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Thomas Ovesen reveals TOP Entertainment vision

Leading Middle East promoter Thomas Ovesen has spoken to IQ about his ambitions for his new Dubai-headquartered venture, TOP Entertainment.

TOP launched last week with a show by 50 Cent – the first post-pandemic sellout concert at Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena – and was due to stage two sold-out nights with Justin Bieber in partnership with AEG and All Things Live at the venue this weekend, prior to the shows being cancelled due to the singer’s ongoing health issues.

Ovesen served as COO and VP of programming of the 17,000-cap Dubai arena project before returning to promoting independently in 2019, going on to join Saudi Arabia’s Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA) as director of entertainment later that year.

“It was always a matter of when and not if I was going to continue my 20-plus years of regional show and entertainment promotions and production,” Ovesen tells IQ. “It wasn’t necessarily a given that I would be promoting under my own brand this time, but that’s how it ended up being. With several global industry operators supporting or wanting to partner on events the regional structure for my business is still developing, but will be one focused on maximising the regional opportunities for domestic and touring artists.”

“I will promote and produce shows regionally and look to be the go-to promoter for agents and artist managers”

Ovesen, who was previously CEO of Dubai-based promoter 117 Live after defecting from rival outfit Done Events in late 2015, describes his ethos at TOP as “go big or go home”.

“The region is big geographically and indeed very diverse when you consider the particular market conditions in each of the territories, but that is both a challenge and opportunity,” he says. “Considering I have promoted and produced shows across the Middle East since 1999, I should know a thing or two about how to work the region – and indeed who to work with when not doing the events as my own promotions.

“So with a base in Dubai and already established partnerships in Saudi, Kuwait, Egypt and the GCC countries, I will promote and produce shows regionally and look to be the go-to promoter for agents and artist managers wanting to look at playing one or more shows regionally.”

Upcoming TOP promotions include an already sold-out Disney Princess Concert season and two Jose Carreras shows in this autumn, and UAE stops in 2023 with Jackson Wang and Snoop Dogg, plus “many more pending events across the region Q1 and Q2, including co-promotions, programming and producer formatted partnerships”.

Ovesen stresses that each market in the Middle East is unique, but predicts the swell of live events in Saudi Arabia will have positive knock-on effects for the region as a whole.

“The market is likely to expand faster than the current market players can grow their business”

“With Saudi Arabia representing a massive event budget and show programming capability, the spillover will help all the other markets,” he says. “To best navigate the region from an artist point of view agents and managers need ground level intelligence and so experienced industry operators like myself that will also take on risk on own promotions should be well positioned for real growth.

“Eventually domestic artists and talents will pick up real market shares and many new event IPs will be launched, creating even more demand for and appreciation of programming and touring artist pipeline supply. The market is likely to expand faster than the current market players can grow their business, so international partnerships and new market entries by global operators should also be expected to continue.”

However, Ovesen raises concerns about market saturation coming out of Covid-19, accelerated by new promoters entering the game and the increased number of purpose-built venues.

“Many events will be put on that will cannibalise each other’s ticket sales and drive up artist fees,” he warns. “Not unlike any other established market, I am sure, but new challenges here, in addition to the new ability to leverage premium fees being offered out of Saudi. But it’s all a refection of a post pandemic opening of the markets and the inclusion of what must be one of the strongest global buyer’s market in form of Saudi Arabia.”

 


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The unstoppable rise of the Gulf States

Exactly two years ago, at the very moment IQ was producing its last market report on the live market of the Gulf, not to mention gathering the live music community in London for ILMC, the pandemic closed in, and the world shuddered to a halt.

We all know what happened next: lockdowns, calendars in the bin, plenty of pain and an ever-extending timescale for the return of concerts. Every market suffered, and the Gulf was no exception. In the final analysis, the UAE was only fully locked down for around four months and Saudi Arabia for a little over a year, but the hit was a hard one and some restrictions linger on.

Nonetheless, due to a unique set of circumstances, this may also be one regional market that has emerged from the whole mess looking sharper and shinier than when it went in. In 2022, the Gulf boasts new live venues, new touring connections and, in Saudi Arabia, a booming new territory that has shifted the centre of the region and – albeit not without controversy – greatly boosted the appeal of the region to international acts.

