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Ukrainian musicians urge streaming services to allow political messaging on their platforms in response to Russian invasion

By | Published on Tuesday 1 March 2022

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Members of the Ukrainian music community yesterday called on Apple Music and Spotify to allow artists to include political messaging in their artwork on the streaming platforms in response to Russia’s invasion of their country.

As the Russian army continues and escalates its military assault on Ukraine, President Putin’s regime is pursing a prolific propaganda campaign within Russia in a bid to hide the motives for and scale of the invasion. Ukrainian musicians want to pursue every possible way of informing Russian citizens about what is happening on the ground, including via the digital platforms that have an audience in Russia. However, streaming services like Apple and Spotify have rules against political messaging.

Kyiv-based promoter H2D posted a message to Instagram yesterday stating: “We appeal to the leaders of Apple Music and Spotify. On 24 Feb, the Russian Federation attacked Ukraine. Civilians are suffering, civilians’ homes, hospitals and orphanages are being destroyed”.

“The Russian people do not have access to truthful information”, it went on. “The propaganda of the aggressor state turned out to be so strong that ordinary people in Russia still do not believe or refuse to believe what is happening. We, Ukrainian artists, want to change the covers of our albums and tracks to convey this information to our listeners from Russia and around the world”.

“But this is not possible now”, it added, “because streaming platforms hold a ‘no politics in music’ position”, meaning political messaging is being blocked. “Music can no longer be out of politics. We have united at the initiative of the music media SLUKH and [the] Ministry Of Digital Transformation, [and] appeal to the directors of streaming services. The world in which music is out of politics is over. Please allow us to tell the truth and stop the bloodshed”.

There are other changes the streaming services could make to show support for the Ukrainian music community, including ensuring that they do not interact with countries like Ukraine via their Russian offices. Speaking to IQ yesterday, Dartsya Tarkovska from Music Export Ukraine explained how “for the majority of streaming services and distributors, the communication has been happening via Moscow”.

That has been frustrating for years as political tensions between Russia and Ukraine have been building, but has clearly now become untenable. Tarkovska added: “We have been trying to change that for quite a while. We’re saying, if these organisations are not ready to create independent offices in Ukraine, we’re fine going through Poland but we don’t want to go through the Russian offices of these companies”.

Western artists are also being urged to cancel any plans to tour in Russia in protest at the war. A number already have done, including Green Day and Yungblud, while music companies like Oak View Group have vowed not to do business in Russia or with Russian companies.

Of course, while formal boycotts are politically important, the widespread sanctions being instigated against Russian financial institutions and restrictions on flights into the country will make operating in Russia difficult for international artists and music companies anyway.

Plus, as the Putin regime ramps up even further its propaganda campaign and seeks to silence all critics within the country, even Russian artists will likely find it difficult to perform, except for those that openly support the President.

Meanwhile, in Ukraine, members of the music community – like all Ukrainians – are obviously dealing with the horrific consequences of Russia’s invasion. Both Tarkovska and H2D General Manager Sergii Maletskyi have spoken to IQ about what has happened in recent days, with the former concluding: “Right now, it’s a matter of survival and no one cares about the music industry”.

Music Export Ukraine has also complied a list of ways to support the country as the war unfolds which has been published by Tallinn Music Week here.