GXR sees itself as a facilitator for artists rather than a record label, says its boss

GXR sees itself as a facilitator for artists rather than a record label, says its boss
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Updated 05 October 2022

GXR sees itself as a facilitator for artists rather than a record label, says its boss

GXR sees itself as a facilitator for artists rather than a record label, says its boss
  • Elia Mssawir said the new indie label, which launched two months ago in partnership with Empire, aims to change the face of the music business in the region

DUBAI: The idea for independent music label GXR Records grew from a simple conversation between Elia Mssawir, an award-winning artist manager, and Paul Roy, the CEO of Galaxy Racer, a multimedia company focusing on esports, content creators, music and sport.

They were discussing their shared passion for music and vision for a company in the region that truly cares about its artists, Mssawir told Arab News.

“We started throwing around ideas and (talking about) how we wanted to bridge the gap between MENA (the Middle East and North Africa) and Asia — and that’s how GXR Records was brought to life,” he said.

They launched the label in August this year in partnership with Empire, a global independent label, distributor and publisher. Based in Dubai and with Mssawir as head of label, GXR Records is focused on developing talent in West Asian and North African territories. It has already signed a number of artists from this region, including Freek, Noel Kharman, Dyler, Hanody Awesome and Noor Stars, and the number of acts on its roster has reached more than 20 in the two months since launch. 

Mssawir, who joined Galaxy Racer in April, had been recruiting artists and influencers in India, Pakistan, the Philippines and Malaysia, where the company has offices, and discovered plenty of musical talent in those places. An idea was born to not only sign artists from Asia and Africa but also help them collaborate with their counterparts in the Middle East.

The founders of GXR Records said that, building on parent company Galaxy Racer’s existing portfolio, it is dedicated to identifying and developing a diverse roster of emerging and established artists across the region, while encouraging cross-promotion and collaborations within the label to help them reach a wider audience.

In addition to finding and signing artists, GXR Records will work with Galaxy Racer to create and produce music for the parent company’s influencers and brand collaborations, Mssawir said. These collaborations between artists and the parent brand is part of Mssawir’s vision for the company.

“It’s becoming a family more than a label,” he said.

This ambitious vision is matched by the label’s growth strategy; GXR Records has already opened an office in the US and there are plans to establish bases in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and South Africa by the end of this year. There are no current plans, however, for additional offices in the Middle East.

“Our headquarters here in Dubai are enough to operate on a MENA scale for 2022,” said Mssawir. However, he added that GXR Records intends to expand its presence in Africa and the Levant in the coming year.

One of the challenges, historically, for regional artists has been how to develop and grow into a global presence, Mssawir said. “This is where we come in and enhance this opportunity for them,” he added.

The new label is planning to organize a large-scale music festival next year, something that has been a long-time dream for Mssawir but one he never seemed to have “the time or team to focus on” until now.

“We’re planning on doing small events around the region, building up toward a big festival where we’re hoping to get a couple of international artists, and the MENA artists can open or support the international artists,” he said.

He jokes that his biggest challenge since the launch of GXR has been “sleeping less and working more.” But he added that working hard and putting in long hours is something he is happy to do because “we want to change how the music business is being done here.”

Another challenge he said he has faced is the negative public perception of record labels, something he said has been largely influenced by the way they are portrayed in Hollywood.

“That’s one of the things that we want to change,” he said.

There were no professional managers for acts in the region a decade ago and so artists would often accept any deal they could get, he said. The ecosystem is changing, however, and Mssawir said he is determined to help set high standards for artists, particularly when representing GXR Records as a brand.

“Labels are not there to kill artists’ careers,” he said. “And that’s why I don’t really call (GXR) a label, I call it a facilitator: We facilitate for the artists rather than labeling them.”


Israeli extremists harass France24 reporter during live coverage

Israeli extremists harass France24 reporter during live coverage
Updated 26 November 2022

Israeli extremists harass France24 reporter during live coverage

Israeli extremists harass France24 reporter during live coverage
  • Video shows Palestinian Laila Odeh surrounded by people chanting anti-Arab slogans

LONDON: France24 correspondent Laila Odeh was harassed and verbally attacked by Israeli extremists as she spoke Arabic during live coverage from West Jerusalem on Wednesday.
A video of the incident shows the Palestinian journalist being heckled while covering the recent bomb attacks that took place in West Jerusalem.
The reporter was broadcasting live from Givat Shaul, one of the blast sites, when about 30 people tried to interrupt the live coverage.
In the video, Odeh is seen exchanging some words with a group of young people before they start surrounding the crew, stepping in front of the camera to block the broadcast.
“Excuse me, we’re live,” she said, to which one of the people replied: “I don’t care.” Odeh added: “You’re annoying me. Move away from here.”