The second edition of MDLBEAST’s Soundstorm festival in Riyadh, a four-day “rave in the desert” last December, where Tiësto, Martin Garrix, and David Guetta played and a reported 180,000 attended the opening night, represents the new face of live music in the Gulf.

That same month, the kingdom also hosted the Formula One Grand Prix, with music from Justin Bieber, Jason Derulo, and A$AP Rocky. Chris Brown, Black Eyed Peas, James Blunt, Wyclef Jean and Craig David are also recent visitors, courtesy of MDLBEAST’s MDLBEAST Presents arm, which has rapidly built a reputation as the market’s leading provider of musical talent.

“I would assume that the kingdom is the biggest buying market in the world right now”

“I don’t play for politicians, I play for people,” Guetta told a Soundstorm press conference, side-stepping the criticisms of the regime that remains the main stumbling block to the international performing community’s guilt-free acceptance of the Saudi riyal.

That stumbling block is seemingly getting smaller these days, partly due to the billions at the disposal of a Saudi regime that is investing in entertainment, not only to conjure tourism, but to keep its free-spending domestic audience from travelling abroad in search of fun.

“I would assume that the kingdom is the biggest buying market in the world right now,” says veteran Middle East promoter Thomas Ovesen, outgoing entertainment director at the Diriyah Gate Development Authority in Saudi. “For me, what is happening with live entertainment in Saudi Arabia is what people used to say was going to happen in China. And while it hasn’t materialised there, we are seeing it here now: Western artists coming in for premium fees and a potential touring market in the region. It’s phenomenal.”

For all its wealth, its tourism, and its appetite for growth, the Gulf as a live music region has never been in a position like this before. Efforts to develop Abu Dhabi and Dubai as destination markets have yielded wily, pragmatic local industries and plenty of impressive events – including the recent delayed Expo 2020, which brought Coldplay to Dubai’s Al Wasl Plaza in February, among many other highlights. But the emirates’ modest expat-dominated populations and geo-graphical isolation have impeded their efforts to elevate their status on the broader touring map.

The addition of Saudi Arabia to the mix – the 35m-population kingdom having opened its doors in recent years as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 plan to diversify the country’s economy and develop its public sector – effectively changes everything.

“In Saudi, you see the same crowd behaviour you see anywhere else in the world. They are loving it”

In addition to the artist fees, a particular appeal of the Saudi market, thinks Ovesen is the presence of a true local crowd. “People live an expat life in Dubai – they’re probably a bit privileged, sometimes it can be hard to get a reaction out of them,” he says. “But in Saudi, you see the same crowd behaviour you see anywhere else in the world. They are loving it. And they are embracing the opportunity to attend live entertainment. We used to say that the only place in the region where you could get that experience was when we took the show to Beirut or Cairo. But that’s exactly the situation in Saudi.”

The other markets in the region may not be quite as pent-up, but they are certainly ready for the shift. Nine months before the pandemic, Dubai took delivery of its first indoor arena in the Coca-Cola Arena, while Abu Dhabi put the finishing touches to its own Etihad Arena during the lull. Kuwait and Bahrain likewise have impressive new facilities, and talk has inevitably turned to the development of a genuine touring circuit, involving the Gulf States and all manner of roughly proximate markets, from South Africa and India to Turkey and Egypt.

At the time of writing, the Gulf region is preparing for a milestone in this regard: a bona fide three-date tour by an A-list international act, as Live Nation’s Maroon 5 shape up for the Pyramids in Egypt, the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, and Park HaYarkon in Tel Aviv, Israel. “This is the first time an A-list Western act has been able to do a regional tour, and it sets a great precedent for the future,” says James Craven, president Live Nation Middle East. “Ticket sales have really exceeded even our most bullish forecast, which again really underlines the enduring demand for shows.”

A necessary piece of this particular puzzle has been the recent thawing of relations between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and Israel, which in turn has made it
possible for tours to fly directly between the two markets for the first time.

