Post pandemic, Saudi music events industry finds its groove

Organized by the general entertainment Authority, riyadh season 2021 was held between october 2021 and march 2022. (Ormania)
Organized by the general entertainment Authority, riyadh season 2021 was held between october 2021 and march 2022. (Ormania)
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Updated 22 May 2022

Post pandemic, Saudi music events industry finds its groove

Organized by the general entertainment Authority, riyadh season 2021 was held between october 2021 and march 2022. (Ormania)
  • The sector is set to become the biggest driver of the domestic entertainment business

RIYADH: If the number of events held at the Riyadh Season entertainment festival is any measure of success, then Saudi Arabia’s live music industry is set to become the biggest driver of the domestic entertainment business.

Organized by the General Entertainment Authority, Riyadh Season 2021 was held between Oct. 2021 and March 2022. It witnessed 7,500 diversified entertainment events, including concerts, exhibitions and theatrical shows, both Arab and international.

I’ve never in 30 years worked on a project with such scope. MDLBeast has a vision of excellence at a world- class level, backed up with the effort and determination required to achieve that.

Alex reardon, Creative director at Silent House

The festival featured Egyptian singers Mohamed Ramadan and Tamer Hosny, Bollywood actor Salman Khan and US rapper Pitbull, who attracted an audience of 750,000.

Other KSA-based music events include Riyadh’s annual SoundStorm, now literally the world’s largest Electronic Dance Music festival, in December 2021, and a succession of concerts alongside Jeddah’s recent Formula One races featuring American supergroup the Black Eyed Peas and R&B star Chris Brown, among others. In addition, Mariah Carey, Enrique Iglesias and One Republic have all performed in Saudi Arabia.

As a focal point of the Vision 2030 reform program, the Kingdom’s entertainment sector is seeing over $64 billion in investment, with the live music industry a key beneficiary.




As a focal point of the Vision 2030 reform program, the Kingdom’s entertainment sector is seeing over $64 billion in investment, with the live music industry a key beneficiary. (Getty Images)

According to Saudi Arabia’s Music Commission, a department of the Saudi Ministry of Culture, the Kingdom will create about 65,000 music-related jobs within the next eight years. Moreover, it is working toward enabling the music sector to contribute 1 percent to the Kingdom’s economy by 2030.

Calm after the storm

A prime mover of this burgeoning industry is Jeddah-based MDLBeast, the producer of SoundStorm and Formula One concerts. The company describes itself as “a global music and new media platform with music culture at its core and a home for creators and music lovers.”

One such creator is Michael ‘Curly’ Jobson, a legendary figure in the global live music business. In his youth a guitarist with UK indie band Echo & the Bunnymen, Jobson has been a music tour manager for decades and, in February 2020, was appointed MDLBeast’s Executive Director of Events.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Riyadh Season 2021 was held between October 2021 and March 2022. It witnessed 7,500 diversified entertainment events, including concerts, exhibitions and theatrical shows, both Arab and international.

• The festival featured Egyptian singers Mohamed Ramadan and Tamer Hosny, Bollywood actor Salman Khan and US rapper Pitbull, who attracted an audience of 750,000.

• According to Saudi Arabia’s Music Commission, a department of the Ministry of Culture, the Kingdom will create about 65,000 music-related jobs within the next eight years. Moreover, it is working toward enabling the music sector to contribute 1 percent to the economy by 2030.

“We put on events of any kind — musical, corporate, sports — from the concept to the pitch through to the design, operations and bringing it to fruition,” Jobson told Arab News.

This approach relies upon a host of contractors to provide solutions from plumbing and drainage to laying of asphalt and electrical installations.




Egyptian singer Mohamed Ramadan. (Youtube Screenshot)

SoundStorm, for example, involved Saudi construction firm Al Arrab, Lebanese events services provider Fiesta and Riyadh-based architecture firm Key Design, among many other local and regional firms.

