There have been few times in history when so many people have come together so quickly against a common foe. In the case of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, most of the world rapidly rallied against him in an astonishing number of ways. And because Ukraine is outnumbered and outgunned, every little bit counts.
Here are some of the ways the music world has reacted and come to the defence of the people of Ukraine.
Live music in Russia has taken a hit
Not only are Western artists cancelling their concert appearances in Russia (Green Day, Iron Maiden, Franz Ferdinand, and Nick Cave among them), Live Nation, the world’s biggest promoter, has announced that it will no longer do business in Russia.
And it’s not just Western acts, either. Oxxxymiron, one of Russia’s most popular rappers, cancelled sold-out shows in Moscow as a way of protesting the invasion. In Putin’s world, this could be a severe career-limiting move. He was joined by a metal band called Slaughter to Prevail. Other Russian acts have joined the call for peace and to push for change. These are brave moves in an autocratic country bound on destroying so much.
Another example of bravery is these Ukrainian musicians who have turned into war correspondents and fundraisers for the military.
Russia has been kicked out of Eurovision
The Eurovision Song Contest means little to people on this side of the Atlantic, but it’s been a very big deal from Iceland the Urals for decades. Performing in the annual competition is a point of pride for all European nations. To be excluded from such a prestigious international event has more of an effect than we may realize.
The TASS hack
The cyber warfare aspect of this conflict has been fascinating. Anti-Putin hackers — probably associated with the Anonymous collective — managed to get into TASS, the official Russian news agency. Not only did they manage to get Ukrainian songs broadcast, but they also posted a message that read: “Dear citizens. We urge you to stop this madness, do not send your sons and husbands to certain death. Putin makes us lie and puts us in danger.”
Musicians are raising funds for humanitarian relief
Nadya Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot has formed a crypto organization to help fund Ukrainian aid groups. It’s a bold move, since she and her people have been poking Putin with a stick for a year. She’s already been arrested and detained a number of times and is considered to be a hostile foreign agent. Meanwhile, Japanese rock star Yoshiki has donated ¥10,000,000 (about $110,000 in Canada) to Ukrainian organizations devoted to humanitarian relief.
The Ukrainian national anthem is now being played all over the world
Originating from a 19th-century poem entitled Ukraine Is Not Dead Yet, the anthem was banned in 1922 when the Soviet Union took control. It began its return to anthem status in 1992 with Ukraine’s independence after the fall of the USSR. Lyrics were approved in 2003. The anthem has spread around the world in the last fortnight, including to the Ottawa Senators who are playing it before home games.
There’s pressure on streaming music services
Streaming is a big deal in Russia and up to 70 per cent of listening is done to domestic artists. If enough Russian artists turn against Putin, this could have a tremendous influence on the youth of the country. Keep in mind that the Russian army consists mainly of conscripts. What if young people start to actively resist the draft?
In a move that could push things further, there’s a call for the streaming music services to allow for artists to post anti-war artwork on their pages on Spotify, Apple Music, and all the others. Currently such political messaging is against the rules. Certainly, an exception can be made for this, can’t it?
Spotify has closed its offices in Russia “indefinitely” and promises to help donate toward humanitarian efforts. In a statement, the company said “We are deeply shocked and saddened by the unprovoked attack on Ukraine. Our first priority over the past week has been the safety of our employees and to ensure that Spotify continues to serve as an important source of global and regional news at a time when access to information is more important than ever.
“We think it’s critically important to try to keep our service operational in Russia to allow for the global flow of information.”
Translation: Spotify is a channel through which anti-Putin protest messages can reach the Russian people.
Speaking of streaming services…
The hammer is coming down on Russian oligarchs in hopes that they will pressure Vladimir Putin to stop the insanity. Roman Abramovitch, the steel and energy oligarch, is at the top of the list for sanctions. Not only is he apparently selling his properties in London, but he wants to divest himself of one of his most treasured possessions: Chelsea of the EPL, a team he’s owned since 2003.
He just put the team up for sale through a U.S. bank with an asking price of £3 billion (a little more than C$5 billion). His first preference is an American buyer but others are kicking the tires including a Swiss billionaire. He apparently wants a quick sale of many of his assets before the sanctions hit.
Might Daniel Ek, Spotify’s CEO, be interested? Remember that Ek made an unsolicited and unsuccessful bid for Arsenal last year. Instead, he settled for an expensive sponsorship with Barcelona of the Spanish league. Question: Would Ek be a potential buyer of Chelsea? We’ll see.
And then there’s this
Long before he was elected president and ascended to the level of national hero, Volodymyr Zelenskyy was a successful comedian and entertainer. In 2006, he won Ukraine’s version of Dancing with the Stars. How far he has come…