“Having regionally routed runs ensures that bands are able to play for even more fans, rather than playing a one-off show that takes them out of the market for years,” says Craven. “Previously artists would simply fly in for one show in the UAE. But we are now seeing the potential for as many as ten or more dates on a regional Middle East tour.” In a world still navigating its way out of the pandemic, these are significant and unprecedented moments, and, geopolitics permitting, they suggest the future of live music in the Gulf is likely to assume a very different shape to its past.

“We are now seeing the potential for as many as ten or more dates on a regional Middle East tour”

Promoters
The promoting landscape in the Gulf is a mixed one, combining heavyweight state-owned promoters (Abu Dhabi’s Flash Entertainment), familiar corporates (notably Live Nation, operating out of Dubai), fast-growing Saudi entities such as MDLBEAST, and a variety of Dubai-based independents, ranging from specialist operators to beach club DJ promoters to wealthy dabblers.

Out of all of them, the meteoric rise of MDLBEAST arguably makes it the promoter to watch, and its ambitions are unlimited by the boundaries of Saudi Arabia, or even those of the Gulf itself.

“We want to be present in the entire region,” says Talal Albahiti, MDLBEAST chief operating officer and head of talent booking and events. “The Middle Eastern music market is expected to grow up to 16.5% by 2027, reaching $670m [€605m]. MDLBEAST will play a significant role in supporting that growth. We also want to go beyond the region, as we are not only looking to host festivals and concerts in the UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain but also in Greece, Spain, and the US.”

MDLBEAST has also been invited to take on live events for circling Western promoters, says Albahiti. “We have been approached by a few European companies to produce their festivals, which was a pleasant surprise and much-deserved recognition to all the team. It shows that our commitment and dedication are being recognised by the international market.”

Clearly, the live market in Saudi Arabia is poised at an exciting but delicate moment, and MDLBEAST is acutely aware of the need to nurture the industry in the proper way if it is to thrive sustainably in the long-term. At its inaugural XP Music Conference in December 2021, it gathered 150 delegates from the Middle Eastern music industry in Riyadh with a view to accelerating the market’s growth.

“I believe that the next Drake of this world will come from Saudi Arabia”

“For me personally, XP is our most important work because it aims to help build real infrastructure for the music industry in a region where it is currently missing,” says Albahiti. “We need that if we’re going to support local and regional talent and for our organisation to grow.

“We don’t want to be just another music touring company picking global acts and bringing them to Saudi Arabia – our vision is much grander than that. We want to empower, develop, and educate local and regional talents across different genres. I believe that the next Drake of this world will come from Saudi Arabia. If not, then definitely from the Middle Eastern region.”

In its own way, Live Nation has also spent the pandemic nurturing talent in the region – specifically promoting talent it needs on the ground to broaden the range of playable markets.
“Because of the restrictions in place for a lot of the last two years, we focused on future planning and opening up newer markets like Jordan, Egypt, India, and Kuwait,” says Zaed Maqbool, Live Nation VP talent, Middle East, who has spent years building the foundations for a viable circuit to rival those elsewhere in the world. In this context, the significance of the impending Maroon 5 tour is worth restating.

“Maroon 5 was truly a labour of love,” says Maqbool. “The first-ever regionally routed run, an A-list band, and an undying willingness to create a new regional route for Western artists. It all came together. That one really represents a paradigm shift for touring in the region. We now have offers out for more regional tours – and they’re all big names.”

While it may have taken the roaring engine of Saudi Arabia to jolt the region into a higher gear, the UAE promises to become a significant central strategic point as a Middle Eastern/ Asian/African circuit coalesces – at least according to Live Nation’s thinking.

“We have been preparing for this moment since back in 2007, 2008″

“India will become a part of the equation,” says Maqbool. “Israel and UAE are already mainstays because of their proximity and the fact that they are mature markets in their own right. South Africa is also a market we connect to, as Dubai and Abu Dhabi have direct flights. So basically, the UAE becomes the connecting transport hub for the region and beyond.”

With not only a new arena but the well-established 40,000-cap Etihad Park stadium at its disposal – which over the years has witnessed Coldplay, Rihanna, The Stones and others – Abu Dhabi’s Flash Entertainment is, like all promoters in the region, highly prepared for an influx of talent.

