The global music business has become increasingly focused on the Middle East and North Africa in recent years.
Based on recent recorded music revenue growth in the region, it’s clear to see why. According to IFPI’s latest Global Music Report, the MENA region’s recorded music market grew 23.8% YoY in 2022 (the third-fastest globally that year), and represented the highest share for streaming of any region globally, at 95.5%.
The MENA region was also the fastest-growing music region in the world [in percentage terms] in 2021, growing by 35% YoY.
One of the key music markets in the MENA region is Saudi Arabia, which has a young population, with 63% of the market’s estimated 32.2 million residents under the age of 30.
They’re also highly engaged online, with an internet penetration rate of 98% of the market’s total population size.
The country is also home to prominent Arabic music company Rotana, which is claimed to be the largest record label in the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia recently played host to the third edition of XP Music Futures, a three-day industry conference held in Riyadh, from December 7 to 9, 2023.
XP Music Futures is organized by MDLBEAST and aims to amplify the music and creative scene across Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East region.
MDLBEAST was established following the launch of its flagship festival, SOUNDSTORM, in 2019 and now operates under three corporate arms: XP Music Futures, MDLBEAST PRESENTS and MDLBEAST Record Label.
The most recent edition of the XP Futures conference welcomed over 190 speakers from around the world, and according to its organizers attracted “thousands” of attendees.
Prominent participants at the event included David Guetta, DJ Khaled, Hardwell, Amy Thomson, and Mathew Knowles.
Held at Riyadh’s JAX District over three days, XP Music Futures featured a total of 76 sessions, a 46% increase from 2021’s inaugural edition.
Commenting on the growth of the MENA region, Nada Alhelabi, Strategy Director at MDLBEAST, said that “Saudi Arabia [is] playing an increasingly prominent and vital role in this rise.”
Added Alhelabi: “XP Music Futures is a platform that nourishes and enhances the burgeoning musical and creative scene across the Kingdom, bringing together the creators and talent makers who play an integral role in ensuring our industry thrives and evolves.”
“At the core of so much of our everyday experiences, the universal language of music exerts a powerful influence in bringing us all together – transcending national and societal boundaries.”
Nada Alhelabi, MDLBEAST
Added Alhelabi: “At the core of so much of our everyday experiences, the universal language of music exerts a powerful influence in bringing us all together – transcending national and societal boundaries.
“This year’s edition of XP Music Futures showcased how strong the music industry in this part of the world can become and I look forward to furthering our dreams, plans and ambitions.”
Superstar DJ and producer David Guetta, who appeared during a fireside chat ahead of his SOUNDSTORM set, said: “I am delighted to be here at XP Music Futures and SOUNDSTORM at this fascinating point in Saudi Arabia’s music and cultural journey.
“I am looking forward to delving deeper into the Saudi rave scene, which I believe really has its finger on the pulse.”
Grammy-award winning DJ Khaled, also appearing at SOUNDSTORM 2022, told XP Music Futures: “I’ve never been to Riyadh before, but I’ve been dreaming for this day to come. Not to just perform but to be with the people.”
XP Music Futures reports that its speakers’ gender split was 46% female to 54% male, and the percentage of regional speakers was 56% versus 44% international.
The conference also hosted the XP NITE sessions, with more than 130 artists performing across seven different event stages during the three-day event.Music Business Worldwide