Organised by Str8 Up Entertainment and Launch DXB, The Emirates Music Summit(EMS) recently connected the local music community by initiating dialogue amongst industry professionals. The event included a rich list of participants, from record labels, publications, content platforms, large businesses and SME’s, as well as musicians and artists. Held on 13th March at Nasab Dubai, EMS is the brainchild of Albert Carter, a talent manager and culture shifter in the UAE music scene.
Carter has a vision to fulfill. The transformation of the UAE into a music tourist destination is neither unambitious nor unrealistic. We have all seen the growth of Dubai in becoming a top tourist destination worldwide already and we want to see the music scene mirror that climb. The summit is a starting point and is the first of further editions to come where we hope to pave the way for this lofty vision of the UAE music industry.
“I can only attest to the four years that I have been here and I have seen the industry grow, especially with the arrival of streaming platforms. So I think the challenge is in finding the right opportunity and connecting the dots” says Carter as a panelist at the summit, and further adding “the music industry here definitely has room to grow, it’s not your typical music industry”.
Any observer would support this proclamation of growth in the local scene, whether that be measured by the number of artists and output of music, or the increase in platforms for live musical performances and institutions for musical education setting up here. The question remains though on how we fare in comparison to other parts of this region and not just comparing to a younger UAE scene. There is still a way to go until our scene and its respective stature is not only recognised as a regional player, but then becomes a go-to destination for music - music tourism.
While an abundance of talent exists, here is an argument thats easy to deflect, we are constantly deciphering how active the business side of the industry is when it comes to homegrown talent. Another question you will recurrently meet at any forum is whether a local artists’ success lies in making it big inside, or outside the UAE. Take the UK urban music scene for example, until the late 2000’s it was not common for a British rap enthusiast to follow only UK based music, whereas with the elevation of Grime music throughout the 2010’s, we now have a Grime MC (Stormzy) headlining Glastonbury in 2019, and today kids in the UK tend to follow rap music created in the UK more than anything else.
Topics around supporting the artists or the music industry at large were addressed covering all aspects whether from the content & creativity, the marketing and promotion, and the business aspects. Artists have always seen a huge pay gap from the multimillionaire superstars to the starving artists. Now perhaps more important than every is how these discussions can be used moving forward as artists and everyone in the industry is trying to navigate their way through the current COVID-19 climate. Artists are inescapably taking to social media and maintaining a presence digitally, although the general consumption of their music and familiarity with our musicians was never in jeopardy, we are now seeing them take the IG Live tool and delivering live performances. The stages, light shows, sound systems no longer have a place as we observe the rudimentary, bedroom versions of their live performances.
Reverting to the hypothetically ‘normal conditions’ the participants pointed out some useful observations. “People here focus only on their art without understanding that it is a business” claimed Nigerian singer MKO, while Elia Mssawir, Talent Manager at Big Beard Entertainment refined this as he described how “a lot of artists who are good at business can succeed even though they have mediocre talent, whereas some very talented artists fail because they have no ability when it comes to business.” Adding to this also by suggesting “it’s not a good idea for all artists to be their own manager and they should also team up with a manager who believes in their artists’ work.”
The business aspect at the summit appeared to be predominantly geared towards the artists but we can’t help but crave a deeper insight on the remaining stakeholders and what redirection of their efforts can be made to further elevate the local scene.
For more info visit www.emiratesmusicsummit.com
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