After Leaving Russia, Spotify Removes State-Owned Media Outlets RT and Sputnik

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The Kremlin in Moscow, Russia. Photo Credit: Michael Parulava

Earlier this week, Spotify “indefinitely” closed its Russian offices in response to the invasion of Ukraine. Now, the Stockholm-based company has officially booted Russian state-owned news outlets Sputnik and RT from its service.

Spotify’s exit from Russia and more recent removal of Sputnik and RT arrive amid a broader music industry response to the Ukraine conflict. Acts including Green Day and Eric Clapton have called off previously scheduled concerts in Moscow, and Live Nation declared on social media that it “will not promote shows in Russia” and “will not do business with Russia.”

Meanwhile, Warner Music’s Atlantic Records Russia has “indefinitely” postponed all releases, and Sony Music Russia appeared to show support for Ukraine in an Instagram post. On Monday, a Disney Music Group exec described Russian sanctions as “a big blow for us.”

Spotify’s initially mentioned removal of RT and Sputnik (specifically for users outside Russia, per Reuters) comes as companies such as Apple and Roku are likewise taking steps against one or both of the outlets.

Apple deleted RT from the App Store for international users (and ceased selling products in Russia), for instance, and San Jose-headquartered Roku took down the RT app from its platform altogether. (Google today paused its ad sales in Russia.)

Spotify has also limited access to certain audio programs affiliated with Moscow and agreed to match employee donations to Ukraine two to one. Regarding the timing of these and other moves, it’s worth noting that Ukraine’s vice prime minister and minister of digital transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, called for action from both Spotify and Apple in an open letter on Tuesday.

“Unfortunately, the propaganda of the aggressor state turned out to be so strong that ordinary Russians, music lovers, still do not believe what is happening with Ukraine,” Fedorov’s message to Spotify managing director for Southern and Eastern Europe Federica Tremolada reads in part. “Music can no longer be out of politics. And never will be again.

“We want to convey to all listeners from Russia information about what is really happening. The only way to stop the bloodshed is to help the people of Russia hear the truth. Only the Russian people and their solidarity can influence the end of the war.

“In order to show the truth about the situation in Ukraine, we ask for permission to put this picture (or similar ones) instead of album covers of Ukrainian musicians and artists,” the document continues.

(The image in question features the Ukrainian flag with overlaid text stating, “While you are listening to this song, Ukrainian civilians are dying from Russian bombing! We ask Russian citizens to stop this war! To protest that regime!”)

“In addition to this,” the letter proceeds, “we ask you to block Spotify accounts of Russian artists who support the war and Putin’s aggressive actions, such as Nikolai Baskov, Leonid Agutin, Prokhor Shalyapin [“Прохор Шаляпин” in Russian] and others.

“We want peace, clear skies and freedom. We don’t want war,” the text concludes.

Multiple artists’ profiles now feature the above-described image (or variations thereof). But at least in the United States, the listed Russian artists’ music remains live on the streaming service.

More than a few members of the music community – including some Russia-based professionals – have taken to social media to weigh in on international companies’ responses to the war in Ukraine.

“Paypal is about to be disabled in Russia,” penned Russian EDM artist Acryl Madness. “If that happens, I will end my music career. I understand that a lot of people now despise the Russians and think that we are all to blame for this war. But believe me, we can’t influence it in any way. We are suffering too.”

One Response

  1. Turtle

    Now they can stop protecting and favoring white supremacists. I don’t think Joe Rogan is the first one they favored.