 

 

Then the video shows her engaging in a verbal exchange before people around her started chanting anti-Arab slogans, forcing Odeh to cut the broadcast.
Some people in the group shouted “Death to Arabs”, “Arabs go to Russia” and “This is an Arab explosion.”
According to reports published by France24 following the incident, after the live broadcast people shouted to Odeh to “go to Gaza,” continued their insults and increased their aggressive behavior. France24 also reported that some people punched its cameraman and broke the camera tripod.
This is not the first time Odeh has been targeted by Israeli extremists. She was hit on the head and verbally abused while covering the Israeli nationalist Flag March in Jerusalem in May.
On Wednesday, Israeli police said bombs were detonated at two bus stops in West Jerusalem’s Givat Shaul and Ramot junctions, killing one Israeli and injuring 14 people, three of them seriously.
While no one has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks, Israeli authorities imposed a broadcast ban on the investigation.

 


Elon Musk says Twitter’s ban on Trump after Capitol attack was ‘grave mistake’

This file combination photo shows Elon Musk (L) listening to US President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington. (AFP)
This file combination photo shows Elon Musk (L) listening to US President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington. (AFP)
Updated 26 November 2022

Elon Musk says Twitter’s ban on Trump after Capitol attack was ‘grave mistake’

This file combination photo shows Elon Musk (L) listening to US President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington. (AFP)
  • Twitter said it permanently suspended him because of the risk of further incitement of violence following the storming of the Capitol

WASHINGTON: Twitter’s ban on then President Donald Trump after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol by his supporters was a “grave mistake” that had to be corrected, Chief Executive Elon Musk said on Friday, although he also stated that incitement to violence would continue to be prohibited on Twitter.
“I’m fine with Trump not tweeting. The important thing is that Twitter correct a grave mistake in banning his account, despite no violation of the law or terms of service,” Musk said in a tweet. “Deplatforming a sitting President undermined public trust in Twitter for half of America.”
Last week, Musk announced the reactivation of Trump’s account after a slim majority voted in a Twitter poll in favor of reinstating Trump, who said, however, that he had no interest in returning to Twitter. He added he would stick with his own social media site Truth Social, the app developed by Trump Media & Technology Group.
Republican Trump, who 10 days ago announced he was running for election again in 2024, was banned on Jan. 8, 2021, from Twitter under its previous owners.
At the time, Twitter said it permanently suspended him because of the risk of further incitement of violence following the storming of the Capitol. The results of the November 2020 presidential election won by Democrat Joe Biden were being certified by lawmakers when the Capitol was attacked after weeks of false claims by Trump that he had won.
Trump repeatedly used Twitter and other sites to falsely claim there had been widespread voter fraud, and had urged supporters to march on the Capitol in Washington to protest.
The attack is being investigated by US prosecutors and a congressional committee.
Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday on Musk’s statement that Trump did not violate any Twitter terms of service when his account was suspended.
Earlier on Friday, Musk tweeted that calling for violence or incitement to violence on Twitter would result in suspension, after saying on Thursday that Twitter would provide a “general amnesty” to suspended accounts that had not broken the law or engaged in spam.
Replying to a tweet, Musk said it was “very concerning” that Twitter had taken no action earlier to remove some accounts related to the far-left Antifa movement. In response to another tweet asking if Musk considered the statement “trans people deserve to die” as worthy of suspension from the platform, the billionaire said: “Absolutely.”
Change and chaos have marked Musk’s first few weeks as Twitter’s owner. He has fired top managers and it was announced that senior officials in charge of security and privacy had quit.

