The event saw notable speakers talking about the potential of the regional entertainers, musicians and singers to drive new era of Middle East events.
The Middle East is on the cusp of a new era of entertainment as the Arab world’s biggest YouTube stars shift their on-screen popularity into sold-out live events at the region’s mega arenas, according to Tom Greenwood-Mears, MD of Cut and Mustard, the UK-based production company behind some of the world’s biggest digital talent events.
At the inaugural pop culture festival ON.DXB, which was held from November 21 to 23 in Dubai Studio City’s Sound Stages, the regional talent stole the limelight with many of the discussions and key panels highlighting the potential of the regional talent to grow in the Middle East region as well as other parts of the world.
Commenting on the rising popularity of regional YouTube stars, Greenwood-Mears said: “We produce the stage for Middle East GamesCon in Abu Dhabi and ordinarily we bring over UK and USA YouTubers with big fanbases in the region. However, that is only the tip of the iceberg. Local YouTubers doing things onstage in their local markets can only be better. Middle East YouTubers have big audiences, they are professionally set-up and they are making high-quality content. That dedication to their content will definitely translate to a live show and it will only take an enterprising YouTubers or someone in that live event space to join those dots and start testing those waters in the region.”
Also present as one of the speakers at ON.DXB was British Grime artist and Top Boy actor Kano who urged regional film and music talent to retain their artistic integrity and build an authentic body of work if they wanted career longevity.
Talking about career momentum and working on multiple fronts, Kano said: “I’m always looking to the next thing and guilty of not taking in what’s happened – it’s always forward, forward, forward. I’m trying to be the best me and always want to do something different, perhaps that’s something that hasn’t been done in my area of music or doing something simple better. I’m never aiming for a number or thinking about selling more records. All that is good, but what drives me is the push to be better. It’s integrity that’s important.”
Regional musicians trying to expand beyond the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region were urged to consider their own background stories as valuable tools in capturing the attention of global fans and media.
Speaking in The Ascent: Music Marketing in the Middle East, a final day panel session on the Sessions Stage at ON.DXB, Tobie Allen, the Founder of Ma’ana Music – a specialist music marketing agency – explained how his co-panellists’ unique personal stories and career backgrounds can cut through the noise and propel their respective careers.
Commenting on how personal stories could help propel careers, Tobie Allen, the Founder of Ma’ana Music, said: “Music marketing is the same as traditional marketing, it’s a product. You need a good product and you need a story. Emotion comes into it, so know your cause and know your back history; know your goals, know what you want to get out of it – it’s vital to have a story.”
Another speaker at the panel, FREEK, a UAE-born music artist and Arabic language rapper raised in Abu Dhabi, said: “I speak to the youth in the country. After my first live show in 2014, when 200 people were singing along to my track, I started thinking this could go beyond YouTube and be a career. In the beginning, my limit was wanting Abu Dhabi people to listen to my music – I never thought about Saudis or Bahrainis listening. Now, I’ve seen my stuff go big on social media, it’s in Jordan, Lebanon. It is genuine music coming from the UAE and it blew my mind when my music reached the UK and people who don’t even understand Arabic were singing along to my songs.”
ON.DXB is an initiative by Dubai Media City and Dubai Film & TV Commission designed to support industry growth and talent development in the film, game, video and music sectors.