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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