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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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ILMC speaker spotlight: John Langford, EAA/AEG

The International Live Music Conference (ILMC) is now just over a week away and, as more and more chairs and panellists are announced, IQ catches up with some key speakers to hear what they hope to get out of this year’s conference.

Following on from the previous Speaker Spotlight, IQ talks to John Langford, president of the European Arenas Association (EAA) and AEG Europe COO.

Langford is chairing the Venue’s Venue: New builds, new brands panel to discuss what further competition and consolidation we can expect to see in the fast-evolving venue market.

He will be joined by panellists Jolanda Jansen (Rotterdam Ahoy), Brian Kabatznick (Oak View Group), Tom Lynch (ASM Global), Thomas Ovesen (Diriyah Gate Development Authority) and Harry Samuel (LiveStyled).


IQ: What do you expect to be the main talking points at your panel?

JL: I expect there will be lots of talk of new buildings and new markets. New arenas are not cheap, and returns can be limited in competitive markets or marginal locations, so what’s driving expansion and development plans? And what’s the reality of a ‘new arena model’?

Outside of Europe there are some exciting developments and new opportunities. We will look at what’s hot in Asia, the Middle East and Africa and ask whether building venues in those markets will create more demand for touring.

New arenas are not cheap, and returns can be limited, so what’s driving expansion and development plans?

With competition and consolidation in the venue market at an all-time high, has that had an affect on your day-to-day jobs?

Yes, absolutely. I am sure that each of the panel members can talk more to their experiences over the last eighteen months. From mergers to new players in the market, there’s a lot to talk about.

Would it be fair to say the large venue sector is among the most interesting parts of the music business right now?

Personally I believe that the entire live industry is in huge transformation. Specifically on the venue side, what we’re seeing in the large venue sector is mild compared to the storms facing grassroots venues. Business rates, gentrification, Brexit, skills shortages – it’s a minefield out there!

Is there anything else you’re particularly looking forward to at ILMC?

A cold Fightback lager at the end of a long day. All proceeds go to the Music Venues Trust! Beer with a conscience.

The Venue’s Venue panel is taking place at 10 a.m. on Thursday 5 March at ILMC.


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The decade in live: 2015

The start of a new year and, perhaps more significantly, a new decade is fast approaching – and while many may be thinking ahead to New Year’s Eve plans and well-meaning 2020 resolutions, IQ is casting its mind back to the most pivotal industry moments of the last ten years.

Following on from a strong year in 2014, the live music industry in 2015 continued to go from strength to strength, with fans once again showing willingness to spend money on concert tickets.

After the success of their first all-stadia tour, British boyband One Direction embarked on another mammoth concert tour, which came in at number two on the year-end charts, despite the departure of band member Zayn Malik two months in. The tour was the beginning of the end for the band, which went on indefinite hiatus the following year.

2015 was a busy year in the live business, notably seeing the birth of Tim Leiweke and Irving Azoff’s Oak View Group. It was also the year that the Robert Sillerman’s rebirthed SFX Entertainment began to run into some serious trouble…


2015 in numbers

The top 100 worldwide tours grossed more than US$4.7 billion in 2015, up 14% from the year before but falling short of 2013’s $5bn. Ticket sales were also up, increasing by 16% to 59.7m, again lower than the 2013 total of 63.3m. The average ticket price in 2015 was down $3.30 to $78.80.

Taylor Swift was the top touring artist of the year, grossing $250.4m with her The 1989 world tour. The singer generated nearly $200m in North America alone, smashing the previous record of $162m set by the Rolling Stones in 2005.

One Direction also had a successful year with the On the Road Again tour, coming in behind Swift with year-end gross at $210.2m and selling 2.4m tickets, the most of any artist that year. AC/DC made $180m in ticket sales on their biggest tour to date, with U2’s Innocence + Experience grossing $152.2m and Foo Fighters’ Sonic Highway tour totalling $127m.


2015 in brief

Live Nation takes control of Austin City Limits and Lollapalooza promoter C3 Presents, paying a reported $125m for a 51% stake.

Austrian concert organiser Arcadia agrees a new partnership with four German companies – Four Artists, Chimperator Live, KKT and FKP Scorpio – to found Arcadia Live, a new
concert agency.

Live Nation agrees a joint venture with Thailand-based entertainment firm BEC-Tero. The new company, Live Nation BEC-Tero, will promote concerts by Western, J-Pop and K-Pop artists in the region, a pursuit in which BEC-Tero’s concerts division is already a market leader locally.

The Agency Group acquires UK-based electronic music agency Futureboogie, whose roster includes the likes of Bonobo, Crazy P and Nightmares on Wax.

