Music events in Saudi Arabia will increase by up to 600% from 2019, according to the kingdom’s deputy tourism minister, Princess Haifa bint Mohammed Al Saud.
The royal made the comments during the XP Music Conference, a three-day event featuring discussions of the live events sector in Saudi Arabia, held in the Unesco heritage district of Ad Diriyah. , on the outskirts of Riyadh.
Princess Haifa said the growing role of music in Saudi Arabia’s tourism strategy is in line with international trends the industry has faced for more than a decade.
âPeople used to travel for nature, then they started to travel for culture and now it’s about lifestyle.
âIt’s about meeting other like-minded people around the world and sharing what they are passionate about. Creative industries, like music, are at the heart of this, âshe said.
âYou’re talking about 25% of the UK and US population, before Covid-19, of course, traveling to attend at least one music festival a year.
âIt tells you where the world is changing and where it is growing. So where we had 101 concerts in Saudi Arabia in 2019, before the pandemic, we plan to increase that number by 500 or 600% from 2022. “
The show is on the road
That surge is already underway with Riyadh’s season launch in October.
Organized in various districts of the Saudi capital, up to 70 concerts are planned for the festival alone, which runs until March 2022.
The stars who have already performed during the Riyadh season are pop stars Pitbull, who performed in front of 750,000 people as part of the opening ceremony, Bollywood star Salman Khan and Egyptian pop stars Mohamed Ramadan and Tamer Hosny in November and this month, respectively.
Saudi Arabia’s decision to incorporate music into festivals and large-scale events was not part of the original plan, Princess Haifa has revealed.
She remembers seeing the potential at the 2018 Formula E Ad Diriyah ePrix Championship, held at the Riyad Street circuit.
As General Secretary of Formula E Holdings at the time, she was responsible for organizing the first race of the championship in Mena.
The weekend also featured a program of evening concerts by DJ David Guetta, pop star Enrique Iglesias and the bands One Republic and Black Eyed Peas.
With more than 60,000 people attending each concert, Princess Haifa said the success of the concerts pointed to a new path for the kingdom’s tourism industry.
“This event made us realize that there is both a local and an international appetite for discovering Saudi Arabia and for Saudis to discover their own country,” she said.
âWe didn’t have a visa at the time, so technically we didn’t have tourism. We just had religious tourism. So that’s where it was about creating a national tourism strategy and create the eVisa. “
The Formula E event also helped put Riyadh on the concert map.
With Guetta returning to the city a year later to perform at the mega dance festival MDLBeast, the Frenchman has become an official dance music ambassador for the kingdom’s burgeoning music scene.
As he said The National in a 2019 interview: âIt was amazing to see men and women dancing and letting it all go, I felt like I was part of the story. It was a great honor for me to be a part of it. “
As part of her conference speech, Princess Haifa recalled meeting a nervous Guetta moments before her performance in Formula E.
âHe asked if people knew his music,â she said.
âHe was backstage and he couldn’t see what was going on. So when he took the stage he was absolutely shocked to see over 60,000 people in the crowd singing the songs before he even dropped the beat.
A more organic music industry is in the pipeline
Speaking of the kingdom’s large-scale musical events – from Formula E concerts in Riyadh and post-race concerts at the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in Jeddah in December, to the series of seasonal festivals spanning the country all through year round – Princess Haifa said she is aware that the music scene is “supercharged” by government agencies such as the General Entertainment Authority.
Once the industry matures, it envisions a time when the live events sector will largely include concerts and festivals initiated by the private sector and Saudi creative communities.
âBecause we are starting up and opening something which is an absolutely green area, there are a lot of regulatory reforms that need to go with all of these developing industries,â she said.
“This is why the government is now playing a more proactive role while [understanding] there is a need for organic growth. I think we’re doing it in parallel, in the sense that we’re going into areas that are really broad, to test what the problems are and what solutions are needed from a regulatory point of view.
“That way, we can really improve and enable that organic growth, with the private sector contributing and the talent entering the market in the right form.”
Update: December 14, 2021 11:31 am