fbpx

PROFILE

MY SUBSCRIPTION

LOGOUT

x

The latest industry news to your inbox.

    

I'd like to hear about marketing opportunities

    

I accept IQ Magazine's Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy

MDL Beast festival to debut in Saudi Arabia

David Guetta, Martin Garrix and Steve Aoki are among acts confirmed for electronic dance music (EDM) festival MDL Beast, the latest addition to Saudi Arabia’s flourishing festival scene.

The inaugural MDL Beast festival is taking place from 19 to 21 December 2019 in Riyadh, home to the 70,000-capacity King Fahd Stadium which recently hosted k-pop stars BTS.

The multi-stage festival will feature 18 international headliners and 28 global dance acts including Afrojack, Camelphat, J Balvin and Tiësto, as well as 24 local and regional performers, such as EDM DJ Cosmicat and local DJ duo Dish Dash.

Steve Aoki, who this summer performed at Roqu Media’s Jeddah World Fest – the first, major, ticketed music festival in the country – comments: “When I got the offer to play at the three-day MDL Beast festival, I was thrilled to become part of it and be back in the region again. It’s go[ing to] be an incredible event with tons of acts and lots of new names.”

“We’re confident MDL Beast will be like nothing seen before and we cannot wait to experience this transformative musical milestone”

Ahmad Alammary, DJ and member of the festival team, adds: “More than just a music festival, MDL Beast is also a platform with multiple [projects] including ongoing seasonal local and global events, online and radio channels, recording studios, and a non-profit foundation promoting music education and therapy.

“We’re confident MDL Beast will be like nothing seen before and we cannot wait to experience this transformative musical milestone.”

“I’m so proud of the fact that we’re hosting this festival in Saudi; it’s a great reflection of the Saudi audience being able to experience the music they love,” comments Cosmicat. “As one of the first female EDM DJs here, I’m excited to be flying the flag and representing women on the scene.”

As Saudi Arabia continues to boost its live entertainment offering and cement its place on the international touring map, criticism is still levelled at artists who opt to play in the kingdom. Nicki Minaj pulled out of Jeddah World Fest following pressure from human rights organisations and BTS’ appearance in the country sparked a mixed reaction from fans.

Fans can register for tickets to the MDL Beast here.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Saudi’s live success divides international opinion

K-pop stars BTS became the first international band to play a solo stadium concert in Saudi Arabia on Friday (11 October), in what has been lauded as the start of a “new story” for live entertainment in the kingdom by some, and accused of “whitewashing” an authoritarian regime by others.

The BTS show, which drew an audience of around 40,000 at Riyadh’s 70,000-capacity King Fahd stadium, marked the first day of Saudi Arabia’s eight-week Riyadh Season, the biggest of eleven region-specific seasons aiming to boost live entertainment offerings and touristic activities across the country.

“Getting BTS is a huge win, because they are the most in demand,” James Craven, president of Live Nation Middle East, told Arab News.

“Two years ago, no one would have ever expected us to bring in international touring artists into Saudi,” says Craven. “I want the people in the industry to come and see the changes, come and see what’s happening and meet the people.”

More shows by international artists are yet to be announced for Riyadh. Craven explains that demand for concerts is high, resulting in a sales cycle of only a few days. “In Saudi, you can actually put [tickets] out on sale three days before a show and have it sold out,” says Craven.

“I want the people in the industry to come and see the changes, come and see what’s happening and meet the people”

Other successful live events to have taken place in the kingdom this year include Roqu Media-promoted Jeddah World Fest and performances from Mariah Carey, Jason Derulo and Marshmello.

Criticisms have been levelled at international artists who play in Saudi Arabia. Non-profit organisation Human Rights Foundation (HRF) has been especially vocal on the subject.

“Rather than using their platform to denounce the Saudi regime’s abuses, BTS chose to whitewash the regime’s human rights violations by performing in Riyadh today,” reads a HRF twitter post.

“HRF calls on celebrities to think twice before endorsing authoritarian regimes.”

Rapper Nicki Minaj pulled out of Jeddah World Fest following pressure from the human rights organisation in July.

Fans took to social media with the hashtag BTSDontGo to show their discontent with the Saudi concert. The band had previously defended their decision to play in the country, admitting it was not an “easy” one to make, but explaining that “if there’s a place where people want to see us, we’ll go there.”