The state of Washington passes a bill to outlaw ticket bots in an attempt to clamp down on the computer software that often prevents humans from buying seats online for concerts and sporting events. The move brings the number of states that have banned bots to 13.

A group of artists including Chris Martin, Calvin Harris, Madonna, Rihanna, Beyoncé, Jay Z, Kanye West, Daft Punk, Alicia Keys, Jack White and Nicki Minaj launch a new streaming service called Tidal, which is described as the first artist-owned platform for music and video.

The O2 arena in London announces that it has sold its 15 millionth ticket. The building, which opened in June 2007, has consistently been the most popular live music venue in the world, with research conducted by Media Insight Consulting claiming that 30% of the UK population has attended The O2 complex at least once.

The decade in live: 2015

One Direction perform on the On the Road Again tour without Malik (© vagueonthehow/Flickr (CC BY 2.0))

ILMC launches the International Festival Forum, which aims to help strengthen the relationship between event organisers and agents. The London-based event is set to feature partner agencies such as Coda, The Agency Group, Primary Talent and X-ray Touring who will showcase festival-ready acts to promoters from around the world.

Australian media company Nine Entertainment sells its live events companies Nine Live and Ticketek to Asian private equity firm Affinity Equity Partners for AUD$640m ($480m).

Sydney-based Soapbox Artists, which grew out of the Australian wing of Ministry of Sound, announces its merger with the Melbourne-based 360 Agency. The combined EDM agencies will be a significant player in the dance market, representing a large roster of DJ and producer talent.

Live Nation acquires a controlling stake in American festival Bonnaroo. Under the terms of the deal, current promoters Superfly and AC Entertainment will continue to programme and run the event.

AEG agrees an extended deal with America’s International Speedway Corporation (ISC), allowing the company’s AEG Live division to look at organising concerts at racetracks around the country. ISC owns 13 raceways, including such iconic arenas as Daytona and Watkins Glen.

The Foo Fighters cancel a number of shows after frontman Dave Grohl breaks his leg during a concert in Sweden. Despite a nasty fracture, however, Grohl makes headlines around the world by returning to complete the Gothenburg show, receiving medical attention on stage.

The decade in live: 2015

The main stage at Bonnaroo (© Shawn Mariani/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.5))

German promoter Deutsche Entertainment AG and its UK offshoots Kilimanjaro Live and Raymond Gubbay Ltd, have set-up a company to sell tickets for their British shows. MyTicket.co.uk will expand the MyTicket concept that has already been running in Germany for six months.

The Windish Agency and Paradigm Talent Agency agree a partnership deal to form one of the world’s biggest independent agency operations, bringing The Windish Agency together with Paradigm partner agencies AM Only and Coda Music Agency, as well as Paradigm itself.

Live Nation Entertainment forms Live Nation Concerts Germany with German concert promoter Marek Lieberberg to promote concerts and festivals in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

William Morris agent Sol Parker jumps ship to Coda Agency, taking Take That, The Prodigy and Rita Ora with him.

United Talent Agency completes its acquisition of The Agency Group.

Live Nation acquires venue and festival operator MAMA & Company, returning a number of former Live Nation assets to its portfolio.

The decade in live: 2015

Marek Lieberberg (© Sven Mandel/Wikimedia Deutschland (CC BY-SA 4.0)) 

Australian promoter Andrew McManus is arrested at Melbourne Airport on charges of money laundering and the importation of 300 kilograms of cocaine. McManus is one of five people arrested in Australia and the United States as part of an FBI investigation.

Disgruntled investors hit SFX with a lawsuit claiming they were deceived with false and misleading statements over the company’s privatisation plans.

Ebay-owned secondary ticketing platform StubHub launches in Germany.

Pandora completes a $450m takeover of specialist ticketing agency Ticketfly.

Several preliminary bids are reportedly submitted for EDM promoter SFX in addition to that from CEO Robert Sillerman, who bid to buy back the company for $3.25 per share.

SFX promotes former IQ new boss Sebastian Solano to CEO of ID&T North America.

Ex-AEG chief Tim Leiweke forms live entertainment investment firm Oak View Group with Irving Azoff.

Ex-Done Events chief Thomas Ovesen is named CEO of new Dubai-based live music company 117 Live.

Live Nation UK vice-president Steve Homer and senior vice-president Toby Leighton-Pope leave the company.