And from Los Angeles came Silent House, a production design firm that conceives and builds staging for global headliners such as Harry Styles, Rihanna and Bruno Mars and which handled the overall design of SoundStorm 2021.

“I’ve never in 30 years worked on a project with such scope,” Silent House creative director Alex Reardon told Arab News. “MDL Beast has a vision of excellence at a world-class level, backed up with the effort and determination required to achieve that.”

Jobson sees the Kingdom’s music events sector in historical terms with reference to its future and its past.

“2030 is the date presented for a particular level of growth in Saudi Arabia, but I’m seeing something a little bit different, which is tourism becoming the lifeblood of the Kingdom, and with tourism comes the demand for entertainment,” he said.

“The Red Sea coastline goes from the Egyptian border to the Yemen, which is akin to the Florida Keys to Canada. And think what happened in the last 300 years up that coastline!

“I’m not sure it’s any different here with the rising population and the increasing numbers of youth with an equally huge appetite for entertainment.

“We need to focus on making Saudi Arabia a regular touring destination – rather than a one-off stop – so that performers go from Athens to Alexandria to Jeddah to Riyadh and then onwards to Asia, Australia and California.”

Raising the bar

Saudi Arabia’s Assistant Minister for Tourism, Princess Haifa bint Mohammed Al-Saud, also sees music and tourism as two mutually supportive revenue streams for the Kingdom in its transition from dependence upon oil to a more diverse and creative economy.

“You are talking about 25 percent of the UK and US population traveling to attend at least one music festival a year,” Princess Haifa said at the XP Music Conference, held in Riyadh in December 2021.

“This tells you where the world is shifting. From hosting 101 concerts in Saudi Arabia in 2019, we are looking at increasing that number by 500 or 600 percent from 2022,” she added.

Clearly, this exponential growth cannot happen without nurturing local talent and expertise. Jobson believes that knowledge transfer and a permanent ecosystem of niche companies — as opposed to the temporary hiring of foreign contractors and equipment — is the only way forward for the Kingdom.

“The western music industry started as a modern business model in the 1950s with recording, publishing and venue management. With that came PA systems, lighting designers, set designers and sound engineers,” said Jobson.

“All of this is a brand-new thing in Saudi Arabia. It’s only a couple of years since the very forward-thinking crown prince has opened it up to us.”

Reardon is optimistic regarding the advent of a fully-fledged music events industry in Saudi Arabia.

“I think the base level commitment to excellence will not change,” he said. “There’s been a huge learning curve for those of us coming from our side of the planet and those in the Kingdom.

“We’re learning from each other and about each other in a very collaborative way, which means that the seedbed for growth is very fertile.

“We can bring our decades of experience and work very well with people in the Kingdom to create successes in live entertainment that would be almost impossible in Western Europe and North America.”

 


Saudi Arabia calls on African mining industry to invest in Kingdom’s ‘rich, vast natural resources’

Saudi Arabia calls on African mining industry to invest in Kingdom’s ‘rich, vast natural resources’
Updated 08 February 2023

Saudi Arabia calls on African mining industry to invest in Kingdom’s ‘rich, vast natural resources’

Saudi Arabia calls on African mining industry to invest in Kingdom’s ‘rich, vast natural resources’
  • Khalid Al-Mudayfer, deputy minister for mining affairs, told the African Mining Conference in Cape Town the value of the Kingdom’s mineral wealth is estimated at $1.3 trillion

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia called on leading stakeholders in the mining industry across Africa to work together and benefit from the Kingdom’s rich and vast natural resources, to help support economic growth and social development.

Speaking during the African Mining Conference in Cape Town, South Africa, Khalid Al-Mudayfer, the Saudi deputy minister for mining affairs, said the value of the Kingdom’s mineral wealth is estimated at $1.3 trillion, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday.

He reviewed investment opportunities offered by the Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources, along with the infrastructure and legislative capabilities of the Kingdom, which he said positions Saudi Arabia as the leading global destination for investment in the mining sector.

