By Elizabeth Hearst for AMLi
Some of the world’s leading pop stars were paid millions of dollars to perform at private concerts for Russian oligarchs, it has now been revealed.
Global superstars including Elton John, Jennifer Lopez, Sting, Prince and Robbie Williams have reportedly performed for Russian billionaires at weddings, corporate events and glitzy galas.
Now one rock star has spoken out.
Tommy Stinson, bass guitarist for Guns N’Roses until 2014 revealed the band played a private gig in Moscow for a Russian energy company in 2010. Speaking to Rolling Stone magazine, Stinson said: “I can’t even believe we did it… It was like ‘What the fuck are we doing here?’”
One source told Rolling Stone that Oligarch-funded shows were considered a part of a high-profile act’s revenue stream. “We knew the background and the wealth. It’s a take-the-money industry.”
With Russian Oligarchs around the world now subjected to harsh sanctions by the EU, US and UK, many of Putin’s former allies have had their assets frozen and superyachts impounded.
Although none of the pop stars approached by Rolling Stone would comment publicly about the performances, it’s documented that a number of acts pocketed millions from Oligarchs for their services.
In 2005 Christina Aguilera reportedly earned $2M to sing at the wedding of Russian billionaire Andrey Melnichenko, whose $600M superyacht was recently impounded by Italian officials, while Jennifer Lopez and Sting played separate sets at the wedding of Said Gutseriev, the son of sanctioned Russian billionaire Mikhail Gutseriev in 2016.
In March, Sting said the days of private shows for oligarchs were over.
Speaking to The Mirror, he said: “No Oligarch in Britain, Russia or anywhere else is in any position to book a gig, a wedding or a party. Those days are over.”
One of the world’s most well known Oligarch and former owner of Chelsea F.C. Roman Abramovich reportedly paid Amy Winehouse $2M for a show at a Moscow art gallery in 2009.
Abramovich’s New Year’s Eve legendary parties also showcased top global superstars including Kings of Leon, Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Killers, as well as the Black Eyed Peas and Prince.
A source told Rolling Stone of Abramovich’s appeal, and said: “With Abramovich, you knew it was going to be a massive offer and that he was good for the money. It was secure. It was going to be easy and professional – a good deal for everyone involved.”
“If you look at the artists and say, ‘Why would you perform for him?’ Why wouldn’t they? Everyone else is taking the money,” said the source, who added: “I can’t guarantee it, but if the war was over and everyone forgets about it in five years’ time, it will probably be business as usual.”