The decade in live: 2015

B.B. King, 1925-2015 (cropped) (© Tom.Beetz/Flickr (CC BY 2.0))


Who we lost

Mike Porcaro, bassist for Toto; blues legend B.B. King; John Gammon, Pollstar’s UK/Europe correspondent; veteran promoter and ILMC member, Paul King; Stage Entertainment’s project manager Sjoerd Unger; Live Nation venue chief David Vickers; U2 tour manager Dennis Sheehan.


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Thomas Ovesen joins Saudi Arabia’s DGDA

Experienced promoter Thomas Ovesen, most recently of AEG Ogden/Dubai Arena, has joined Saudi Arabia’s Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA) as director of entertainment.

Ovesen (pictured) exited Dubai Arena (now Coca-Cola Arena) in January to return to promoting independently. Prior to joining the Dubai Arena project, he was CEO of Dubai-based promoter 117 Live, after jumping ship from rival outfit Done Events in late 2015.

DGDA, an initiative of the increasingly culturally minded Saudi government, aims to redevelop the ruins at Diriyah – the original home of the house of Saud and starting point of the Saudi state, on the outskirts of the current capital, Riyadh – into an “internationally renowned gathering place with world-class experiences and family friendly entertainment”.

It launched in 2017 and hired its first CEO, hospitality industry veteran Jerry Inzerillo, last July.

Ovesen’s responsibilities at DGDA will involve “conceptualising, organising and executing entertainment activities in line with DGDA’s strategic vision”, according to the authority, “leveraging his international expertise to promote local and international talent.”

“I truly believe he is the best person to lead DGDA’s entertainment programming”

Alongside Inzerillo and the rest of the DGDA team, it is hoped Ovesen’s efforts will transform Diriyah into “the Middle East’s newest and most exciting entertainment destination”.

“Thomas brings a wealth of experience to Saudi Arabia from his decades in the entertainment sector working with some of the biggest names in global entertainment,” comments Inzerillo.

“We worked together on the launch of the Atlantis Hotel Palm Dubai, and I truly believe he is the best person to lead DGDA’s entertainment programming, as he brings to life incredible events that will show visitors from all over the world what Diriyah has to offer.”

After decades of concerts being banned as haram, or sinful, in the conservative Islamic kingdom, Saudi Arabia in 2017 launched Vision 2030, an ambitious initiative, spearheaded by Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, to develop a domestic media and entertainment industry.

In September 2017, the General Authority for Entertainment (GEA) – the body tasked with driving growth in the entertainment sector – announced a US$2.7 billion fund with which it hopes to attract international partners, and said in February 2018 that Saudi Arabia would host 5,000 shows in 2017, including “some of the biggest names in global music”.

“This is a great time to come to the kingdom as it drives new entertainment programming into the capital”

The GEA’s plans were thrown into disarray in October, with World Wrestling Entertainment and several other Western entertainment companies moving to sever their ties with Saudi Arabia following the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

However, relations between the kingdom and the West appear to have since largely stabilised, with incoming US ambassador praising the initiative as “breathtaking” and suggesting Iran “needs a Vision 2030”.

Commenting on his move to Saudi Arabia, Ovesen comments: “This is a great time to come to the kingdom as it drives new entertainment programming into the capital. Entertainment is a key component of the experiences that keep a destination exciting, and in Diriyah we will be developing an offering of activities suitable for the whole family, from ticketed live shows to public outdoor experiences.

“I look forward to being part of Diriyah’s emergence as a global gathering place recognised for pioneering lifestyle, culture and live entertainment.”


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Thomas Ovesen exits Dubai Arena to go independent

After a year as VP of programming for the soon-to-open Dubai Arena, and COO of its operator, AEG Ogden, Thomas Ovesen is exiting the company to return to promoting independently.

Ovesen joined the Dubai Arena project at the start of 2018 from local promoter 117 Live. The arena’s CEO, Guy Ngata, says Ovesen “has been a key part of the journey so far as we begin the countdown to opening the arena in 2019”.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank Thomas on behalf of our team,” he adds. “We look forward to working with Thomas in the near future, which is something both parties are excited about.”

“With the Dubai Arena getting ready to open with what will be an amazing calendar of events, now is as great a time as ever for me to return to being a dedicated independent buyer and promoter,” comments Ovesen.

“We look forward to working with Thomas in the near future, which is something both parties are excited about”

“I wish my fantastic colleagues all the best and thank AEG Ogden for the opportunity with Dubai Arena. I look forward to many future collaborations.”

Owned by state-backed holding company Meraas and managed by AEG’s local operation, AEG Ogden, the 17,000-seat Dubai Arena (originally announced as having a capacity of 20,000) will “put Dubai on the international entertainment touring circuit and make a major contribution to the Emirate’s continued development as a major tourism destination”, said AEG Ogden’s CEO, Harvey Lister, at its launch in 2016.

