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Russian music biz ‘devastated’ at Ukraine conflict

The country's touring business warns of "catastrophe" for the industry and makes united call for peace as the war in Ukraine intensifies

By James Hanley on 28 Feb 2022

KTiBO is, once again, calling for support from the government

The Russian concert industry has made a united call for peace as the war in Ukraine intensifies, with one leading promoter speaking of the “catastrophe” facing the region’s live music business.

Russian forces launched a full-scale invasion of neighbouring Ukraine last week, attacking locations across the country. More than 100 people are reported to have been killed and thousands have fled their homes.

“All our thoughts and prayers are with our Ukrainian friends,” says Semyon Galperin, producer, art director and talent buyer for live music venue Tele-Club Ekaterinburg, situated to the east of Moscow. “Us Russians who are against war, we feel devastated – it’s a catastrophe.”

Galperin tells IQ that the implications for international touring mean that mass cancellations are inevitable. However, there looks certain to be further knock-on effects from the financial sanctions placed on Russia’s central bank by the US, UK and EU.

“I don’t think that foreign acts will be able to play in Russia in the near future,” he tells IQ. “I’m sure everything we have planned, or on sale, is going to be cancelled. We will have to refund ticket buyers, but some of the money is already in agencies’ bank accounts, and they won’t be able to send that back – as far as I understand – because most Russian banks will be under severe sanctions. So the international part of the business will suffer terrible losses, which will probably make a lot of leading Russian companies either bankrupt or severely in debt.”

Tele-Club has hosted western artists such as Garbage, Papa Roach, The Prodigy, Tiesto, Armin Van Buuren and Sum 41, and currently has upcoming shows in the diary with the likes of Nothing But Thieves, Uriah Heep and Morcheeba. Galperin also references acts from the Ukraine including singer Luna, who is due to perform nine shows at the venue, but has been forced to flee her home in Kyiv with her family.

“The Russian showbusiness market will most likely shrink to those acts who either support Putin or who keep silent”

“She has written that she is in a basement with her kid for the last several days,” he says. “Her husband, who is a guitarist, composer and sound producer, commented on Facebook that, ‘The main thing is to keep our lives.’ So obviously, Ukrainian acts won’t go to Russia anytime soon, except for some of the acts loyal to Putin.

“The government was always cancelling bands, especially during the Crimea crisis in 2014, and then it slowed down. But since last October they have been trying to cancel shows. The government was suggesting cancellations and sometimes promoters got scared and behaved. One of the shows was by a Russian rap act called Noize MC, which was cancelled about a week ago. Noize MC criticised Putin in the past. A lot of bands will be cancelled because of the same reason. We literally have pretty long cancellation lists.

“Basically, the Russian showbusiness market will most likely shrink to those acts who either support Putin or who keep silent. So you can say there is no concert industry in Russia anymore, although there always will be singers. Even in countries with the most brutal dictatorships, some things go on.”

Galperin is one of dozens of signatories from the Russian entertainment business who have endorsed a letter calling for an end to the conflict.

“We, employees of the Russian concert, theatre and music industry, deem it necessary to formulate our attitude to the events taking place in Ukraine and inevitably affecting all the countries of Europe and the former USSR,” it says. “Our work is to create cultural values. Our mission is to make art accessible to people from small to great. Art, culture – what distinguishes a man from a beast, what unites people.

“Culture is an inseparable value, and access to culture is a basic human right. Any armed conflict will attempt this right, as well as the inseparable human right to life, health, liberty, happiness. We believe it is vital to immediately stop military actions on the territory of Ukraine, the consequences of which will be irreversible. ”

Artists such as Green Day, AJR and Louis Tomlinson have already cancelled 2022 shows in Russia. But having worked at Tele-Club since 2015, Galperin argues the impact of the country becoming off limits as a touring destination for overseas artists will not necessarily be significant.

“Russia was an emerging market, so I don’t think cancelling Russia will greatly change things,” he says. “But I should note that fans who listen to foreign bands are less likely to be fooled. They have a better perspective on the world because they are interested in western music culture, so they are not exactly fans of Putin, most likely quite the opposite. But financially, I don’t think that Russia was such a big market that the world can’t carry on without it.”

Galperin finishes with a plea for understanding for the predicament faced by Russian concert promoters as a result of the terrible situation.

“It is not our choice, of course,” he says. “I never supported Putin, I was always against him. I was always expressing my opinion and being frank about what I think about Putin’s regime. But still, we feel shock, shame and guilt, and I was amazed to hear some words of support from Ukraine and the whole world. People around the world understand that it’s Putin who started the war, and there are many good and honest Russian people.

“There is also this strange question about how we can find some options to rebate ticket fees to customers because of the blocked financial system. This sounds like an absolutely minor problem compared to terrible suffering Ukrainian people are going through. But as said, absolute majority of music fans do not support the war so it will be proper to support them too as their financial troubles are going to be enormous in the nearest years.

“I plead to all the world to please help Ukrainian people with humanitarian aid, medical aid, child care and everything they may need.”


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