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Ukrainian songs flood YouTube charts as Russian influence wanes

A new analysis reveals Ukrainian music has staged a remarkable comeback on YouTube since Russia’s invasion
Singer Oleh Skrypka, leader of the rock band Vopli Vidopliassova
Ukrainian songs flood YouTube charts as Russian influence wanes

Prior to February 2022, YouTube’s rankings in Ukraine were overwhelmed by Russian-language songs, which occupied up to 75% of top chart positions. Ukrainian-language music struggled for visibility, making up just 10% of the weekly top 100. But in the months since Russia’s assault began, homegrown Ukrainian acts have rapidly overturned this imbalance. They now account for 65% of YouTube’s top slots in the country, while Russian musicians have been largely purged from the charts, Ekonomichna Pravda writes.

Experts attribute the radical shift to Ukrainians seeking out more domestic talent during a time of war and major streaming companies like YouTube responding to the war by downgrading Russian content.

“Ukrainian artists have reclaimed not only spots in the rankings but views as well,” said Ivan Klymenko, founder of the Enko music label in Kyiv.

In 2021, he noted, Russian songs got nearly 1.5 billion YouTube hits in Ukraine versus just 194 million for Ukrainian ones. The tide has now turned decisively, with Ukrainian music outperforming Russian by over 600 million views in 2023 so far.

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The war appears to have enriched Ukrainian performers financially as well. Best Music, a Ukrainian publishing company, reported one its top artists earning 248% more from streaming services in the third quarter of 2022 compared to 2021. Other leading singers saw quarterly streaming revenues in the $18,000 range.

Ukrainian music about Russia’s war: a tale of struggle, pain, power, and courage

An analysis by Economic Pravda found the number of Ukrainian-language singers appearing in domestic YouTube charts skyrocketed from just 40 in 2021 to 135 in 2022. Their share of top 100 slots likewise shot up from 10% to 55% that year, reaching 65% in 2023.

Experts say this turnaround stems partly from Ukrainians purposefully seeking out more homegrown music during wartime. But strategic decisions by streaming platforms have also been key. With their Russian offices now shuttered, Spotify, Apple and YouTube curate playlists with far less Russian content. As one music executive put it, “Russian music stopped squeezing out Ukrainian artists.”

The growth of Ukrainian streaming reflects a national culture taking back market share ceded to Russia in the pre-war years. For a new generation of artists, it has also boosted incomes. With few concerts and live events available, streaming revenue has become a financial lifeline. One label founder said monthly payouts from YouTube and other platforms reached no more than $1,000 per act before the war but have since multiplied.

However, streaming data likely exaggerates the dominance of Ukrainian music, given older Ukrainians still tune in to Russian favorites. Specifically, based on the “Degree of Society During War” research, nearly 30% of Ukrainians were tuning into tracks by Russian performers in May 2023. However, 22% of these individuals were consuming Russian material with much less frequency than in the past. It’s widely acknowledged that since the commencement of the major conflict, the music landscape in Ukraine has tilted towards Ukrainian songs.

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