The venue will open later this year.


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Done Events acquires Dubai Jazz Festival

UAE promoter Done Events has acquired Dubai Jazz Festival, cementing its status as the largest organiser of live events in the region.

As of 2019, Dubai-based Done – part of Arab Media Group (AMG) – will organise, manage and operate the popular festival, which returns for its 17th edition on 20–22 February 2019. The event, which takes place at the 15,000-capacity Dubai Media City Amphitheatre, was formerly owned by Chillout Productions.

Done Events also promotes popular rock/pop events RedFestDXB and Blended, the Filipino-focused TagFest and comedy festival DXBLaughs.

“The Emirates Airline Dubai Jazz Festival further enhances Done Events’ presence as the region’s largest event organiser,” says AMG CEO Mohammed Sharaf.

Artists who have performed at past Dubai Jazz Festivals include Sting, Jamie Cullum, OneRepublic, Carlos Santana, David Gray and John Legend. More than 500,000 tickets have been sold for the festival since 2003.

“We are confident that under Done Events’ stewardship, the festival will continue to grow”

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“We are extremely excited for the next edition of the Emirates Airline Dubai Jazz Festival, and we will be announcing the artists that will perform there within the next few days,” comments Girish Bhat, managing director of Done Events.

Antony Younes, CEO of Chillout Productions, adds: “The collaboration between Done Events and Chillout Productions commenced a few years ago as both our events, RedFestDXB, organised by Done Events, and the Emirates Airline Dubai Jazz Festival, organised by Chillout Productions, ran back to back. Done Events have a track record of delivering on major shows such as the Emirates Airline Dubai Jazz Festival, and we strongly believe they will maintain the high standards that our loyal audience and sponsors are accustomed to.

“We are confident that under Done Events’ stewardship, the Emirates Airline Dubai Jazz Festival will continue to grow and flourish.

Snow Patrol have been announced as the first headliner for 20 February. “We can’t wait to welcome the guys back to Dubai for their huge following, not just in the UAE but also the wider GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council],” says Bhat.


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Middle East calling

Twenty-seventeen proved to be a challenging year, with most Gulf state (GCC) economies hit by a lower-than-anticipated oil price. Dwindling government-underwritten construction and infrastructure projects led to lay-offs for many expats, a softening of the consumer market and, eventually, a weak entertainment ticket market.

VAT (5% initially) being introduced in some GCC markets from the beginning of this year also put a dampener on the “festivities” that should have been our 2017 live entertainment business.

But, out at the 25,000-capacity Autism Rocks Arena on the outskirts of Dubai, 117Live had an owner spend a significant amount of money building the open-air venue, staging shows with the likes of Guns N’ Roses, Bryan Adams, Bebe Rexha, Justin Bieber, Gorillaz, Stormzy, Jennifer Lopez, Ed Sheeran and Elton John. However, it was decided not to serve alcohol on-site, removing not only something local audiences expect, but an element crucial for event feasibility.

Across the city, the long-running Dubai International Jazz Festival and now regular RedFestDXB events ran, but had challenging ticket sales.

F&B has become the current main revenue stream for the industry

The strong brunch business in town meant several club venues were able to upgrade capacity and service, becoming either all-day beach and pool clubs, or – as is the case with White and Base – localised 1,500–2,000-capacity ‘superclubs’ with artist budgets way beyond what similar bookings would warrant for conventional concert promotions.

F&B has certainly become the current main revenue stream for the industry, at least concerning the 21+ punters – easily on a par with, if not exceeding, that of admission and ticket sales.

But it’s not all bling and bottle service. Dubai Opera in only its second year of existence continues to roll out an impressive roster of own promotions, defying the soft ticket market. This leaves few weekend nights available for third-party bookings and challenges local promoters and even wannabe promoters to step-up and put on their own shows in the limited number of relevant, local venues.

Here at the Dubai Arena, we have taken note of the soft market but, inspired by the likes of Dubai Opera, the up-for-a-fight club scene and a few tenacious local promoters, we are taking a strategic approach to promoting our own events when we open in 2019.

Additionally, and in parallel, we want to use the amazing arena facility and its many configuration options to help bring down the current prohibitive cost of show productions and promotions.

We have a huge untapped market catering for specific audience segments beyond Westerners

We also need to programme for the growing number of residents and inbound tourists expected in the years leading up to the Dubai-hosted Expo2020. Smart programming and event curation will be key to growing the regional live events business over the coming years.

