"Some of the biggest names in global music" are set to play in the reclusive kingdom this year, according to an optimistic General Authority for Entertainment (GEA)
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A new investment company aims to develop the conservative kingdom's entertainment sector, as it seeks to reduce its dependence on oil revenues
By Jon Chapple on 20 Sep 2017
The Public Investment Fund (PIF), a sovereign wealth fund controlled by the government of Saudi Arabia, is to form a new investment vehicle in a bid to kickstart the kingdom’s entertainment sector.
The as-yet unnamed company, which will have an initial capitalisation of SR 10 billion (US$2.67bn), will seek to attract international partners in a bid to “expand the scope and variety of entertainment offerings” in Saudi Arabia, says PIF, starting with a new entertainment complex, opening in 2019.
“The company’s efforts will enable the development of, and provide incentives for, the entertainment sector, as well as building local capabilities within the kingdom,” reads a statement from the fund.
Under the banner Vision 2030, the Sunni theocracy is seeking to reduce its dependence on oil by developing its service sector, including a domestic entertainment market. The General Authority for Entertainment (GEA), created by royal decree in May 2016, is spearheading the entertainment drive, and has so far been responsible for bringing shows including Cirque du Soleil and the Lion King musical to the kingdom, as well as the first Saudi Comic Con.
Live music contributes a greater share of music industry revenues in the Middle East and North Africa than elsewhere in the world – 90%, compared to around 65% worldwide – and foreign investment is pouring into the Saudi Arabia’s Middle Eastern neighbours Israel, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar.
In March, Saudi capital Riyadh hosted its first concert since 1988 – music is generally considered sinful (haram) Saudi religious authorities – marking the start of a “major social shift in the conservative kingdom”, according to The New Arab.
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