and promoted. FM radio simply didn’t exist. Concerts were managed by state-run agencies, and rock musicians were mostly barred from touring. It would be charitable to characterize the last century of the Russian music industry as barebones.

Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37107 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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