Russian social network VKontakte, the local equivalent of Facebook, has launched its long-awaited legitimate music streaming service, moving further away from its piracy past.
The built-in music service allows users to choose between the subscription-based and ad-supported models, giving them access to tracks licensed from Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Merlin Network and local labels.
"Music is an important part of life for VKontakte users," Andrei Rogozov, VKontakte managing director, said in a press release. "VKontakte united people with different music tastes, giving them the opportunity to communicate, create thematic groups and spread their favorite music without limits."
The monthly subscription fee of 149 rubles ($2.6) will entitle users to unlimited streaming of tracks on their desktop computers and mobile devices. To be able to saves track and listen to them offline, they'll need to install a separate mobile app, Boom.
The new streaming service also allows users to create their own playlists and share them, follow music collections made by friends, communities, celebrities and VKontakte music editors, the social network said, adding that "a smart recommendation system" has also been installed.
VKontakte added a feature allowing users to upload music tracks that immediately became available to other users for streaming, several years ago. However, that feature enraged rights holders, who accused the social network of spreading piracy.
For several years in a row, VKontakte made the United States Trade Representative's list of the world's most notorious pirate markets, while rights holders filed several lawsuits against the social network over copyright infringement.
The biggest lawsuit was filed in in 2014 by Universal Music Group, Sony Music and Warner Music Group and led to licensing agreements between VKontakte and the three major labels, singed in 2015-2016. More similar agreements with foreign and local rights holders followed.
Meanwhile, VKontakte said that, in addition to licensed content, it will exclusively distribute albums and tracks, mostly by younger musicians, helping find new audiences.