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Anghami to open venues in Middle East, UK, US

Anghami, the largest music streaming service in the Middle East and north Africa (Mena), has announced plans to open music venues in Dubai, Riyadh and several other Middle Eastern cities, as well as in the UK and North America.

Lebanon-based Anghami, which is preparing for a flotation on New York’s Nasdaq market, has partnered with hospitality company Addmind to launch Anghami Lab, an “innovative entertainment venue” concept which will debut in Dubai in early 2022. According to the companies, Anghami Lab will bridge the worlds of live and digital music, its live stage being joined by a studio where performers can create “music inspired by both Arabic and international cultures” which will then be made available to listen back exclusively on Anghami.

In addition, new features will be added to the Anghami app “complementing both experiences”, say the new partners.

“This is a great opportunity to further reinforce the value we provide digitally to be converged offline in a unique user-to-guest experience”

Eddy Maroun, co-founder and CEO of Anghami, says: “We are excited to partner with Addmind to create this unique, transformational experience for our users. Addmind is a leading expert in conceptualising and operating hospitality spaces, and this is a great opportunity to further reinforce the value we provide digitally to be converged offline in a unique user-to-guest experience.”

Following the opening of the Dubai venue, further Anghami Labs are planned for Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, then Jeddah (Saudi Arabia), Cairo (Egypt), Beirut (Lebanon), London, New York and Los Angeles.

“Anghami is more than just a streaming platform,” comments Tony Habre, CEO of Addmind. “They have elevated the value of the music industry in the Middle East as a whole. Anghami Lab is an amazing and unique concept that embodies our rich Arab culture with an international twist, which we are thrilled to bring to fruition and scale.”

 


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Mark Jan Kar appointed new GM of Coca-Cola Arena

Mark Jan Kar has been promoted to general manager of Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena following the recent resignation of arena CEO Guy Ngata.

Kar, who is currently the arena’s director of commercial and live, will assume the role on 20 June following the departure of Ngata, who is returning to his home country of New Zealand.

Harvey Lister, chairman and chief executive of arena operator ASM Global Apac, says: “Guy’s leadership and management of the arena is demonstrated by Coca-Cola Arena Dubai being named venue of the year at the Middle East Event Awards last month. Guy will be returning to Auckland to join his family for an extended period and we wish him well in his future endeavours.”

“Mark’s understanding and knowledge of the many wonderful and unique characteristics of the destination will be invaluable”

Welcoming Kar, Lister continues: “We are committed to and optimistic about the future. As a long-time resident of Dubai, Mark’s understanding and knowledge of the many wonderful and unique characteristics of the destination will be invaluable, and he will be fully supported by the whole ASM Global team as we grow content for the United Arab Emirates and the Gulf region generally.”

With a capacity of 17,000, Coca-Cola Arena is the biggest indoor arena in Dubai. The venue opened in 2019 but has, in common with other entertainment venues globally, spent much of the past year with its doors shut, though it managed to reopen for socially distanced shows at the tail end of last year.

“I am looking forward to the opportunity afforded to me by ASM Global APAC and [venue owner] Dubai Holding,” says Kar. “As an executive team we are committed along with our stakeholders to the return of live in the city of Dubai and truly excited for what the future holds.”

 


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United at Home: How David Guetta live streams raised millions

United at Home, David Guetta’s free-to-access lockdown livestream series, has raised more than US$2 million for charity to date – over half a million dollars per show – and is just getting started, according to co-organiser Michael Wiesenfeld.

Wiesenfeld, a French-born, Miami-based estate agent and friend of Guetta, was instrumental in setting up the first United at Home event in April 2020, which saw the DJ play a 100-minute set on the roof of an apartment block in Miami in aid of the World Health Organization (WHO), Feeding South Florida, Feeding America and France’s Fondation des Hôpitaux.

The show was seen by more than 12 million people – many of which also joined in on a Zoom link, while 7,000 residents of neighbouring blocks in the Icon Brickell complex watched from their balconies – and raised $700,000, with donations matched by Guetta himself, Wiesenfeld explains.

“For that first show, David paid for 100% of the production, as well as matching people’s donations, so 100% of that money went directly to charity,” he recalls.

Thinking back to the genesis of the show, Wiesenfeld tells IQ: “David wanted to do something to give back, but he didn’t really know what. I was the same – it was such a stressful time, and I couldn’t sleep thinking of all these people who were worse off than me. We could see people were struggling. There was no help at the time, as this was before any stimulus package.

“I used to live in the apartment block where we did the first show and I realised it would be perfect. I was looking for something that would be visually very nice [to watch from home] and also offer the possibility for David to interact with a live crowd. A friend and client of mine in the real-estate business, Jean-Charles Carre, is part of David’s management team, so I called them up and said, ‘Why don’t we do it here?’”