“We have been preparing for this moment since back in 2007, 2008,” says Flash CEO John Lickrish. “One of the strategies we thought we were going to implement, or was going to happen organically, was a regional touring circuit.

“We thought it would be Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, ourselves, maybe Bahrain. In fact, we are dealing with content pushed through Israel, Sau- di, Qatar, Bahrain… hopefully India – we will see how that develops. Yeah, it’s a great thing. Obviously, having more content available takes us out of the position of feeling like everything that comes is something we have to deliver ourselves.”

Not every Gulf promoter emerged from the pandemic intact. Arab Media Group-owned Done Events, with its roster of Dubai-based festivals including RedFestDXB, Blended, and Dubai Jazz Festival, has ceased trading. Others, meanwhile, have emerged. Former Done Events live events manager Peter Green had already gone out on his own by the time of Done’s demise and now operates as GME Events. He sold 15,000 tickets in his first year of operation, promoting Russell Peters and Michael McIntyre at the Etihad Arena and The Kooks at the Coca-Cola Arena, as well as several more comedy shows at the Dubai Opera and the Dubai World Trade Centre.

“Saudi Arabia is a tricky market. It has the demand, but it is difficult to enter”

“All of those shows were obviously socially distanced,” says Green. “The venues can obviously take more, but we achieved far more than I thought we would, as a new promoter, with Covid restrictions in place. Shows are coming back now and restrictions are less, but it is still challenging with the ever-changing Covid landscape. I think the attitude now, though, is let’s get on with it, and let’s do what we can.”

Other promoters in Dubai include the jazz-focused Chillout Productions, founder of the Dubai Jazz Festival, and The Artist Network, whose events include Desert Groove – formerly Groove on the Grass – at the Dunes Resort in Ras Al Khaimah.

Meanwhile, after three years with the state-backed DGDA project, which is developing the historic town of Ad Diriyah into a national, cultural and tourist centre on the edge of Riyad, Ovesen is poised to return to his promoting roots with new venture T.O.P. Entertainment and will operate as an independent with offices in Saudi and the UAE, but also looking to organise events across Egypt, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman.

Ticketing
The leading ticketing company in the Gulf remains Platinumlist, which operates right across the region. “We sell 80% of UAE entertainment tickets and have been in KSA for six years,” says managing director Vassiliy Anatoli. “Our turnover in Saudi is larger than in UAE, although it’s hard to say what our market share is exactly.

“Saudi Arabia is a tricky market. It has the demand, but it is difficult to enter. It is hard to get independent event permits for organisers, and the majority of events are funded by the General Event Authority, which imposes the use of state-owned ticketing platforms.”

“We had a very successful Q1 of 2020 that helped us a lot with the rest of the troubled year”

Anatoli’s perspective on the pandemic is a widescreen one that neatly charts the ups and downs of the entire Gulf market. “We had a very successful Q1 of 2020 that helped us a lot with the rest of the troubled year. Despite the pandemic, many attractions kept operating and that is what we focused on whilst there were no events.

“2021 started well but was swiftly cut off by another spike in cases locally, which halted the industry for another four months. However, by March 2021, Saudi started making plans, and we won the tender for the Formula One Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2021 and many other major projects, such as Rotana Concerts, the Evolution Exhibition, the Museum of Happiness, and the Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale.

“Finally, the UAE resumed events in full swing by September 2021, which catapulted our revenues. Another major win was the 2021 Indian Premier League and ICC World Cup, which has sold over 350,000 tickets.”

In the coming years, Anatoli expects the biggest growth to come from Saudi Arabia and Egypt, though he also points to Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, and Kuwait as markets seeing comfortable growth. Other ticketing outlets in Dubai include bricks-and-mortar retailer Virgin Megastore, as well as Ticketmaster and Indian giant BookMyShow.

Venues
Dubai’s 17,000-cap arena Coca-Cola Arena, the first permanent, multi-purpose arena in an emirate that had been staging shows on laboriously converted brownfield sites on the edge of the city for years, opened in June 2019. It managed just nine months in operation before Covid closed its doors.