 


More security for UK-based Iran International after threats

More security for UK-based Iran International after threats
Updated 25 November 2022

More security for UK-based Iran International after threats

More security for UK-based Iran International after threats
  • Concrete barriers have been erected
  • Last week, London’s Metropolitan Police confirmed that armed police vehicles had been deployed outside the TV studios

LONDON: The Iran International TV channel on Friday said that further security measures have been put in place around its London offices after threats from the regime in Tehran.
Concrete barriers have been erected similar to those at key government buildings and tourist spots in the British capital, to prevent vehicle attacks.
The barriers were “guaranteed to stop a 7.5 ton truck at 50 miles (80 kilometers) per hour,” a spokesman for the Persian-language channel said.
Vehicle access in and around the site would also be controlled and checks carried out, he added.
The threats were an escalation of years of intimidation because of its broadcasting of protests in Iran, the spokesman told AFP.
“We’re the only channel running 24/7 coverage of the protests,” he said.
But he added: “We’re not the voice of the protests. We’re the only means that people in Iran can see them.”
The spokesman, who asked not to be identified, stressed that Iran International was not an opposition channel and its staff were not activists.
“We were set up as a service for people in Iran and the diaspora,” he said.
Last week, London’s Metropolitan Police confirmed that armed police vehicles had been deployed outside the TV studios.
That followed “severe and credible” death threats against two of its UK-based journalists from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The UK government promptly hauled in Iran’s highest-ranking diplomat to the country for a dressing-down.
MI5, the UK domestic intelligence agency, has uncovered at least 10 plots by Iran to kill UK-based individuals deemed to be “enemies of the regime” so far this year, its boss said last week.
The channel employs about 100 staff in London, whose coverage of the protests largely involves sifting through and verifying social media content of the demonstrations.
Iranian staff were “more anxious” than panicked about the threats and more worried about the safety of their families back home, as well as the wider impact of the protests, said the spokesman for the channel.
“We all don’t know what the hell is going to happen. That’s stressful,” he said.


Musk announces gold, gray and blue badges for Twitter accounts

Musk announces gold, gray and blue badges for Twitter accounts
Updated 25 November 2022

Musk announces gold, gray and blue badges for Twitter accounts

Musk announces gold, gray and blue badges for Twitter accounts
  • CEO apologized for the delay and said users verification coming back next week

SAN FRANCISCO: Twitter’s billionaire owner Elon Musk announced Friday that the platform would be launching differently colored badges to distinguish between accounts.
“Sorry for the delay, we’re tentatively launching Verified on Friday next week,” he tweeted.
“Gold check for companies, grey check for government, blue for individuals (celebrity or not) and all verified accounts will be manually authenticated before check activates.”
In another tweet, Musk said that all verified individual accounts would have the same blue check, but some would eventually be able to display a “secondary tiny logo showing they belong to an org(anization) if verified as such by that org(anization).”
The Tesla and SpaceX boss’ proposal for users to be able to pay to be “verified” and obtain a blue badge on their profiles has caused confusion since he acquired the social media giant last month.
Musk proposed a subscription fee of $8 a month to allow users to obtain the blue check — which was previously free but reserved for organizations and public figures in an attempt to avoid impersonation and misinformation.
The first rollout of Musk’s subscription plan in early November quickly went south, with many accounts paying for the blue check and then impersonating world leaders, celebrities or companies.
Responding to the backlash, Musk initially postponed the launch date to November 29, before delaying it once more. It now appears the feature will launch on December 2.
Musk has said that he wants to charge users for subscriptions to the social media platform to diversify its income stream. Twitter currently depends on advertising for 90 percent of its revenue.
Several major brands have withdrawn from advertising on the platform since Musk bought it, fearing that his promised relaxation of content moderation could open their companies up to being associated with objectionable content.
According to the NGO Media Matters, half of Twitter’s top 100 advertisers have announced that they are suspending or “have apparently suspended” their spending on the social network.


Arab food network Fatafeat expands with new series, online presence

Arab food network Fatafeat expands with new series, online presence
Updated 25 November 2022

Arab food network Fatafeat expands with new series, online presence

Arab food network Fatafeat expands with new series, online presence
  • Innovative content is key focus, says head Grigory Lavrov
  • ‘Escape Kitchen’ game with top chefs is latest offering

DUBAI: This month, Warner Bros. Discovery Channel’s Arabic food network, Fatafeat, gamified its culinary format for the first time with the launch of its latest series, “Escape Kitchen.”

Each episode features chefs — Manal Al-Alem, Tarek Ibrahim and Sumaya Obaid, among others — trapped in an escape room, with 45 minutes on the clock to win the game.

The network has been seeking to adapt and innovate its content offerings to retain loyal fans and attract new audiences.

