Many non-Russian fans want Russian bands to speak up against Putin and the invasion. However, things are not that simple and a bit more complicated than most think as those artists risk a huge backlash in Russia if they dare speaking up against the Russian invasion of Ukraine or ‘special operation’ as the authorities call it.
To give you some context, just a few days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Russian Media Group (RMG) started boycotting certain artists on its popular radio stations or music TV channel because they had spoken out against the war. Not only that, they are also getting pro-actively approached to stop criticizing the regime and get blacklisted.
A rumored black list is indeed circulating among music venues and promoters in Russia, this was confirmed by various promoters to us who for obvious reasons want to remain anonymous. Since they are not sure if everyone gets the same list, they refused to send us pictures, but they did indeed confirm the existence. It’s not sure if these lists are indeed official ones, but lists are circulating and get dropped in mailboxes of venues or they get approached by officials.
“I risk loosing my job”
None of the Russian bands we spoke to want to end up on those lists of course to avoid repression and/or fines. One source said the following: “It’s easy for Westerners to say that we just should put an update on VK to say we are against this madness. I risk to loose my daily job and get banned from releasing music or even playing live in Russia. I’m opposed to what happens but my hands are literally tied.”
Another band said they regularly receive messages from Ukrainian fans: “Yes, we do often get mails from Ukrainian fans too and each time I explain the situation I’m in. It’s a complete catch 22.” Another source said: “I try to discuss with my friends about what happens and persuade them that this is very very wrong if they agree with Putin. But I can’t risk having my name in the open as an anti-Putin person, they’d ruin my life completely.”
But why do most non-Russian bands (who regularly tour Russia) refuse to speak out against the war?
Check the Facebook pages of many bands (also from this scene), in most cases you will not see a word about the situation. Instead most just post updates as if it’s business as usual (and some take it literally).
The reason for their silence is quite simple: they don’t want to get banned from performing in Russia for the next 50 years. Money prevails after all. It gets really cynical when you know that some of these bands often use their socials to spread all kind of other political messages.
Soon on the Russian blacklist: The Cure, Rammstein, Editors
But there are bands who prefer not to stay silent. Bands who do speak out against the war (and thus risk getting a visa ban) include Editors, The Cure and of course Rammstein. Not surprising in the case of Rammstein, the band has already been targeted by the Russian authorities in the past. Last year for instance a Russian music festival which was to star Rammstein singer Till Lindemann was canceled due to reported pressure from authorities.
We did approach various major bands from this scene as well to ask why they play silent on their social media. None of these bands got back to us. Silence often tells more than words. The question remains if any of these bands will again perform in Russia anytime soon as the situation is not really improving as time progresses.
One Russian artist says the following when we ask him about the silence of these Western bands: “As a Russian artist I will be prosecuted or worse if I do voice my concern, but these non-Russian bands are sadly enough only interested in their economics although they could inform thousands if not millions of Russian fans.”
Let’s see what happens…
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