Universal Music Suspends Operations, Closes Offices in Russia

Universal Music Group (UMG) has suspended all operations in Russia and has closed its offices in the country. UMG staff within the country will continue to receive salaries for an undetermined amount of time, while artists will have most of their recordings on hold.

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“Effective immediately, we are suspending all operations in Russia and closing our offices there,” read a statement by Universal on March 8. “We urge an end to the violence in Ukraine as soon as possible. We are adhering to international sanctions and, along with our employees and artists, have been working with groups from a range of countries, including the US, UK, Poland, Slovakia, Germany, Czech Republic, and Hungary, to support humanitarian relief efforts to bring urgent aid to refugees in the region.”

The move comes as the Russian invasion of Ukraine enters its second week. Universal joins several other companies within the music and entertainment industry who have boycotted the Russian market, including Netflix, which has pulled its service, and Live Nation, which will no longer do business with and within Russia. Spotify also revealed last week that it would be shutting its offices in Russia “indefinitely” but plans to keep its service “operational in Russia to allow for the global flow of information,” while the streaming platform TikTok has also scaled back its platform within the country.

In the UK, PRS for Music, which represents the rights of more than 160,000 songwriters and music publishers worldwide “suspended with immediate effect” its rights representation agreement with the Russian Authors’ Society RAO.

Following the move by Universal to pull business out of Russia, Warner Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment, which also have local labels and operations within Russia, have not formally removed their business formats from the country. Though, Sony, along with Disney and Warner Bros. have halted the release of films in Russia. Additionally, Sony and Microsoft, EA have suspended all new sales of their products and services in Russia.

On March 4, Warner Music Group sent a memo to employees saying “like you, we’ve been deeply saddened, moved, and disturbed by the consequences that the fighting in Ukraine has had on millions of people, particularly innocent families, children, the elderly, and other vulnerable populations,” and said the company will match all employee donations to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

“In addition to our work with the ICRC, we’ve made donations to Polish Humanitarian Action and Project Hope, which are both supplying refugees with medical provisions, food, and other basic items, while protecting the safety and dignity of displaced people,” read the letter from Warner, which also highlighted supporting the Afya Foundation Ukraine Wish List, which helps brings supplies to those in need. “We’re also working to provide our Polish team in Warsaw with supplies and resources. Our colleagues there are among those helping to house and support Ukrainian refugees who were able to cross the border. We are grateful for and humbled by their efforts, and are in regular contact to stay apprised of the local situation.”

Those within the music industry join a growing list of more than 200 International companies that have already suspended or closed business within Russia, including Apple, Samsung, MasterCard, Visa, and IKEA. McDonald’s and Coca-Cola have suspended their operations in Russia for an undetermined amount of time.

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