Purging Russia’s Concert Business

The Russian parliament is about to consider a new law that would effectively wipe out most of the country’s live music business.

New legislation proposed by Duma deputy Aleksey Mitrofanov would require all promoters and venues from the club level up to obtain a license, which would be granted only to people or venues that can provide a bank guarantee of 150 million roubles (about $5 million).

Apart from a handful of international promoters based in the big cities, it’s doubtful if anyone in the Russian provinces could find that sort of cash.

“This potentially means that all small and medium sizes promoters especially ones in the cities outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg will be totally wiped out, so there will be no indie music scene and no small club circuit,” said Dmitry Zaretsky from Moscow-based SAV Entertainment.

Mitrofanov’s amendments to “The Principles of Legislation on Culture,” which also cover theatres, circuses and public-speaking platforms, are to “protect the public from substandard measures.”

Licenses would be revoked for any promoter or venue in “serious breach” of the requirements of the organization and conduct of entertainment activities.

Mitrofanov believes his amendments will help prevent fraud promoters and also “protect the public from poor quality of entertainment activities, calling for violence, drunkenness or the use of drugs.”

Many think that making a promoter responsible for repertoire is a cynical way of also making him responsible for the high-profile lawsuits that have followed recent shows by Madonna and Lady Gaga, while others see it as more of a way of censoring repertoire.

Anatoly Semenov, a lawyer representing entertainment businesses, told Russian newspaper Kommersant that the law would limit Russia to about 10 concert promoters and they would all need to be owners of substantial properties.

“It’s a restriction of competition and the introduction of a property qualification,” he said.

He told Kommersant he doesn’t see how regional promoters could cope with the new law. He said it could also drive live performances underground as smaller promoters simply won’t be able to afford the bank guarantee.