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The multi-genre festival Faine Misto enjoys a massive turnout just outside Ternopil. | Photo: festival website
The multi-genre festival Faine Misto enjoys a massive turnout just outside Ternopil. | Photo: festival website
Ricardo Delfino -

All Eyes on Ukraine, One of the Fastest-Growing Music Markets in Europe

More than six hundred thousand square kilometers, about forty million pairs of ears and hundreds of festivals, clubs, bands, and music media. If you have ambitions to reach the eastern countries with your music project, be sure to extend your tour to Ukraine —at the latest when it will be possible to travel without restrictions again.

A territory larger than France has always been severely tested—from the invasions of the Mongol-Tatar hordes and Turkish armies, through the destruction of Kiev by the Nazis, to the famine of the 1930s. In the last decade, this country bordering seven states, including Slovakia and Poland, has seen its territory occupied by the Russian Federation and has experienced conflicts with pro-Russian separatists. Despite this very bleak and recent history, Ukraine is one of the fastest growing music markets in Europe.

The recent entry of the streaming platform Spotify into the market there (in July 2020) was a big hit. Just in terms of music streaming, Ukraine is among the top five countries in the world with the highest year-on-year user growth in general. The capital Kiev has become one of the destinations offered in the European tour booking package of major artists. Some fifteen promoter agencies operate in the capital alone, including those that import foreign artists.

Avishai Cohen at Leopolis Jazz Festival 2021 | Photo: festival archive

"We are an independent initiative with the aim of helping local artists and the Ukrainian music industry to build an international position. Through our activities we connect musicians and music professionals from all over the world with local players for the purpose of cooperation and joint creation." Tetiana Stadnyk (Music Export Ukraine)

As in other countries, the Ukrainian music scene is mainly centralised in the capital. There are eight smaller clubs such as Arsenal XXII or Atlas, two concert halls with a capacity of five to eight thousand visitors, and one stadium. The Atlas Weekend festival is also held here—and with over six hundred thousand people in attendance despite the global pandemic, it was Europe's largest festival this year.

But big festivals can also be found outside the metropolis of the almost three-million-strong capital. The Leopolis Jazz Festival, Faine Misto, which Fakker's reporters went to this year, or the biggest rockabilly & psychobilly festival in Eastern Europe, Ukrabilly Bang!

"The Ukrainian music market is neglected by the Western and Czech media, just like the Eastern European market in general. However, the sold-out Prague shows of Alyona Alyona, DhakaBrakha, and Onuka, or the success of Dakh Daughters at Colours of Ostrava show that fans are guided by the quality that many Ukrainian artists offer. However, these are still one-offs—a systematic effort to promote the Ukrainian music market must also come from the public funding side, especially in the alternative segment." David Chaycik (Heartnoize Promotion, Full Moon Magazine)

It has been said that writing about music is like dancing about architecture. But there are over two dozen major online music media outlets in Ukraine covering cultural events and music news. Fans of heavier genres find their favorite artists covered in Daily Metal, Rock UA, or Rock Pravda, other branches of independent heavy music are covered by Neformat, and Notatky is brimming with news. Among the multi-genre platforms we can mention LiRoom, Music in UA, or Comma. In the FM space, you can tune in to almost forty radio stations—to which a legal quota applies that at least 51% of the music must be in the Ukrainian language.

Some Ukranian cultural export products are the bands Jinjer (heavy metal); Dakhabrakha, Dakh daughters (world music); Sinoptik, Hell Pas, Acid Row (rock); Alyona Alyona (rap); and Sasha Boole (country). 

Jinjer in the Prague Roxy club during their sold-out concert (2021) | Photo: Tomáš Rozkovec

If you are interested in how to break into the local market, you can turn to Music Export Ukraine for advice. A public database of festivals, clubs, music media, labels, and the music industry in general is now available on the website of this independent agency which has been operating internationally since 2018.

"I had the opportunity to play with the FORMA project at the Silent Nights festival in Odessa, Ukraine. Eventually, two more concerts were added to our trip. We also conducted a workshop on film music for students of the film school in Kiev. Ukraine was notable for the extremely friendly and hospitable attitude of the organisers and the excellent PR provision at the venues." Bára Zmeková, Czech singer-songwriter

MEU representatives Inna Lytovka and Tetiana Stadnyk shared some essential advice that may help you if you are planning to tour this vast country in the future: "Travelling in Ukraine is cheap... but long. Best to plan an extra day for transport between gigs. If you are going to travel by train, you will save money on overnight accommodation by taking one of the many overnight services with sleeper cars."

So if you're one of those people who enjoy long train journeys in search of culture, Ukraine is the destination for you.

Tagy All Eyes on Ukraine Czech center Kiev Days of Ukrainian culture Music Export Ukraine Nouvelle Prague touring Ukraine All Eyes on Ukraine Fastest-Growing Music Markets in Europe

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Ricardo Delfino
Singer in Crossroad Bros, band manager (The Wild Roots, Seventh Passion), PR manager (AMPromotio…