“On Feb 15, they announced all restrictions were removed. The only requirement now is that masks must be worn indoors”

Coca-Cola Arena general manager Mark Jan Kar describes the moment at ILMC 2020 when it became clear what the immediate impact of the encroaching pandemic would be (“I’ve never seen an insurance panel more engaged,” he says) and with precise recall of dates, fills in the story up to the present day.

“Everything came to a complete halt, but we had Iron Maiden in May, and we thought, ‘Okay, we’ll close for a month…’” he says, recalling the initial optimism of the times. “That obviously didn’t happen, but we undertook some behind-closed-doors activities for some government entities. Then we were an Ikea catalogue venue, and we were a venue for a movie set. We were very close to becoming a vaccine centre.”

Over the next year or so, the UAE flexed its restrictions, “and slowly but surely, we went from 1,500 capacity, heavily socially distanced, to 2,500, to 5,000, then 60%, 70%, 80% of capacity, and thankfully, on Feb 15, they announced all restrictions were removed. The only requirement now is that masks must be worn indoors.”

In the same period, after an inevitable delay, Abu Dhabi finally inaugurated its own arena, the 18,000-cap Etihad, part of the AED12bn (€3bn) Yas Bay development project. “We would have liked to have it earlier; but it’s a really beautiful facility. It’s easy to operate, it’s cost-effective, scalable,” says Lickrish. “We have a host of good commercial partners that have come on board, Etihad being the big one. It’s next to impossible to make the industry work here without corporate partners, and that’s been a fact for quite some time now. So that’s exciting. Our corporate boxes are sold out, and now we are just planning content.”

On the schedule at the Etihad Arena for the coming months are Arab pop stars Amr Diab, Sherine Abdel Wahab, and Kadim Al Sahir; Maroon 5; UFC; and the International Indian Film Academy Awards 2022.

“For us to have a phenomenal venue 130km down the road creates healthy competition”

The almost simultaneous arrival of two world-class arenas in a previously arena-free zone – to add to the Dubai Opera, the Media City amphitheatre and the World Trade Centre, all in Dubai – might be viewed as an embarrassment of riches. But if the competition is unwelcome, no one is saying.

“For us to have a phenomenal venue 130km down the road creates healthy competition,” says Kar. “Both serve a domestic market, and they also allow us to create tours for artists.”
Those tours, of course, don’t necessarily have to come from the Western content machine. A feature of the Middle Eastern market that is occasionally lost on Western eyes is the sheer diversity of its offering.

“For us, Western acts would probably make up 25% to 30% of the content,” says Kar. “The balance is very much Asian content, and that includes Bollywood but also Pakistani and Bangladeshi music. And then you have got Arabic, where you have the Khaliji music that is popular across the Gulf, but also Lebanese, Iraqi, Egyptian, all with completely different dialects and demographics that would attend. Comparing anyone with another is like comparing Bruno Mars with Metallica.”

It is also inevitable that more venues are to come, particularly in the region’s most newly vibrant market. Most of the Saudi events still take place on outdoor sites or in temporary structures such as the 15,000-seat Diriyah Arena near Riyadh, but further building is taking place. ASM Global will manage the 20,000-cap Jeddah Arena at Airport City, promised for late-2025, while the 25,000-cap Victory Arena in Riyadh is currently undergoing a major facelift.

With Qatar hosting the FIFA World Cup at the end of this year, there has been a massive construction programme, which could ultimately benefit the local live entertainment scene. And in Bahrain, three million man hours of work has created the spectacular 10,000-seat Al Dana Amphitheatre, which has literally been carved from the rock of the Sahkir desert (more about that project in IQ’s June issue).

“The challenge, believe it or not, is starting to become the seasons”

Another territory ready to take its place in a regional circuit is Kuwait, which welcomed a 5,000-cap multi-purpose all-seater arena in March. The Live Nation-managed Arena Kuwait, in Kuwait City’s 360 Mall, targets live entertainment, sports, corporate projects, exhibitions and conferences, and in its first few weeks of operation hosted six sold-out Arabic music concerts and two regional business-to-consumer expos.

“Kuwait is a new market for international and regional promoters and event organisers, as un- til the opening of The Arena Kuwait, venues and event spaces were limited,” says general manager Ken Jamieson. “Kuwait has an event-hungry population and the response to our first plethora of events has been very satisfying for all concerned. We have a packed calendar for the rest of the year as the demand has been outstanding..”