The United at Home team, which also included Jérémy Zeitoun, Guetta’s head of social media and digital marketing, and Pierre-Georges Kieffer from Warner Music France, pulled the Miami show together in under a week, working “18 hours a day for five days” to make it happen, Wiesenfeld continues.

In addition to providing some much-needed entertainment, the funds raised by United at Home Miami and follow-up event United at Home New York, on 30 May, enabled Feeding America to distribute over four million meals to people in need.

“We thought about selling tickets to raise more money, but it would limit the number of people who can see it”

“Everybody has same story about it giving a bit of happiness at time of such darkness,” Wiesenfeld says. “I dug out the clips recently and, even a year later, I had chills. It was like watching France win the world cup!”

“That night, I couldn’t sleep,” Wiesenfeld remembers. “David, the team and I were on the phone until 6.30 in the morning, we were so full of adrenaline. We all agreed that we had to do another one.”

The show that followed, which saw Guetta performing from the roof of New York’s Rockefeller Center, almost didn’t happen, with big-city bureaucracy, the worsening Covid-19 situation and the protests sparked by the death of George Floyd threatening to derail the concert before it got off the ground.

“The day of the event, there were 4,000 people on the streets of New York by our hotel,” Wiesenfeld explains. “We didn’t think we were going to make it to the Rockefeller Center in time. In the end, David arrived seven minutes before the show!”

Despite the chaotic circumstances, United at Home New York was another critical and financial success, securing the backing of a number of high-profile sponsors who were impressed by what the team had pulled off in Miami.

“In Miami, David paid for entire show, but in New York we had Major League Soccer, Heineken, Atari, all kinds of companies… In total, we had maybe 15 sponsors because they saw what we did in Miami and they were blown away,” says Wiesenfeld.

Similarly successful were United at Home Paris, held at the Louvre on New Year’s Eve 2020, and United at Home Dubai, which saw Guetta return to the rooftop (this time of the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah hotel) on 6 February. Both shows were engineered by Guetta’s long time tour manager, Jean-Guillaume Charvet, and visual artist Romain Pissenem of High Scream Production, and brought United at Home’s now-trademark mix of high-energy electronic music, spectacular visual effects and breathtaking locations to fans in new continents.

Bucking the trend towards ticketed live streams, Wiesenfeld says all future United at Home events will remain free to view to ensure they reach as many people as possible.

“The key with charity is that it’s all about the experience and the connection with people”

“We thought about it [selling tickets], to raise more money, but it would limit the number of people who can see it,” he explains. “David’s logic is that he’s been very successful, he’s received a lot from his fans, and now his duty is to give back. The charity angle is very important to him.”

At press time, the four shows had been collectively viewed by well over 100m people – and where in the beginning the team had to approach cities to host United at Home, now the cities are coming to them. “The shows have shown that these United at Home events are a great way of advertising their cities,” says Wiesenfeld, who with Carre now leads a specialist event consultancy, The Charity Guys. “After all, it’s a lot cheaper than hosting the Euros…”

The plan for 2021–22 is for another three or four over the next 12 months, he says. “Now United at Home has become a concept – we travel to a beautiful part of the world and play great music for charity – it’s going to continue.”

Post-coronavirus, Wiesenfeld adds, team Guetta – which also includes agent Maria May of CAA – are also hoping to do a “real show in a big stadium: a festival curated by David but featuring other artists. A Live Aid type of thing, once a year.”

On the live stream front, it’s likely the next United at Home show will be in Asia, but The Charity Guys is also looking at South America, the Middle East and other cities in Europe, according to Wiesenfeld. “What we’re trying to do is find new ways to raise money for those who need it,” he adds.

The Charity Guys is also hoping to work with other artists to replicate the success of the United at Home model, using it as their proof of concept.

“United at Home was the product of out-of-the-box thinking – it was livestreaming but in a completely different way. Now we want to do that with other artists and entertainers, leveraging their fame and brand to raise money.

“There are a lot of celebrities who have foundations but they don’t raise much money, and I think that’s because they don’t have the right team around them. The key with charity is that it’s all about the experience and the connection with people, and that’s why United at Home has been so successful.”

 


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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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2,000 perform in record-setting virtual show

Rockin’ 1000, the ‘biggest rock band on Earth’, set a new world record on Friday night after bringing together 2,500 performers for a single virtual concert.