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Saudi Arabia festival “turning point” for youth culture

Jeddah World Fest, the largest music festival to take place in Saudi Arabia, has been dubbed as “overwhelmingly successful” by organisers Roqu Media International.

The sold-out festival, which took place on 18 July, saw performances by 50 Cent, Janet Jackson, Chris Brown and Steve Aoki. Nicki Minaj, originally billed as a headliner for the event, pulled out a week before following pressure from human rights organisations.

The Ireland-based Roqu Media now has a contract to deliver the festival for the next three years. The media production company is also preparing similar events to take place in Russia, Georgia and South Africa.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, Roqu president Robert Quirke says the Saudi festival was “overwhelmingly successful [but] extremely challenging given the local circumstances.”

“[Jeddah World Fest is] a turning point for all youth culturally”

According to Quirke, Jeddah World Fest is helping to change perceptions of the country, serving as a “turning point for all youth culturally”. The event, like all those produced by Roqu, was broadcast live on television in countries across the world.

The international live entertainment market in Saudi Arabia is still in relatively early days. Many acts have faced criticism for adding the country to their touring schedule due to human rights’ concerns.

The kingdom hosted its first-ever mixed gender music festival in December last year. Korean pop stars BTS will become the first international group to play a solo stadium concert in the country in October.

Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority has said it plans to spend US$64 billion on the sector over the next decade.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Saudi’s Jeddah Fest secures 50 Cent, Janet Jackson

Saudi Arabia’s largest-ever music festival, Jeddah World Fest, is taking place today (18 July), with the last-minute additions of Janet Jackson, 50 Cent, Chris Brown and Future.

The artists will perform alongside Liam Payne, Steve Aoki and Tyga at the 63,241-capacity King Abdullah Sports Stadium in Jeddah.

The newly added acts replace rapper Nicki Minaj, who cancelled her appearance at the sold-out music festival last week, following pressure from human rights organisations.

The president of the Human Rights Foundation – the principle organisation urging acts to boycott shows in Saudi Arabia – says it is “profoundly distressing that they [the artists] have chosen money over morals.”

“These individuals constantly make public statements of support for LGBT rights and women’s rights, except, apparently, when a seven-figure check is attached”

“These individuals constantly make public statements of support for LGBT rights and women’s rights, except, apparently, when a seven-figure check is attached,” Halvorssen told the Associated Press.

Jeddah World Fest is part of the Saudi government’s campaign to open up the live entertainment market, following a US$2.7 billion investment in the sector in 2017.

K-pop stars BTS were the latest act to add the country to their touring schedule, announcing an October show in Riyadh. Mariah Carey, Jason Derulo, Enrique Iglesias, the Black Eyed Peas and Tiesto are among international acts to have recently played in the country.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

BTS Saudi Arabia concert prompts mixed reaction

K-pop stars BTS have added a date at Saudi Arabia’s 70,000-capacity King Fahd stadium to their 2019 world tour.

BTS are the latest high-profile act to announce dates in Saudi Arabia, as the kingdom continues its bid to put itself on the touring map. The boy band would be the first international group to play a solo stadium concert in the country. The concert is scheduled to take place on 11 October 2019 as part of the band’s Love Yourself: Speak Yourself tour.

However, some fans have taken to social media to criticise the decision, questioning the Saudi government’s human rights record.

Nicki Minaj recently cancelled her appearance at the country’s largest-ever music festival, Jeddah World Fest, citing support for women’s rights, the LGBTQ community and freedom of expression.

Human Rights Foundation (HRF), the organisation that lobbied for Minaj’s cancellation, is also urging fellow headliner Liam Payne to withdraw from the festival.

“Saudi Arabia is attempting to change the country’s image in part by developing an entertainment industry”

In a statement to Middle East Eye, Human Rights Watch researcher Adam Coogle said that Saudi Arabia was “attempting to change the country’s image in part by developing an entertainment industry and hosting concerts by well-known artists”, and encouraged artists to speak out against abuses.

Others believe the opening up of the live entertainment market is a sign of Saudi Arabia’s growing liberalisation.

Saudi Arabia hosted its first-ever gender-integrated concert series last December. The following month, Mariah Carey became the first international female to perform a solo concert at the King Abdullah stadium.

Jeddah World Fest takes place later this week (Thursday 18 July) at the 63,241-capacity King Abdullah Sports Stadium. All tickets for the event have sold-out.