As the infrastructure expands, of course, so do the challenges of a region with a range of extreme weather conditions and great disparities in both its seasonal habits and venue provision.
“The challenge, believe it or not, is starting to become the seasons,” says Maqbool, wrestling with a circuit that potentially spans thousands of miles across Africa and Asia. “If an artist wants to do a tour in what is called the winter here in the Middle East, we need to take into consideration the different ‘winter’ conditions at each stop of the tour and the implications that has on venue type and timings.

“In the UAE, we have not one but two arenas to play around with, so we’re good the year round. But it’s not the same in Egypt, it’s not the same in India and some of the other markets as well. When it’s our winter, it’s their summer, and vice versa, and that’s a little nuance that sometimes plays into the equation. There’s a fair amount of playing Tetris with the routing, figuring out what works for everybody.”

And, give or take some teething troubles, a bit of geopolitical discord, and some Western liberal reservations, there’s the new regional circuit for you. It may well very come to offer dazzling new horizons for live music – but don’t expect it to be an easy ride.


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ASM Global announces key venue appointments

ASM Global has made a pair of key leadership appointments in the UK and the Middle East.

Darren Moore, who was previously general manager of the 1,900-cap York Barbican, is named general manager of Bonus Arena, Hull.

The 3,500-cap venue, which opened in 2018, is set to welcome artists such as Texas, Paul Weller, Jack Savoretti, Pet Shop Boys, Foals, Paloma Faith and Bryan Adams over the coming months.

“Darren has many years of experience in the industry and has worked as part of our team for a little over 10 years,” Marie Lindqvist, SVP operations Europe at ASM Global. “For the last four years, Darren has successfully led the team to enhance the performance of York Barbican, in terms of both content and financial metrics, and we’re excited to see what he brings to the Bonus Arena, Hull.”

In addition, Dan Harris, the current general manager at Bonus Arena, is relocating to Dubai to become commercial director for the 17,000-cap Coca-Cola Arena.

“We want to thank Dan for his leadership, and the success he has brought to our business in the UK,” adds Lindqvist. “We are very pleased to see him continuing his career with ASM Global in this new, exciting role with our team in Dubai.”

“As a proven leader within ASM Global, we are thrilled to welcome Dan to the team”

Harris, who has also served as GM for Scunthorpe’s Baths Hall and Plowright Theatre in the UK, says: “I am looking forward to the challenge afforded to me in the Middle East, by ASM Global and Dubai Holding. It is great to see the return of live events in Dubai and I will be working closely with key stakeholders and commercial partners to continue driving the industry at Dubai’s home of live entertainment.”

Harris’ appointment the promotion of Mark Jan Kar to GM of the Coca-Cola Arena in June 2021. The venue has sought to diversify its strategy by catering to an increasing number of sporting events. Upcoming concerts include The Kooks and Ronan Keating.

ASM Global APAC chairman and CEO Harvey Lister AM adds: “As a proven leader within ASM Global, we are thrilled to welcome Dan to the team. Coca-Cola Arena has seen a strong recovery as it emerges from the pandemic and I am positive that Dan’s extensive background in events and venue management will greatly benefit the arena as Dubai cements itself on the global touring circuit.”

 


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Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena to reopen

Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai will reopen this Friday (20 November), welcoming fans for the first time since February in a Covid-secure format.

The 17,000-capacity arena, which opened last summer, has partnered with promoter OJ Lifestyle to bring an urban music event, Dark Knights Edition 1.0, to the venue. Hosted by UK comedian Paul Chowdhry, the show will see MoStack, Not3s and Yungen perform to a socially distanced crowd.

“We are very pleased to be able to provide live entertainment to the community of Dubai again, and we are excited to welcome the OJ Lifestyle team to Coca-Cola Arena on November 20th,” says Guy Ngata, CEO of Coca-Cola Arena.

“There has been a tremendous amount of work implemented across many sectors in Dubai to get to this point, and we are pleased to now open our doors again, with the safety of our guests of the utmost importance.”