The Italian-born music collective – which achieved viral fame in summer 2015 with their 1,000-person rendition of Foo Fighters’ ‘Learn to Fly’ – broke the Guinness World Record for ‘most videos in a music medley video’ with a virtual concert streamed live from Global Village, the Dubai entertainment and shopping complex, on 30 October.

Nearly 2,000 people from more than 80 countries participated in the event, performing a medley of Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’, Joey Ramone’s ‘What a Wonderful World’, Status Quo’s ‘Rockin’ All Over the World’ and New Radicals’ ‘You Get What You Give’ for the so-called ‘Global Gig’, co-produced by Global Village, Arabian Radio Network and the Jumeirah Beach Hotel.

Fabio Zaffagnini, founder and general manager of Rockin’ 1000, comments: It was our pleasure to perform together with our members from around the world and we are grateful for this opportunity to be part of the Global Village silver jubilee celebrations. The experience is one that we will never forget, and Global Village will always hold a special place in our hearts, as we look forward to visiting in person as soon as we can.”

At press time, Rockin’ 1000’s ‘Global Gig’, which can be watched back above, had been seen by 355,000 people.

 


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First large-scale shows return to UAE

Dubai-based promoter Done Events is hosting the UAE’s first major post-Covid shows next month, as part of the Dubai Summer Surprises (DSS) event series.

Done Events, part of Arab Media Group (AMG) and owner of Dubai Jazz Festival, is promoting two shows by Jimmy Carr – the comedian’s first in the UAE – on 13 and 14 August at the Dubai World Trade Centre.

The show will form part of the DSS Festival, a seven-week long series of live entertainment, family-friendly experiences and shopping deals, as well as Done Events’ DXBLaughs comedy series, the largest in the region.

Both shows will follow the UAE government’s latest Covid-19 health and safety guidelines, with full information available when tickets go on sale next week.

“Our vision is to respond genuinely to the customers’ needs and make an impact during these difficult times”

“Challenging moments in history have always driven ingenuity and innovation” says Done Events MD, Girish Bhat. “Our vision is to respond genuinely to the customers’ needs and make an impact during these difficult times. Done Events promises to deliver a safe experience following all the necessary health and safety protocols as well as social distancing arrangements.”

Ahmed Al Khaja, CEO of Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment (DFRE), ads that he is “delighted” to have Jimmy Carr perform as part of DSS.

“DSS is as much about entertainment as it is about shopping, and it is the combination of world-class leisure events, retail experiences and citywide attractions at incredible prices that sets DSS apart as one of the great summer shopping festivals in the world.”

A recent YouGov survey of UAE residents indicated a wariness around returning to live events in the wake of Covid-19, with 56% of respondents saying they were “somewhat likely or not at all likely” to attend shows.

Respondents said the mandatory use of face masks and gloves, increased cleaning and disinfecting of venues and increased social distancing were the measures most likely to encourage them to visit entertainment venues.

Photo: Creativesaravana/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0) (cropped)

 


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Bridging the Gulf: Arab Gulf states come of age

And it was all going so well!

Going into Christmas, you might have said the live entertainment business in the Arab states of the Persian Gulf states was on a decisive path to maturity, at least in certain prominent markets. Dubai finally had its permanent Coca-Cola Arena and was hauling in the crowds and the talent, including Maroon 5, Westlife, the 1975 and John Legend.

Abu Dhabi, meanwhile, had nailed down a name for its own 18,000-cap. indoor venue – Etihad Arena, part of the 12 billion AED (€3bn) Yas Bay development project – and an expectation of a 2020 opening.

Even Kuwait, fairly quiet lately on the touring front, was preparing to cut the ribbon on a 5,000-cap mixed-use arena: the Sheikh Jaber Al-Abdullah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah International Tennis Complex in Surrah, managed by Live Nation and opened in February.

And, of course, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the pedigree dark horse of the region, was fast emerging as by far the most promising market of them all, with concerts, festivals, Formula E racing, international tennis, equestrian competitions and boxing.  To varying degrees, these events have met with international controversy due to Saudi’s well-known diplomatic issues.

But they have also been powered by large amounts of cash, rabid local demand and the grand ambitions of ‘MbS’ – controversial crown prince Mohammed bin Salman – and his Vision 2030 plan to reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil, diversify its economy and develop its public sector.

“Dubai is a country that depends on tourism and entertainment, so they will be very keen to reopen as soon as possible”

Then came Covid-19, which still rages worldwide at press time, and the region was forced to hit pause on its entertainment aspirations. Like almost everywhere else, concert halls closed, shows were postponed, and the industry went into enforced hibernation. When it will rouse itself again is anyone’s guess.

