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Universal settles with vKontakte, signs on to legit music services

By | Published on Monday 18 July 2016


Ask any army chief, it’s never wise to try to fight a war on multiple fronts, and if at all possible, you should never have an Eastern Front. So good news everybody, the music industry’s long running battle with Russian social network vKontakte is over. Now it can move all the tanks over to the Google Front in Mountain View.

As expected, Universal Music has finally signed on the dotted line to work with vKontakte on legit music services, and in doing so the mega-major ends its long running litigation against the social media firm.

At one point all three major record companies were suing vKontakte, which was a definite contender for enemy number one in music industry circles for a while, it having long turned a blind eye to the rampant copyright infringement occurring on its networks. But Sony called off its lawsuit having reached a ‘goodwill agreement’ with the tech firm just under a year ago, while Warner settled in April.

The various deals will actually see the majors work with vKontakte on a number of different music ventures, including, presumably, the social media firm’s recently launched music app. And those ventures will go beyond vKontakte itself, involving other platforms owned by the Group, the Russian internet firm that took complete ownership of the social network in 2014.

As with the Warner deal, the Universal settlement also involves an alliance with a company called the United Music Agency, which seems to be aggregating the music content to be distributed via’s channels. And as with both the Sony and Warner deals, there seems to be some flexibility in the new Universal alliance to allow the tech firm to experiment with various music service models, albeit while paying the majors the multi-million dollar advances they like so much.

Confirming that the biggest of the world’s record companies was now finally on board, the Chairman of the Group, Dmitry Grishin, said on Friday: “Our partnership with the leading rights holders will take the Russian music market to a whole new level and allow us to offer users the best music from around the world through existing and new digital products”.

Meanwhile vKontakte CEO Boris Dobrodeyev added: “Following extensive negotiations, we have agreed terms with all of the major music rights holders, enabling us to draw a line under this process. This is a historic moment and a new milestone in vKontakte’s history. Our constructive and mutually beneficial collaboration has put an end to earlier disputes with the record companies. Following the removal of legal barriers, we can now create new products based on vKontakte’s music service that users will value”.

And just in case you’re sitting there thinking, ‘yeah, where’s the Universal dude to confirm all this’, well look, here’s Universal dude Adrian Cheesley to confirm all this: “Music has tremendous value and we’re gratified to reach a commercial agreement that ensures UMG’s artists are fairly compensated for the use of their music. Russia is an important, and growing, market for UMG and with this important step we’re looking forward to developing more local artists, investing in growing the music scene and broadly licensing services”.