This is an attempt to give a more or less complete picture of
music industry of the former Soviet Union, and Russia.. I'm just telling the facts that are commonly known in Russia, because I'm not a pro in this field, and my only relation with music industry was buying records they produced.
Part I. OLD YEARS
Probably it makes sense to start writing about music industry of the USSR from the time when actually first rock and pop records were released there.
First basic statement : from deep deep past, and until 1989 the there was
the only recording company in the USSR - _Melodia_ ( Melody ). Basically it meant monopoly on record publishing. As it is easy to suppose, this company was under the eye of governmtent, and thus everything, that was to be realeased on _Melodia_ should be ideologically correct.
Another sad, or maybe not that sad, fact. Since rock music appeared in the
world, it was always thought as somthing very bad by Soviet officials. As a main effect - it generated a strong underground movement of youth (actually it is correct to talk about a number of movements: hippie, punks, metallists and so on), the main objective of which and the main unification sing of which was a love to rock music… The side effect, of that official anti-rock music position and propaganda was that almost no records with any kind of rock or even pop music could be realeased in the SU.
since mid-70ies, when, some kind of Soviet analog of "Western" rock and pop
music became available from some band in SU, the unwritten rules for releasing records were a bit liberalized. The first group, that was though to play good music was obviously _the Beatles_ (in articles of early seventies they were presented as children of working class and so on in best proletarian traditions). Another kind of music, that was accepted by officials and permitted tobe released was euro-disco. Something like ABBA and Boney M. The number of records with pop/rock music that were released on _Melodia_ in mid/late 70ies can be easily counted - I think I'm aware of almost all those releases. Some of them were some kind of collections of dance songs(w/ Nat King Cole followed by Elvis), another were licensed releases of records or _best hits_ of some groups. The best from the last category were _Bee Gees_. There were about 3/4 different 33.5 singles and one LP released in SU in late 70ies/early 80-ies.
Another tradition of Soviet music industry - official bootleging - i.e.
republishing of the works of some musicians without any permission. _the Beatles_ and _Rolling Stone_ were in that list. There was released a single (or EP - 4 songs) of Beatles with _Come Together_/_Octopus Garden_ and 2 more songs (don't remember which ones, but probably - from Abbey Road). Another single - _Because_. This record even *did not* contain the name _Beatles_ on it. The label just said (translating from Russian) "Vocal-Instrumental Ensamble, England". By the way, "Vocal Instrumental Ensamble" was the substitution for the "rock group" that was used by Soviet officials… Another big release, that influenced a lot was the LP of _Smokie_ Probably, even now, the popularity of _Smokie_ in Russia is bigger than anywhere else… One more record - I can't explain why was it published in SU: _Manfred Mann_ (I don't know exactly what concretly..)
Part II. 80-ies.
Starting from 1983/84 _Melodia_ signed a couple of contracts with EMI and
Polydor for producing some records. We got John Lennon's _Imagine_(this was and is one of the biggest rarities among Soviet LPs -my collection is pretty big, but I do not have this one - my _Imagine_ is made in Bulgaria). This started a number of official _Beatles'_ infulenced releases. Next one was pot pourri of Beatles songs by _Stars on 45_ from Netherlands (my favorite record for about 1.5 year at that time). After this _A Hard Day's Night_ was released together with a collection of songs from 3 other first Beatles records, titled strangely : _A Taste of Honey_… Approximately at the same time or a bit earlier happened that episode with the release of _The Wall_. Everything was ready, but Roger Waters happened to mention Brezhnev in the same phrase with one of the biggest Soviet enimies of that time - Begin, and matrices of _The Wall_ were destriyed, and Pink Floyd declared prohibited…
From that time, each year _Melodia_ released something new, but this was always like 10 record worth buying per year. In 1985 German pop duo_Modern Talking_ hit Europe, and USSR - 3 of their records were released in 1986-88… In 1986 _Melodia_ released a record, that IMHO is the the best and most brilliant their release ever : _Love OVer Gold_ by Dire Straits. I dunno what made Soviet officials make that decision - but I'm greatful to them for the rest of my life…
Another good releases : (just names of groups) :
_Deep Purple_ _A house of Blue Light_ _Rainbow_ best hits collection _Moody Blues_ their 1986 (don't remember the title) record _Alen Parsons Project_ best hits .....................
Part III. HOW DID WE MANAGE TO SURVIVE
As one can easily see, there was no chance of getting really acquainted with rock music by just buying the records available in the stores (besides _Melodia_ production, only limited amount of East European LPs was available). But the army of rock fans grew with every day.. A paradox? Now, this has to do with another branch of Soviet musicindustry, that commonly was called "magnetophone-culture" ("magnetophone" is a taperecorder).
