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DJEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s music industry has grown rapidly from an early stage, in large part thanks to the Vision 2030 reform plan, which puts entertainment at the forefront in diversifying the Kingdom’s economy away from oil and its derivatives.
The General Entertainment Authority was established in 2016 with the mission of “providing recreational opportunities to all segments of society … to enrich life and spread joy.” That’s exactly what he’s doing with mega-spectacular events like the Riyadh season.
And with the relaxation of social norms in the Kingdom, music has become not only an integral part of daily life, but a dynamic new economic sector.
Many Saudi Arabia-based companies are jumping into the action, through an array of platforms: TV, internet, social media, streaming services such as Lebanon-based Anghami (focused on Middle Eastern origin music) and live performances.
Saudi promoters such as Benchmark and AK Events have brought big international stars to the local audience. Mariah Carey, the Black Eyed Peas and Enrique Iglesias all happened in the Kingdom, before the COVID-19 outbreak temporarily disrupted public gatherings.
The Jeddah-based Makan Music Center, which offers a full range of music services, is a focal point of the Kingdom’s burgeoning music scene.
The centre’s general manager, Shaher Karkashan, 32, founded the center along with his fellow musicians in 2018.
He told Arab News: “Our goal was to create a hub for musicians. And our vision is to enable an individual to come full circle with us – from learning an instrument, to recording original material, and then presenting their music to a live audience.
“That’s the goal, for both boys and girls, and surprisingly, over 60% of our customers are women. “
Such activities are crucial for the incubation of Saudi musical artists to deliver high quality content to an industry hungry for new talent.
The center was initially launched with only two rooms – a recording studio and a jamming and learning space.
Three years later, it occupies an entire building of 400 square meters divided into an educational space of eight rooms, a 250-seat auditorium and a recording studio.
Customers can learn a variety of instruments, including guitar, violin, and drums, as well as vocals. The typical age of musicians is 15 to 40 years old, although some are 50 and over.
The center also provides equipment, talent and management services for indoor and outdoor corporate events, held in shopping malls and other public spaces, attracting up to 2,000 spectators.
Karkashan said that as the center has grown, it has become a more professional company with a robust business model and multiple sources of income: tuition, paid concerts, artist management, rental of corporate equipment and events.
He said: “We started with five employees – and now we’re 20 and growing. We have six departments, including human resources, accounting and sales, and we are hiring more people.
While Saudi Arabia’s music industry – especially live performances – has been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the outlook for the future looks positive. With the Kingdom’s health situation back to normal, upcoming live events include the appearance of Justin Bieber, A $ AP Rocky and Jason Derulo, who are set to headline post-race concerts at the inaugural Grand Prix. Formula 1 race this weekend in Jeddah. Industry players are hopeful that this progress will not be hampered by the omicron COVID-19 variant.
If health conditions permit, Karkashan and his associates are also planning a big New Year’s concert as part of the Jeddah season festivities in the port city.
Such activities were unknown in the Kingdom until a few years ago, and Karkashan noted that the changes stemmed from the reforms of Vision 2030.
“Saudi Arabia had a few major artists in the 1980s, after which there was a huge 30-year gap,” he added.
“Then we started to see a few Saudis performing on TV shows like ‘Star Academy’ and ‘Arab’s Got Talent’ – but they continued to work in Kuwait or the Emirates, because there was no opportunity to. them to develop in Saudi Arabia.
“Now things have changed. The Ministry of Culture is involved, there is the Entertainment Authority, even a Music Authority, and they all contribute to the development of the KSA music industry.
“I think big names will soon emerge in Saudi Arabia. They are currently under development and we will probably see them generalize around 2023. “
Some of Makan’s clients came together to form bands – one called Robin and the other Bad Reception – and the center also allowed more established bands, such as death metal band Wasted Land, to record. and interpret their own material.
Karkashan said he was optimistic about the future of Makan as well as Saudi Arabia’s music industry as a whole.
He stressed that he was focusing on three main areas of growth: managing artists, organizing larger outdoor events and opening new centers in Riyadh and other cities in the Kingdom.
“Five years ago, everything was very different. But now the budding musicians have our full support as well as the support of the media and the government.
“And social media really opens up huge possibilities. Many young people are passionate about learning music or building a band or a career in music, and now is definitely a good time to do it.
The Saudi music industry is expected to grow exponentially over the next decade and the Makan Music Center will surely play a role in it, both artistically and commercially.