In 2021, Fatafeat had to close its production studio in Dubai due to COVID-19 lockdown protocols just a month before Ramadan — a peak period for premium content — and switched to working remotely.

Although the pandemic and lockdown “increased pressure,” it also created new opportunities, particularly for entertainment and streaming providers, as “entertainment played a more prominent role in providing escape and comfort as the world navigated an unprecedented and challenging time,” Grigory Lavrov, head of Fatafeat and vice-president of marketing, local brands and franchise management in CEE & MENAT at Warner Bros. Discovery, told Arab News.

Grigory Lavrov, head of Fatafeat and vice-president of marketing, local brands and franchise management in CEE & MENAT at Warner Bros. Discovery. (Supplied)

“We encouraged more viewership time from our loyal viewers with the nostalgia and familiarity we provide and attracted a new generation of consumers by expanding our presence on social media through creative, short-form content, and, as a result, our audience reach and engagement increased by 50 percent,” Lavrov said.

In Ramadan 2021 alone, Fatafeat saw an 88 percent month-on-month increase in engagement on Facebook, garnering over 29.7 million video views. Its Instagram content enjoyed a 63 percent increase in reach during the same period, and YouTube content received 2.49 million views.

“Since its launch in 2006, Fatafeat has become a staple in every Arab household,” said Lavrov. “To sustain the brand’s strong resonance with the regional audience, Fatafeat has been creating a robust pipeline of fresh and unique content, which has been instrumental for us in attracting the new generation of consumers while continuing to entice our loyal fans,” he added.

The network is also “proactive and agile” in diversifying its platforms and expanding its reach through channels such as its mobile app, social media, over-the-top platforms, and even Alexa, becoming the first skill to be launched on the Arabic version. From next year, Fatafeat will also be present on the free-to-air channel Asharq Discovery.

The brand ventured beyond video by launching its first-ever podcast series in an exclusive collaboration with global audio streaming service Deezer last December. Since then, it has released over 100 podcasts and plans to roll out more in the future.

The network’s expansion from TV to social media and other platforms was “definitely strategic and corroborative with our aim to follow our audience and adjust to their evolving content consumption habits,” Lavrov said. “Therefore, we remain committed to continually innovating our content and maintaining omnipresence,” he added.

The network regularly conducts customer research to better understand the needs and demands of its audience to make informed decisions regarding innovating and growing the Fatafeat brand.

That said, Fatafeat is always on the “lookout for the next big thing” and is “motivated by what brews the interest of the regional audiences, which is highly dynamic and ever-changing,” Lavrov said.

Gen Zs have captured the attention of media owners, publishers and advertisers around the world and Fatafeat is no exception. A total of 72 percent of Saudi Arabia’s Gen Zs use TV on-demand and catch-up services regularly, according to a 2021 YouGov report.

They have “high expectations for creative yet easily consumable content with an attention span as short as eight seconds,” said Lavrov.

Podcasts, TikTok and Instagram Reels are popular among Gen Zs resulting in Fatafeat gravitating toward these platforms through initiatives such as its partnership with Deezer, and increased focus on TikTok and Instagram during Ramadan 2022.

“Whether it’s a never-before-seen format like our new culinary game show ‘Escape Kitchen’ or producing the first Arabic music playlist with food recipes as lyrics, Fatafeat likes to reinvent the wheel of Arab entertainment,” Lavrov said.

In line with this vision, the network is launching a digital educational series “Fatafeat and the CDA: Cooking in the Family,” which will promote awareness of the dietary needs for children of determination.

It is also launching two shows — “Chef on A Bike” on Dec. 22 and “Food Musical Show” in January 2023. The former follows the journey of a female Saudi chef with a group of motorbike riders from Jeddah to Dubai. She will meet with locals, view prominent landmarks, and experience the gastronomic culture of the Kingdom. “This show differs from our classic studio productions as it merges travel and food genres,” Lavrov said.

The latter, “The Food Musical Show,” is the first cooking musical offering on Fatafeat spotlighting an Arab family. “The show highlights the differences between generations, and viewers can expect a lot of challenges, frolic, singing, dancing, and of course, food,” he added.

Moving forward, the network seeks to diversify and expand. “We have a lot planned for 2023, but I can say for now that what’s next for Fatafeat will always be aligned with what’s next for our audiences,” said Lavrov.