“As with the rest of the world, all events [in Saudi Arabia] are cancelled until further notice,” said Vassiliy Anatoli, managing director of regional ticketing hub Platinumlist, speaking to IQ in late March. “The public is not allowed to go outside the house from 3pm until 8am and the death toll is rising. People are worried.”

The UAE states had imposed similar measures and were already daring to dream of a light at the end of the tunnel. “Large organisers are hopeful to restart their operation in July, but again, that depends on how the situation pans out in the coming [months],” said Anatoli.

“Dubai is a country that depends on tourism and entertainment, so I’m sure they will be very keen to reopen as soon as possible,” he added. “[Dubai’s] Expo 2020 has already been moved to ’21. As for the rest of the organisers, they have moved all events to November and December. Rugby Sevens is confirmed for December, but again, it depends on government regulation.”

Each of the various Gulf markets has its own economic logic: generous state funding combined with remarkably strong ticket sales in Saudi; a similar balance in Abu Dhabi, albeit on a far less turbo-charged scale; and a grittier commercial market in Dubai, closely controlled, but not underwritten, by the state. Clearly, all will suffer damage, even if some can absorb it better than others.

 


Continue reading this feature in the digital edition of IQ 89, or subscribe to the magazine here


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Dubai live pioneer Richard Coram passes

Richard Coram, one of the Middle East’s live music pioneers and a household name in the UAE, has passed away from Covid-19.

Known locally as the ‘voice of Dubai’, Coram, who arrived in the emirate in 1978, was a TV and radio fixture for much of the 1980s, hosting his own show on Dubai FM 92 and working as a newsreader on Channel 33 Dubai.

Coram (pictured) is best known to the live music community as founder of events firm The Talent Brokers, which he established in 1979. Later joined by Coram’s wife, Padma, the company staged shows by the likes of Lionel Richie, Bryan Adams, Luciano Pavarotti and Sirs Elton John and Rod Stewart, at a time when large-scale live events in Dubai were thin on the ground.

The Talent Brokers is remembered fondly in the Middle East for its high-quality live events, in contrast to many of the “cowboys” that followed, media veteran Keith Fernandez tells Gulf News. “I have countless memories of the shows they mounted. […] These were almost always superbly organised shows, with excellent security, F&B and logistics.”

“A giant has left us”

“You only needed to see their name attached to an event to know it would be a quality show,” adds Dubai resident Anthony Permal. “This was Richard’s legacy. [There is] no part of [the live] events [industry] that hasn’t been touched by Richard.”

In a tweet, Dubai-based marketing specialist Anthony Permal pays tribute to Coram as a “giant” of the live entertainment industry. “Richard Coram is the OG events guru of Dubai,” he says. “He started the true wave and paved the way for so many of us.

“A giant has left us.”

The Corams, along with their son, Aryan, later moved to the UK, where Richard spent his final years. Recent projects in the UK included AR Rahman at the O2 Arena, in August 2015, and Capital’s Jingle Bell Ball 2019, with Stormzy and Rita Ora, last December.

 


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Live Nation takes stake in Miami’s Groot Hospitality

Live Nation has taken a majority stake in Miami-based venue operator Groot Hospitality, owned by entrepreneur David Grutman.

Groot Hospitality’s portfolio includes nightclubs Liv (1,100-cap.) and Story (1,400-cap.), the Swan and Bar Bevy, which is a joint venture with singer Pharell Williams, and several restaurants.

Launched by Grutman in 2018, Groot Hospitality now plans to expand into new markets, with eleven projects set to open in Dallas, Las Vegas and Dubai, as well as in Miami, over the next two years.

“Entertainment is the DNA of Groot Hospitality, so it was a natural fit for us to join the leading live entertainment company,” says Grutman.

“Entertainment is the DNA of Groot Hospitality, so it was a natural fit for us to join the leading live entertainment company”

“Live Nation shares my passion for creating once-in-a-lifetime experiences and together we will grow our portfolio worldwide while pushing the limits of fans’ expectations.”

Grutman will stay on as CEO of Groot Hospitality, along with executives Chris Cuomo and Mo Garcia.

According to a press statement, Live Nation hopes to use Grutman’s expertise to “elevate and launch offerings” across its venues, festivals and events.

IQ calculates that Live Nation has taken a majority shareholding in 18 promoters, festivals and other live music-related businesses so far this year across Asia (One Production), Australia (Moshtix), North America (Embrace Presents, Neste Event Marketing, Levitate, Spaceland Presents, Bonnaroo), Europe (Planet Events, Blockfest, Tons of Rock, Antwerps Sportpaleis, PDH Music, Go Ahead, Rewind Festival, Hög Agency) and Latin America (Rock in Rio, Ocesa Entertainment).

 


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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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