Russia’s lackluster digital music market gets Opera tunes while iTunes waits

Russia is one of the world’s most under-performing digital music markets. Now two new services are set to launch in to the country, pushing up legal consumption — but an upstart is stealing a march on the big boy.

The launch of the iTunes Store, which had been scheduled for today, has now been “delayed indefinitely”, according to local news reports.

Two reasons: Apple (s aapl) does not yet have all necessary music licenses, according to Vedomosti, and “retailers do not have gift cards at their disposal so far,” according to RIA Novosti.

While Apple remains on the sidelines, a rival music service has managed to launch. Browser maker Opera Software has debuted Muz in Russia and the surrounding CIS countries.

Priced at 150 rubles ($4.78) per month for a subscription, Muz offers unlimited downloads. The service works in the Opera mini browser and including on iOS. Opera could get 1.5 million active users by the end of 2013, an analyst tells Vedomosti. The outfit is hoping for bundling carriage with mobile operators.

Russia will need such services. Digital music sales revenue there has actually been falling in recent years, blamed by the music industry on social network VK, which has built-in file sharing.

“If Russia’s burgeoning legitimate business can effectively protect itself against such infringement, the country could become a top 10 music market,” International Federation of the Phonographic Industry CEO Frances Moore wrote in her organisation’s annual report in March.

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