Coca-Cola Arena’s new hygiene protocols and procedures have been developed in collaboration with Dubai Municipality, the UAE’s Ministry of Health and Prevention, the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) and international safety guidelines, as well as the arena’s operator, ASM Global.

“It’s critical that we assure people they are attending a safe environment”

To reopen, the venue will draw on VenueShield, ASM Global’s environmental hygiene programme, which has been implemented at ASM venues globally.

Coca-Cola Arena’s VenueShield protocol includes enhanced cleaning procedures; temperature checks on arrival and thermal cameras at all entrances; social distancing in place across queuing, seating and concourse areas; disinfectant fogging machines; and hand sanitiser dispensers installed around the arena.

“It’s critical that we assure people they are attending a safe environment, allowing fans and artists to enjoy an amazing live experience, which we are confident will be the case,” continues Ngata. “Our VenueShield protocol is there to instil confidence in our guests as we all become accustomed to a new way of experiencing live events for the time being.”

“It is important that fans are vigilant of their own surroundings and responsible in relation to their own well-being and that of others, in line with the consistent messaging communicated by the government of Dubai over the past months,” he adds.

Fans are advised to visit the arena’s website and read the Covid-19 information before attending the show. Tickets are on sale now, starting at 249 dirhams (€57).

 


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Mariah Carey performs free in Dubai Expo 2020 launch

A year to the day before Dubai hosts a six-month long World Expo event, Mariah Carey is due to perform in a free concert at Burj Park.

The concert, dubbed One Year to Go, will take place on 20 October, with local singer Hussain Al Jassmi, as well as acts DJ Bliss, Abri and the Funk Radius and Khalifa also billed to perform.

The Expo, which was awarded to Dubai in 2013 by the International Exposition Bureau in Paris, will take place on a main 438-hectare site enclosed by three thematic districts – opportunity, mobility and sustainability.

A variety of live performances, cultural activities, business presentations and global celebrations will occur during the Expo.

The United Arab Emirates is also hosting live performances at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Formula One race from 28 November to December 1. Lana Del Rey will perform in the Middle East for the first time at the event, alongside EDM star Marshmello, the Killers and rapper Travis Scott.

In December, British singer Dido will perform and Dubai’s Media City Amphitheatre (15,000-cap.) and Bruno Mars will close out the year with a headline New Year’s show at the du Arena (25,000-cap.) in Abu Dhabi.

Last month, AEG Ogden, the operator of Dubai’s 17,000-capacity Coca-Cola Arena, celebrated the role the arena was playing in placing the UAE – and the wider region – on the international touring map.

Read more about the Middle East’s growing live events market below.

Full of Eastern Promise: The Middle East matures


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Dubai “go-to” tour destination with arena success

Dubai’s 17,000-capacity Coca-Cola Arena, which opened its doors three months ago, has already hosted shows by Maroon 5, Westlife, the 1975 and Alicia Keys, playing a key role in placing the United Arab Emirates on the international touring map.

The multipurpose arena was born as part of a collaboration between Dubai-based developer Meraas and AEG’s Asian/ Australasian venues arm, AEG Ogden.

The largest venue of its kind in the region, Meraas and AEG Ogden hope the arena will become the premier destination in the Middle East’s burgeoning live events scene.

The arena is fully enclosed and climate controlled, transforming Dubai from a “winter-only” touring destination into a year-round option for promoters. Floor space measuring 3,870 square metres and a variety of seating and stage configurations allow for a range of event types.

“Dubai is already a major entertainment hub for the entire region and the opening of Coca-Cola Arena has helped to further establish the city as the go-to destination for acts visiting the Middle East as part of global tour schedules,” comments AEG Ogden’s chief executive of Coca-Cola Arena, Guy Ngata.

“Dubai is already a major entertainment hub for the entire region and the opening of Coca-Cola Arena has helped to further establish the city as the go-to destination for acts visiting the Middle East”

“Meraas has shown a great vision to expand Dubai’s live entertainment offering and in doing so has an asset that will become one of the world’s great live venues.

“Together with Coca-Cola and all of our partners and stakeholders, there is a real passion in establishing the venue as the perfect fit for international touring artists, productions, sporting activity and shows of all genres,” adds Ngata.

