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Artists divided over Qatar World Cup opportunities

Dua Lipa and Rod Stewart have spoken out against performing at the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, amid the ongoing controversy surrounding the country’s human rights record.

Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers and criminalisation of same-sex relationships has come under increased scrutiny in the run-up to the football tournament, which begins this weekend.

And with a growing number of artists confirmed to be performing in the country during the World Cup, Lipa took to Instagram to deny reports she had signed up to play the opening ceremony.

“There is currently a lot of speculation that I will be performing at the opening ceremony of the World Cup in Qatar,” she said. “I will not be performing and nor have I ever been involved in any negotiation to perform.

“I will be cheering England on from afar and I look forward to visiting Qatar when it has fulfilled all the human rights pledges it made when it won the right to host the World Cup.”

Stewart, meanwhile, revealed he turned down more than $1 million (€968,000) to perform in Qatar last year.

“I was actually offered a lot of money, over $1m, to play there 15 months ago,” Stewart told The Sunday Times. “I turned it down. It’s not right to go.”

It was confirmed last week that BTS member Jungkook will perform at the opening ceremony, taking place next Sunday (20 November) at the Al Bayt stadium, and contribute to the tournament’s official soundtrack. Diplo, Calvin Harris and Sean Paul will also be performing at the Fifa Fan Festival, which will run over the 29 days of the international football showpiece.

“I look forward to visiting Qatar when it has fulfilled all the human rights pledges it made”

Meanwhile, David Guetta, Fatboy Slim, Steve Aoki, Afrojack, Hardwell, Rae Sremmurd, Tinie, Jorja Smith and Tyga are among the international stars due to perform at MDLBeast’s Aravia concert series on the purpose-built Al Rihla stage in Doha.

LGBTIQ+ people and women continue to face discrimination in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal and can be punished by fines, prison sentences of up to seven years and even the possibility of the death penalty.

There are also significant concerns over rights for migrant workers, with a 2021 Guardian report finding that more than 6,000 migrant workers have died in Qatar since it won the right to host the World Cup 10 years ago.

Meanwhile, women are subject to a system where they remained tied to their male guardian – usually their father, brother, grandfather or uncle – or for married women, to their husband.

According to Amnesty International, they need their guardian’s permission for key life decisions to marry, study abroad on government scholarships, work in many government jobs, travel abroad until certain ages, and receive some forms of reproductive healthcare.

In addition, family laws continue to discriminate against women by making it difficult for them to divorce and divorced women remain unable to act as their children’s guardian.

 


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Top dance acts set for Qatar World Cup concerts

Calvin Harris, David Guetta, Fatboy Slim and Steve Aoki head the line-up of international dance acts announced for MDLBeast’s Aravia concert series, which will take place in Qatar during the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The nightly raves will be held at the purpose-built Al Rihla venue in Doha from 21 November to 18 December. Tickets start at QAR199 (€57).

Other artists will include Afrojack, Hardwell, Rae Sremmurd, Tinie and Tyga, alongside regional stars Amr Diab, Ayed, and Hamaki and up-and-coming Saudi talent such as Biirdperson, Cosmicat, Dish Dash and Vinyl Mode. Performances will kick off at the end of each match during the international football tournament.

MDLBeast also promotes the Soundstorm festival and XP Music Futures conference in Riyadh, with Aravia marking its first event to be held outside Saudi Arabia.

“Our mission goes far beyond the music scene in Saudi Arabia”

“Our mission goes far beyond the music scene in Saudi Arabia,” says Talal Albahiti, chief operating officer and head of talent booking at MDLBeast. “On the contrary, it is aimed at growing the music industry region-wide and ensuring we create a sustainable music industry, inspiring and empowering the entire ecosystem.

“Between our annual flagship event Soundstorm in Riyadh and Aravia in Doha, we are thrilled to travel out of Saudi for the first time and be hosting these incredible music events.”

FIFA has also announced plans to stage free concerts starring “top global and local music acts” as part of a reimagined Fan Festival at the World Cup. The festival will be held at one central location at Al Bidda Park in Doha.

 


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MDLBeast to stage World Cup concert series Aravia

Saudi music entertainment company MDLBeast has unveiled details of its new concert series Aravia, which will bring dozens of superstar DJs to Qatar during the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The line-up, which will be revealed in the coming days, will comprise 56 dance acts, who will perform on the purpose-built Al Rihla stage in Doha.

MDLBeast, which promotes the Soundstorm festival and XP Music Futures conference in Riyadh, says performances will start at the end of each match of the international football tournament from 21 November to 18 December.

“The launch of Aravia is a huge milestone moment for MDLBeast and for the wider region”

“The launch of Aravia is a huge milestone moment for MDLBeast and for the wider region,” says MDLBeast CEO Ramadan Alharatani. “We are known for putting on legendary live music and entertainment events thanks to the runaway success of Soundstorm, and to have 28 nights of AAA DJs and music in Qatar this year is an exciting prospect.

“We look forward to bringing the best of dance music to football fans from all over the world.”

