iTunes Music Store Launches in Russia
Due to uncertainty about licensing procedures, the local catalog is limited.
MOSCOW – iTunes music store has been launched in Russia, but the local catalog is small as rights for many tracks haven’t been cleared yet.
The service became operable in the early hours of Dec. 4, following several months of unconfirmed reports that iTunes was supposed to come to Russia before the end of the year.
But while the catalog features, in addition to iTunes global staples, several popular local artists, such as Yolka, Grigory Leps, Lyube and Nautilus Pompilius, many of those whose tracks are offered by Russian online music services, are not to be found.
Apple did not respond to The Hollywood Reporter’s request about the total number of tracks and albums offered to iTunes Russian customers or the proportion of local fare.
Meanwhile, the local business daily Vedomosti reported that several Russian labels were hesitant to license their tracks as they are not clear about the licensing procedure. The same report quoted a letter sent by Apple to several Russian record labels, in which the company suggested that licensing deals should be concluded through the Russian music publisher First Music or RAO, the country’s sole Russian state-approved authors’ rights collecting society. However, under Russian law, RAO cannot operate as a licensing agent for online services, while its own digital rights catalogue is not substantial.
Most albums offered by iTunes in Russia cost between 99 rubles ($3.2) and 149 rubles ($4.8), which is slightly cheaper than offerings from Muz.ru, one of the country’s main online music services. Individual tracks retail at iTunes at 19 rubles ($0.6).
Incidentally, several major local online music stores, which offered individual tracks and albums for sale, such as Fidel.ru, Yota.Music and SoundKey.ru, have gone out of business over the last few years due to insufficient demand. One of Russia’s largest legitimate music services, Yandex.Muzyka, offers tracks for streaming as opposed to selling them. Meanwhile, many Russians’ main form of consumption online music is downloading it from torrent tracking web sites, such as Rutracker.org.