Coca-Cola announced a ten-year naming-rights agreement with AEG Ogden in April, in what the soft drinks giant deemed a “milestone deal”. The arena also counts Indian ticketing platform BookMyShow among its partners, signifying the first global arena deal for the company.

“Despite only being open for a few months, Coca-Cola Arena is already firmly established as one of the city’s biggest attractions,” continues Ngata. “We look forward to hosting even more great live acts and events as we develop and expand the events industry in the UAE to even greater levels of success.”

Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena opened on 6 June, with a performance by Canadian comedian Russell Peters, before Maroon 5 made the arena’s musical debut on 14 June. A list of upcoming events can be found here.

 


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BookMyShow enters Middle East with Coca-Cola Arena deal

BookMyShow, India’s largest online ticketing company, has expanded into the Middle East after signing a five-year deal with AEG Ogden’s Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai.

Under the agreement, BookMyShow will be the preferred ticketing platform for all events at the 17,000-capacity arena, the biggest in the Middle East, as the UAE looks to cement its place as a viable touring destination.

Formerly referred to as the Dubai Arena, AEG’s Asian/ Australasian venues arm AEG Ogden recently signed a ten-year naming-rights deal with soft drinks giant Coca-Cola.

The ticketing platform also aims to provide content for the Coca-Cola Arena in music, comedy, sports and other live events over the next five years. The partnership kicks off with Westlife’s Twenty Tour on 29 August, which is being co-promoted by BookMyShow and Live Nation.

“The Middle East is a critical yet under-served market when it comes to such entertainment experiences for consumers,” says BookMyShow founder and chief executive Ashish Hemrajani.

“The partnership will enable us to bring the best of the world’s and India’s entertainment experiences to consumers in the Middle East”

“The partnership with the Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai will enable us to bring the best of the world’s and India’s entertainment experiences to consumers in the Middle East.”

The partnership is the first global arena deal for the Mumbai-based ticketing company and the next step in its international expansion. BookMyShow announced its first foray into sales outside of India in June 2018, with the London West End production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical The King and I.

Guy Ngata, chief executive of the Coca-Cola Arena, comments: “Our partnership with BookMyShow is based around a number of core elements, including live event promotions and preferred ticketing, which enables the vast experience that it has developed in India and South East Asia to be applied in Dubai.”

BookMyShow has received a total of US$224.5m since 2007, most recently securing $100m in an investment round led by Creative Artists Agency owner TPG. According to the International Ticketing Yearbook 2018, the company has a virtual monopoly of India’s online ticketing market, with a 78% market share.

The company recently invested in payment technology company AtomX, to enable the use of cashless solutions at BookMyShow events.

 


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Dubai Arena signs naming-rights deal with Coca-Cola

Dubai Arena, AEG Ogden’s new 17,000-capacity venue in the UAE’s largest city, will be named Coca-Cola Arena when it opens this June.

The new name follows the signing of a ten-year naming-rights agreement by AEG Ogden, AEG’s Asian/Australasian venues arm, with soft drinks giant Coca-Cola, reports Arabian Business.

The project has been three years in the making, originally announced in late 2016. The capacity has since been reduced from a projected 20,000, though the completed Coca-Cola Arena will still be the largest indoor in arena in the Middle East, with no less than 42 hospitality and corporate suites and capability to host concerts, sporting events, exhibitions and conferences.

“This is a milestone deal for the Coca-Cola Company”

Comedian Russell Peters, promoted by Live Nation Middle East, will open the new arena on 6 June, with its first concert following eight days later, on Friday 14 June: Maroon 5, promoted by Done Events.

“This is a milestone deal for the Coca-Cola Company as the Coca-Cola Arena will bring more than 40 events every year to the hugely anticipated destination, putting us at the centre stage of entertainment,” comments Murat Ozgel, general manager of Coca-Cola Middle East and deputy business unit president of Coca-Cola Middle East and North Africa.

“The Coca-Cola Arena will firmly position itself as a leading destination helping Dubai claim its place among the main global metropoles like New York, Tokyo, Paris and London,” says Ozgel.

 


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