The news comes days after FIFA announced it is to stage free concerts starring “top global and local music acts” as part of a reimagined Fan Festival at the World Cup. The festival will be held at one central location at Al Bidda Park in Doha.

 


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World’s first mobile stadium takes shape

Ras Abu Aboud Stadium, a 40,000-seat temporary venue billed as the world’s first ‘demountable’ stadium, is under construction in Doha, Qatar.

Constructed on an artificial promontory in the district of the same name, Ras Abu Aboud Stadium is being built to a modular design, and partly out of old shipping containers from Doha Port. It is one of eight new venues under construction ahead of the Fifa World Cup football competition in 2022.

The first moveable stadium in World Cup history, Ras Abu Aboud Stadium “will be entirely dismantled and repurposed post-2022, setting a new standard in tournament sustainability and legacy,” according to Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC), which is overseeing the Qatar 2022 world cup.

In a tweet sent on Friday (16 October), the SC said the new venue is “slowly taking shape”:

After the tournament, says the SC, the “modular seats and even the roof will be disassembled and reused”.

What they’ll be reused for, however, is still under discussion: the Qatari authorities note its modular design “could provide the building blocks for another 40,000-seat stadium in a different location, or for several different types of sporting or non-sporting venues”.

The Qatar 2022 Fifa World Cup takes place from 21 November to 18 December, with 32 national teams taking part.

 


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Market report: Middle East

Live music disappears quickly in times of war and turmoil, and even at the best of times it finds no outlet in parts of the Middle East. But between the music-hungry city of Tel Aviv, the expat-driven markets of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar and the dedicated promoters of Lebanon, there are oases of touring opportunity in this complex region.

In the past decade, Dubai and Israel have been the most actively entrepreneurial markets in the Middle East, though both have had their challenges in attempting to balance the limited spending power of a relatively small gig-going population with the cost of bringing in the talent and staging the show.

Promoters in Tel Aviv can be heard to complain that their city is too small a market for the artist fees they face, and, as in so many cities, the lack of a sufficiently large indoor arena keeps much of the major touring traffic to the summer months.

In Dubai, similarly high fees, traditionally combined with the cost of setting up an outdoor venue from scratch on a patch of ground in the venue-poor emirate, have seen a succession of promoters fizzle out, unable to make the numbers work.

“If you are living in the Middle East, concerts and culture are necessary”

But both Dubai and Tel Aviv find themselves the object of ambitious investment, as the former braces for a clutch of new venues and the latter is identified as a growth prospect by an incoming Live Nation and Ticketmaster operation. Whether these markets are the goldmine those developments might suggest remains to be seen, but improved infrastructure is a good place to start, and both harbour expat wealth and a great, though not inexhaustible enthusiasm for live music.

“Listen, if you are living in the Middle East, concerts and culture are necessary,” says Guy Beser, co-CEO of the newly inaugurated Live Nation Israel, launched in February as a 50:50 deal between the live giant and Beser and Shay Mor Yosef’s Bluestone.

Necessary they may be, but they are not always simple. As you would expect, relative to recorded music, 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 whereas worldwide nearly a quarter of live music revenues come from event sponsorships, this figure is estimated to be below 10% in the Middle East, leaving promoters heavily reliant on ticket sales, or, as in markets like Abu Dhabi, on occasional state patronage.

 


Read the rest of this feature in issue 70 of IQ Magazine. To subscribe, click here.

Live Nation launches JV with Qatari group

Live Nation has announced the launch of Elan Live Nation, a joint venture with Qatari state-owned live events, cinema and advertising company Elan Group.

The new partnership will operate two arenas – the 15,300-capacity Lusail Multipurpose Arena and 7,700-capacity Ali Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah Multipurpose Arena in Doha, both of which were built for the 2015 Men’s Handball Championships – following the awarding of a contract by Qatar’s Ministry of Culture and Sport.

Both arenas will now , says Live Nation, host “an array of family entertainment, sports, music and other live events, bringing new entertainment experiences to the population of Qatar”.

“We see huge potential in the Qatari market and will work with local and regional promoters to ensure the venues are suitable for a wide variety of new and exciting content”

James Craven, managing director of Live Nation Middle East, comments: “We are delighted to have been awarded the management contract for the prestigious Lusail and Ali bin Hamad Al-Attiyah Multipurpose Arenas. Live Nation, in partnership with Elan Group, will bring global experience in venues, live events and ticketing management to ensure the venues embody the highest of operational and production values. There is also a great opportunity to grow the Qatari venue management industry and develop local talent within the business.

We see huge potential in the Qatari market and will work with local and regional promoters to ensure the venues are suitable for a wide variety of new and exciting content. In particular, the family entertainment business is developing fast in the region and having such high-class venues suitable for hosting content will enhance the entire experience for the local audience.”

Recent Live Nation-promoted events in the region include comedian Russell Peters’ Almost Famous tour, Dubai Music Week with Jason Derulo, Ellie Goulding and Thirty Seconds to Mars and Madagascar! Live, all in Dubai.

 


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