Tickets for the King Fahd stadium tour date will become available soon.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Nicki Minaj pulls out of Saudi music festival

Rapper Nick Minaj has cancelled her upcoming performance at Jeddah World Fest in Saudi Arabia, citing support for women’s rights, the LGBTQ community and freedom of expression.

Minaj was billed to perform alongside EDM artist Steve Aoki and former One Direction member Liam Payne at Saudi Arabia’s largest-ever music festival, which takes place on Thursday 18 July at the 63,241-capacity King Abdullah Sports Stadium in Jeddah.

“After careful reflection I have decided to no longer move forward with my scheduled concert at Jeddah World Fest,” the singer said in a statement.

“While I want nothing more than to bring my show to fans in Saudi Arabia, after better educating myself on the issues, I believe it is important for me to make clear my support for the rights of women, the LGBTQ community and freedom of expression.”

The decision comes after the president of US-based Human Rights Foundation (HRF) penned an open letter to Minaj asking her to cancel the appearance “as a symbol of solidarity with the ongoing suffering of the Saudi people.”

“After better educating myself on the issues, I believe it is important for me to make clear my support for the rights of women, the LGBTQ community and freedom of expression”

HRF president Thor Halvorssen detailed cases of human rights abuses in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which he describes as “one of the most repressive regimes on earth”.

Halvorssen has since praised Minaj’s decision to pull out of the festival, and urged Payne to do the same.

“We are grateful to Nicki Minaj for her inspiring and thoughtful decision to reject the Saudi regime’s transparent attempt at using her for a public relations stunt,” writes the HRF president.

After years of restrictions on entertainment, Jeddah World Fest signifies the next step in Saudi Arabia’s embrace of live music events.

A post on the festival’s Facebook page states that Minaj had cancelled “due to personal reasons”. A second wave performers will be announced later this week.

The kingdom hosted its first mixed gender music festival in December, featuring artists including Jason Derulo, Enrique Iglesias and David Guetta. A US$2.7 billion fund was established in 2017 to kickstart the entertainment sector.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.</em

Nicki Minaj to headline Saudi Arabia’s first major music fest

After hosting its first-ever gender-integrated concert series at the Formula E ePrix last December, the rapidly liberalising kingdom of Saudi Arabia is preparing for its first major music festival, which debuts this month.

Part of the Jeddah Season festival, Jeddah World Fest, organised by Ireland-based Roqu Media International, will take place at King Abdullah Sports Stadium (63,241-cap.) in Jeddah on Thursday 18 July, and feature international performers including Nicki Minaj, Steve Aoki and former One Direction member Liam Payne.

It is the latest and most significant move by Saudi Arabia’s rulers to open up the conservative Islamic kingdom – which until recently considered secular music haram, or sinful – to touring live entertainment, and comes nearly two years after the General Authority for Entertainment (GEA), the body tasked with driving growth in the entertainment sector, announced a US$2.7 billion fund to attract international partners.

Commenting on the line-up, Roqu’s Robert Quirke says Minaj (pictured) is “an absolute global icon. She has 130 million followers on Instagram, she is considered one of the top 10 female performers of all time, she’s had multiple awards and she’ll have her new album come out this year.

“She is going to get a lot of attention for Jeddah in the most positive way you can imagine. She’s going to be actively on her social media, she’ll be posting right from the stage in Jeddah and at her hotel in Jeddah. Everyone is going to know that Nicki Minaj has landed in Saudi Arabia.”

“Everyone is going to know that Nicki Minaj has landed in Saudi Arabia”

Other performers include Ministry of Sound-signed DJs R3wire and Varski, who “will make sure that the crowd stays absolutely pumped” between artist sets, adds Quirke.

The event will also be streamed live internationally, according to Raed Abuzinadah, the director-general of Jeddah Season, who says Jeddah World Fest is set to be “the largest musical festival of its kind in the region, that will be broadcast to a global audience in more than 100 countries,” reports Gulf News.

“There is a stereotype of the kingdom all over the world, and today it is disappearing,” Abuzinadah told reporters recently. “In its place is a new picture of the kingdom that accepts everyone. “This is the first global music festival of this scale in [Saudi Arabia] and is sure to absolutely wow the lucky audience in Jeddah like never before.”

Tickets are being sold via the website of Sharek, Saudi Arabia’s new e-visa system.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.