Saudi Arabia’s booming music industry offers new possibilities for regional artists

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Saudi Arabia’s evolving music industry is providing artists and musicians across the region with new possibilities to not only pursue musical careers seriously, but to also grow their reach internationally, industry experts told Al Arabiya English.

The Middle East’s biggest music conference wrapped up in Riyadh on Wednesday ahead of the highly anticipated SOUNDSTORM festival, which kicked off on December 1.

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XP Music Futures – which took place in JAX District in Riyadh from November 28 to 30 – saw 194 speakers come together in the Kingdom to discuss the key factors that can propel the region’s music industry forward. Among the stellar list of global artists to make an appearance at the event were DJ Khaled, David Guetta, Elyanna, Hardwell, and Afrojack.

David Guetta speaks at XP Music Futures in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)
David Guetta speaks at XP Music Futures in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)

After the successful launch of the SOUNDSTORM music festival for the first time in 2019, entertainment company MDLBEAST realized that there was an astounding number of talented youths in the country who wanted to launch musical careers but had no accessible platforms or opportunities to do so.

Speaking to Al Arabiya English, MDLBEAST Chief Creative Officer Ahmad al-Ammary – who is widely known as Baloo – said: “Saudi Arabia’s music scene is evolving - but it is evolving at a crazy pace. People are very inspired. Everyone is passionate about creating music labels. Everyone’s passionate about building their music collection.”

“What we are trying to do is help develop this. So, how do we regulate this? How do we make the specific licenses for the underground scene? How do we tackle the transition from private events to public event? Because there is a whole journey that needs to happen.”

To have a sustainable and viable music industry, Saudi Arabia needed to offer opportunities to not only showcase talent, but to nurture, develop, and train that talent as well.

Sessions kick off at the XP Music Futures in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)
Sessions kick off at the XP Music Futures in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)

“We realized there’s a lot of opportunities in the industry. And in addition to that, we realized there are a lot of gaps, especially when it comes to having an ecosystem. There are a lot of youth who are interested in learning about music and who are interested in pursuing it as a career,” Nada al-Helabi, XP Program Director at MDLBEAST, told Al Arabiya English.

In 2016, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveiled the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan. The plan seeks to transform the country from a nation that heavily relies on oil exports to one that places the creative economy, youth, and women at the center of its initiatives.

“With Vision 2030, there is a lot of focus on the creative industry and the creative economy. XP Music Futures is an accelerator to help to do that now. We want to help a lot of people to consider music as a career. We want to help them to be more skillful and professional. Through this conference and these gatherings, we are bringing the international experts in and continuing the conversation throughout the year,” al-Helabi said.

XP Music Future’s program was designed with four main pillars in mind: Talent, Impact, Scene, and Innovation. Of the 76 sessions that have taken place at XP Music Futures, 36 of them have covered the Talent pillar, 14 the Scene pillar, and 16 the Impact pillar. Ten sessions were held covering Innovation.

The range of discussions, workshops, performances, and networking opportunities were intended to help grow talent, build the regional scene, and advance the creative economy.

With the aim of providing regional talent with opportunities to thrive, MDLBEAST also launched a record label to help amplify artists’ voice and give them the credibility they need to expand their reach globally.

“We are all about building that ecosystem. We need to create that full ecosystem for our talent to thrive. The MDLBEAST record label is an essential part of this because this is where we give them the platform to have all their creative output there. This is where we nurture them, develop them from a creative perspective, push their sounds and make them compete or be on a global stage,” Product Manager at MDLBEAST Records Munira al-Muammar told Al Arabiya English.

“The MENA region is the music industry’s fastest-growing region. We are seeing so much growth. We are not yet there, but this is what we are trying to do here with the XP conference. We are trying to provide all the support and all the tools so that in the future we will be in a position where we are competing with the big guys,” al-Muammar said.

Read more:

Saudi Arabia’s ‘loudest week’ kicks off in Riyadh with XP Music Futures conference

Singer Elyanna says her Saudi debut at SOUNDSTORM festival to be biggest show yet

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