Everything started on the people who could go abroad and bring "Western" LPs
from there. Then those LPs were carefully copied to the tapes, "first copies" in slang. These first copies were distributed among people who made copies from them and so on… A tape tree… The nodes of this tape tree were so called "recording studios" - probably the most strange organizations ever existed in the "socialist" SU. Officially - these studios were allowed to distribute (for a certain fee, of course) only the music that was accepted by authorities. But thuogh you won't make any profit on this music, the catalogs of the studios were full of "Western" rock music (as well as of some Soviet, or Russian underground rock sometimes). Just a note -those studios were not private - they were the property of the City Council, how ever is is called in Russian… So, this is the perfect example of double standard in the Soviet Union - officially prohibited things are distributed by the people who prohibited them…
Of course from the point of view of recording companies and musicians -the
existance of those studios and distribution of tapes for a profit (and a very good profit, by the way) is a violation of all Copyright laws, but - we had no choice.. Musicians can be satisfied by the fact that they are extremly popular in SU…
No need to say that the quality of the tapes on the leaves of the "tape-tree" was extremly poor… I have some of such tapes, and I don't throw them away only because those were my first tapes with REAL music.
Part IV. WIND OF CHANGES
Late eighties - "Perestroika", "Glasnost" and so on… Something must have been changed. The first victory was when after all it appeared that rock music is "good" music, and it has nothing to do with capitalism, fascism and other "bad" things (for a long time "punk" in SU was a synonym of "fascist").
Of course _Melodia_ started to do something. First they produced a beutiful,
serie of 13 records (in violation of all possible Copyright laws again) That was called _Pop Archive_. Here is a complete list of that serie (all the records - best songs selections)
#1. Doors _Light My Fire_
#2. Stevie Wonder (the only one I don't have…)
#3. Creedence _Travellin' Band_
#4. Rolling Stones (forgot the title - compilation from 1964/65)
#5. Rolling Stones _Lady Jane_ (1965/67 w/ _Satisfaction_)
#6. Led Zeppelin _Stairway to Heaven_ (no comment)
#7. Elton John (from his first records)
#8. Deep Purple _Smoke on the Water_ (w/ _Child in Time_)
#9. Elton John _Your Song_ (his later works)
#10 DAvid Bowie _Space Oddity_ ( !!! - who could think of him ???
from _Oddity_, _Man who sold.._ and _Ziggy..._ )
#11 – don't remember what was it –
#13. Rolling Stones (from 1968/69)
.. Not a bad collection, is it ? At the same time McCartney declared the release of his _Back in The USSR_ in the Soviet Union - probably the only Russian record that is known by rock fans around the world..
Here I must notice that together with releases of foreign Rock music there were released some of the best of Soviet underground Rock..
Basically this was the last breath of _Melodia_ because in 1989/1990 its monopoly became broken. New independent recording companies appeared and they started producing records with a very big speed.. The first independent company was oriented on Russian underground and unfortunately it survived only 10 beautiful records … The other companies were managed by more commercially oriented people, and their main orientation was foreign rock. The biggest independent company now is SNC (Stas Namin Center -Stas Namin is one of most succesfull Soviet producers). They started with4 or 5 _Black Sabbath_ records. Melodia responded with The Dark Side of The Moon (to the biggest joy of all Pink Floyd fans - right after Pink Floyd's concerts in Moscow), Tina Turner's _Foreign Affairs_ and _Flowers on the Dirt_ (McCartney)… Next came another companies, and it became more intersting to live in USSR (and then in Russia).
Company LAD' produced 3 Dire Straits records and set 2 records for Dire
Straits - _On Every Street_ was released in 4 months after its official release in the rest of the world, and so far Dire Straits is the only group, that has more than one record in Russia (USSR) and all the records are licensed…
The St.Petersburg division of _Melodia_ was captured by the leading
St.Petersburg underground sound enginer and producer, who made of it a very wierd enterprise and started his campaign in popularizing good music in Russia (it happened during 1991/1992 and guess he's still on his way). All the thing published by his "company" were bootleged… But : in 4 months they released 5 Led Zep records, 6 Beatles records (all the records - original), Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here (I think now they should have released some more Pink Floyd's stuff, like The Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall), Bob Dylan (Slow TRain Coming), Stooges (House of Fun), Sonic Youth (no title unfortunately), Jesus Christ Superstar ("British" version/ Iat Guillan), Deep Purple (StormBringer), Rolling Stones (Sticky Fingers), best hits of Bob Marley, Byrds, and more and more and more….
Part V. CONCLUSION
So, as you can see, the situation in music industry in the Soviet Unionand
then in Russia nevr was "normal"… One reason of it is because nor our government neither the recording companies that appeared later have enough money to buy a license on producing the records from the leading compnies. The cost of an LP even now is very low if we start counting it in dollars (the most expensive LPs never cost more than $1 - $2.), even though in roubles it is not a low price..
Also, tapes and CD's with records started to appear only past two years,
andthey appear (especially tapes) in a very random way…
Russian CDs are probably the least expensive in the world (when I left Russia the price of CD was 600-1000 roubles, while the course of dollar was about 150-200 roubles. Now I have no idea about CD prices,but the course of dollar is about 600 roubles).
But the trade-off is a rather poor quality...
This is basically all the information about Russian music industry and the most valuable for Russian music fans record releases..
…………Alex, "an email animal"………………….
Alexander Dekhtyar firstname.lastname@example.org