Al-Mudayfer, who inaugurated a meeting organized by the ministry for potential investors, highlighted the great opportunities he said were available in the Kingdom, and its efforts to develop its mining sector.

He spoke about the modernization of the mining investment system, which includes regulatory infrastructure for the sector and a clear, transparent and simple environment for investors, along with the availability of geological data for investors, improvements to basic infrastructure, and incentives for those who invest.

The Saudi delegation at the four-day exhibition included representatives from the Ministry of Investment, the National Industry Development and Logistics Program, the Saudi Geological Survey, and the National Center for Industrial Development.

The Saudi pavilion at the event showcases the Kingdom’s continual efforts to develop its mining sector by facilitating access to geological data and updating regulations and legislation to attract investors, build the foundations for sustainability, and develop a mining sector based on integrated value chains.


LEAP investment workshop uses Lego to encourage entrepreneurial culture change

LEAP investment workshop uses Lego to encourage entrepreneurial culture change
Updated 08 February 2023

LEAP investment workshop uses Lego to encourage entrepreneurial culture change

LEAP investment workshop uses Lego to encourage entrepreneurial culture change
  • David Gram-Hanssen of Diplomatic Rebels underscored importance of innovation and change while anticipating resistance
  • Workshop used Lego building blocks to demonstrate how a more experimental and entrepreneurial culture can be adopted

RIYADH: Interactive investment workshops were featured on the second day of LEAP’s second edition, with the spotlight falling on David Gram-Hanssen, co-founder of Diplomatic Rebels.

His workshop utilized Lego building blocks to help participants focus on the changes they can create in the future as they become diplomatic rebels in their respective industries.

He said: “Future success depends on the ability to explore and experiment. We all need to become even better at adapting to change.

“There’s a perfect storm of change happening right now geopolitically, environmentally, business-wise. Everything seems to be sort of moving, and over time that speed is only going to pick up.”

Diplomatic Rebels was a concept created out of the work of Lego’s radical innovation department, Future Lab.

It turned into a system and a way of thought that helped people navigate the bureaucracy of companies, sparking change in their offices and communities.

Gram-Hanssen, who previously worked at Lego Ventures, said companies needed to adopt this entrepreneurial culture.

He added: “At Lego we started saying as a mantra, radical is normal. It means that radical change and radical innovation is the new normal.

“We constantly have to move along and experiment and explore what is happening out there.”

He discussed what it means to be a diplomatic rebel, sparking innovation and positive change while anticipating resistance.

He said: “One of the things at Lego that we understood over time was when you’re working with radical innovation and trying to change things, it’s really hard work.

“One aspect to be mindful of is creating the necessary resilience in the teams you are working with.”

He explained that most entrepreneurs feel like they are constantly fighting the immune system of that existing environment.

He added: “They are trying to do something that doesn’t compute in the existing system.”

Gram-Hanssen gave his audience the task of building a Lego model to represent their work today and their vision for the future.

He also explained the concept of a “pretotype,” a predecessor of a prototype, which aims to gather data to aid faster testing, encouraging participants at the session to implement the concept in their daily lives.

He said: “The right question is not so much what is going to change and when, because it’s hard to foresee.

“Maybe the right question to ask is how do we take a lead on this change? What is it? What do we want to see in the world, and how do we put ourselves in front of this change?”

 


Nuclear energy offers ‘a golden opportunity’ to build a clean world

Nuclear energy offers ‘a golden opportunity’ to build a clean world
Updated 07 February 2023

Nuclear energy offers ‘a golden opportunity’ to build a clean world

Nuclear energy offers ‘a golden opportunity’ to build a clean world

RIYADH: Being a cost-effective and low-carbon solution, nuclear energy “offers a golden opportunity” to help build a clean world, according to the director general of the World Nuclear Association.

