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Artists blacklisted in Russia over anti-war views

A blacklist of performers who have spoken out against the war in Ukraine has been leaked to Russian media.

The letter was published in pro-democracy newspaper Novaya Gazeta, whose editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021 alongside journalist Maria Ressa for safeguarding freedom of expression in their homelands.

“Such lists existed before, they were actively brought to the attention of promoters, organisers of concerts and concert venues,” states the 18 March article. “There is only one difference: now for violation of the ban and honest words from the stage, you can incur administrative, and even criminal liability.”

The list includes rock group Aquarium, whose lead singer Boris Grebenshchikov took to Instagram to call the war “madness”.

“I’ve spent half my life under some sort of ban,” Grebenshchikov told the BBC. “There were bans in the ’70s, bans in the ’80s – there’s nothing unusual about it. Then the same people who ban you give you prizes.”

Russian Media Group (RMG) released a statement explaining why it was no longer playing certain acts on its  radio stations or music TV channel.

“The reason for this decision was the harsh statements these musicians made towards Russia in the context of the difficult situation between Russia and Ukraine,” it said.

According to the BBC, another list was reportedly circulated to music venues and promoters in Russia demanding that certain artists were banned from performing because of their anti-war views.

“There are more artists on the list, and there is more resistance”

Speaking to IQ last month, Semyon Galperin, producer, art director and talent buyer for live music venue Tele-Club Ekaterinburg, explained such action against critics of Putin’s regime was nothing new.

“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,” he said. “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… 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.”

Galperin and Noize MC’s manager Elena Savelieva were both interviewed for the Novaya Gazeta article. Explaining the cancellation process, Savelieva told the publication: “Someone from the administration calls [or] comes to the club, informing the director that if anyone from the list speaks in this hall, the hall will be closed for inspection, fined for a fire hazard, or simply arranged for an event to provide evacuation exercises.

“Previously, the most popular move was to notify the leadership of the hall that a call had been received for mining. The result will be the evacuation of spectators and artists, the search for the bomb will drag on for 3-4 hours, and it will be simply impossible to hold a concert. But now this practice is rarely used.”

She added: “[The new list] is pretty flavoured with Ukrainian artists who always, even after 2014, performed in the Russian Federation without problems (except for Okean Elzy and Monatika, who themselves won’t go here now for any price). Our new names are Anacondaz, Galkin, Grebenshchikov, Meladze and Miron.

“There are more artists on the lists, and there is more resistance. Businesses have suffered greatly during the pandemic, and many are fighting for their earnings, defending artists, making promises to administrations, and have begun to go to court.”

 


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Russian industry pleads for moratorium on refunds

The Russian live industry is pleading for a moratorium on ticket refunds, as concerts and festivals are cancelled en masse.

Green Day, Imagine Dragons, Louis Tomlinson, Yungblud, Franz Ferdinand, Iggy Pop, The Killers, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and Bring Me the Horizon are among the artists that have pulled out of performances due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Association of Concert, Theater and Ticketing Organisations (KTiBO), which represents more than 20 of the biggest players in Russia, is proposing a moratorium on ticket refunds to prevent “the collapse of the industry”.

The association wants refunds to be frozen for events scheduled from 9th February 2022 to 3rd September 2023, provided they are/were cancelled or postponed before 6th January 2023.

“Due to circumstances beyond the control of the Russian organisers, such companies fell under the consequences of restrictive economic measures (sanctions) imposed by foreign states against the Russian Federation, including against banks, and do not have the opportunity to receive a refund of advances paid under transactions on time, established by the respective contracts,” it wrote in a letter to the chairman of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation Nabiullina E.S. and the head of the Federal Tax Service of the Russian Federation Egorov D.V.

Semyon Galperin, producer, art director and talent buyer for live music venue Tele-Club in Yekaterinburg previously pointed out that the issue of refunds is further complicated by the current sanctions on Russia.

“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.

“Some of the money is already in agencies’ bank accounts, and they won’t be able to send that back”

“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…

“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.”

The issue is being felt by individual promoters across the country including Moscow-based concert agency Pop Farm, which says that at one point “tens of thousands of people” contacted them for ticket refunds.

The promoter has cancelled all of its upcoming live music events including concerts with Foals, Twenty-One Pilots, Pixies, Michael Kiwanuka and Alt-J, as well as its June festival Pain.

“We physically don’t have time to process all the return requests,” reads a post on Pop Farm’s Facebook page. “We need a few days off to figure out how to proceed, so please be patient – returns will take longer than before…”

“We don’t know what will happen to the concerts next,” reads the post. “We don’t know (and no one knows) what will happen next.”

Elsewhere, Moscow-based festival Park Live is also asking fans to be patient during the refund process, as the event continues to shed international acts.

Placebo, My Chemical Romance, Slipknot, Biffy Clyro and Iggy Pop are among the artists that have disappeared from the line-up.

 


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Russian music biz ‘devastated’ at Ukraine conflict

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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