Sama Bilbao y Leon was speaking as a keynote speaker at the 44th IAEE International Conference in Riyadh on Tuesday. The top official said nuclear energy offers an opportunity to build a cleaner and more equitable world in which everyone has access to “clean, abundant and affordable round-the-clock energy and high quality of life.”

“As a low-carbon energy source, nuclear power can play a very important role, decarbonizing other difficult-to-able sectors,” she said.

The official said nuclear energy is certainly a cost-effective, low-carbon solution and a catalyst for economic development. It is more efficient than other sources when we think of energy transition, she added.

She, however, cautioned saying that much work is needed to deploy nuclear power with determination and speed.

Leon also pointed out that the current energy market is unstable, and there is a need to take a step back and adopt scientific approaches to make the sustainable energy transition a success.

Yousef Al-Ghamdi, executive director of strategic planning at the Saudi Electricity Co. noted that renewable energy will play an important role in energy transition, especially hydrogen energy.

Shihab Elborai, a partner at Strategy& Middle East, underscored the importance of technological advances to meet the challenges of climate change. He said recycling can help mitigate the climate effect and reduce carbon in the environment, therefore countries should invest in efficient technologies to improve the energy sector.

Peter Hartley, the George A. Peterkin Professor of Economics at Rice University, said natural gas is cheaper and a better option and as an energy source is going to stay. He added that nuclear energy is a costly affair.

Ayad Alamri, executive director for business development, at ACWA Power, said that PVC has a key role in clean energy management and distribution as we are aiming at a net-zero future.


Saudi, Hong Kong bourses sign MoU to explore listing opportunities

Saudi, Hong Kong bourses sign MoU to explore listing opportunities
Updated 07 February 2023

Saudi, Hong Kong bourses sign MoU to explore listing opportunities

Saudi, Hong Kong bourses sign MoU to explore listing opportunities

RIYADH: Saudi Tadawul Group Holding Co. has signed a memorandum of understanding with Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing to work together to explore listing opportunities and collaborate in sectors such as fintech and environmental, social and governance, according to a tweet by the parent company of the Saudi Exchange.

The MoU reflected the HKEX’s “ongoing commitment to driving global connectivity and shaping a successful shared sustainable future,” said Nicolas Aguzin, CEO of the Hong Kong bourse operator.

“This MoU brings us one step closer toward enabling cross listings and other areas of collaboration between Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong,” Tadawul CEO Khalid Al-Hussan was quoted as saying by the Chinese media.

“As we seek to position the Saudi capital market as an investment hub between East and West, we are seeing increased interest from issuers and investors in Asia.”

 

 


Saudi Arabia-China Entrepreneur Association launched at LEAP

Saudi Arabia-China Entrepreneur Association launched at LEAP
Updated 07 February 2023

Saudi Arabia-China Entrepreneur Association launched at LEAP

Saudi Arabia-China Entrepreneur Association launched at LEAP

RIYADH: The Saudi Arabia-China Entrepreneur Association was launched at the LEAP 2023 conference in Riyadh on Tuesday.

The association — comprising over 100 Saudi and Chinese businesses, government entities, nongovernmental organizations, and academic institutions — seeks to boost cooperation between the private sectors on both sides along with bilateral ties at the government level. 

The nonprofit organization is supported by the Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming, and Drones. It will be operated by eWTP Arabia Capital.

“In line with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, SCEA will enable cross-border investments and valuable collaborations,” said Jerry Li, founder and managing partner of eWTPA. 

The organization also plans to promote investment, encourage innovation, and develop social responsibility and public welfare.  

“China is a strategic partner for Saudi Arabia in terms of technology and innovation. Having worked closely with Alibaba and eWTPA for the last three years, I highly appreciate their efforts in contributing to the development of our local digital ecosystem,” said Faisal Al-Khamisi, chairman of the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming, and Drones. 

Al-Khamisi added: “This association will take our collaboration to the next level and provide the broader Saudi-China business community with a forum to share valuable experiences.”