Compared with other markets there is still a low volume of locally grown and based stars, performers and produced shows to promote, or of a quality permitting us to consider taking them on. However, we have a huge untapped market catering for specific audience segments beyond the Westerners who already have a very attractive annual line-up of top-level performers and shows visiting the region. From K-pop and French-language music to esports, gaming events, comedy, UFC, WWE, interactive exhibitions, and new ‘con’-style events covering pop culture, comics, beauty, fashion, fitness, health and food, we have only seen the tip of the iceberg of what can be promoted here.

Such events will also form part of what we hope to see at the new Dubai Arena, as well as rolled out across the regional markets in the upcoming seasons.

We haven’t even started on sports and associated event formats. Watch this space as we head towards finally becoming an ’emerged’ market.


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Thomas Ovesen to join AEG as VP of new Dubai Arena

Veteran Dubai-based concert promoter Thomas Ovesen is to join AEG Ogden as vice-president of programming for its new Dubai Arena.

Ovesen – who left Done Events for the newly formed 117 Live in December 2015 – will depart the company in early 2018 to head up programming for the new venue, managed by AEG on behalf of state-owned holding company Meraas and now set to open in 2019. At 117 Live, Ovesen oversaw the opening of 117 Live’s 20,000-cap. greenfield Autism Rocks Arena, also in Dubai.

It is the first hire for new Dubai Arena GM Guy Ngata, who joined the project in August, and marks a similar return to AEG for Ovesen, who previously headed up AEG Live in the Middle East.

“His understanding of the region and the local live entertainment scene and its players will be vital”

Ovesen (pictured) tells IQ his focus at the new venue will be on “making sure it has a great line-up, and hopefully also work with [117 Live] on some of their future events to be staged there”.

“Thomas oversaw the launch of the new Autism Rocks Arena and an impressive events calendar that featured, among others, Nicki Minaj, Gabriel Iglesias, Elton John, Bryan Adams, Guns N’ Roses, Justin Bieber and Ed Sheeran,” says AEG Ogden CEO Harvey Lister, commenting on the appointment. “It’s quality, international-standard acts such as those, plus more, that we’re looking to bring to Dubai Arena.

“His understanding of the region and the local live entertainment scene and its players will be vital to Guy and his management team, as they plan an event schedule second to none anywhere ahead of the Arena’s opening in 2019.”


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Narcos’ Murphy and Peña sell out in Dubai

Javier Peña and Steve Murphy, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents famed for their part in bringing down notorious cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar, recently spoke to two full houses in Dubai with promoter Thomas Ovesen, CEO of 117Live.

Peña and Murphy, played by Pedro Pascal and Boyd Holbrook, respectively, in the hit Netflix series Narcos, brought their touring Capturing Pablo show to the UAE earlier this month.

“Selling out two nights in the lovely 800-seater Dubai College auditorium, the Capturing Pablo 117Live Speaker Series presentation was a great escape from Bieber, Guns N’ Roses and Ed Sheeran shows,” comments Ovesen, “and proof that also in this city fans want new and exciting entertainment formats, even if it means spending a few hours in detention with two former DEA agents.

“Selling out two nights … is proof that in this city fans want new and exciting entertainment formats”

“We will be looking at new and exciting Speaker Series presentations, and indeed hope to bring our favourite DEA agents back for more regional shows while the interest in the demise of Pablo Escobar is still on-trend.”

Ovesen joined the newly formed 117Live, part of entertainment conglomerate the Al Ahil Holding Group (AAHG), from Done Events in December 2015. The company operates the 30,000-cap. Autism Rocks Arena, the emirate’s largest indoor venue.


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First Zayn solo show set for Autism Rocks Arena

Ex-One Direction singer Zayn Malik will play his first concert as a solo artist on 7 October at 117 Live’s new Dubai concert venue, the Autism Rocks Arena.

Veteran promoter Thomas Ovesen, who joined new venture 117 Live from Done Events in December, tells Gulf News he is confident of selling every ticket in the previously unnamed 20,000-capacity greenfield arena. “Were excited that […] we’re the only show in the region with Zayn,” he adds.

The temporary greenfield site will be replaced by a permanent amphitheatre at the Dubai Outlet Mall in spring 2017. The new venue will feature boxes, suites and viewing terraces and is part of a plan by 117 Live owner Al Ahli Holding Group (AAHG) to create a “new regional live entertainment hub”. AAGH, a Dubai-headquartered international conglomerate which employs 9,000 people, also owns the Dubai Outlet Mall.

Malik (pictured), known mononymously as Zayn, hit headlines last week after being racially abused by American rapper Azealia Banks for allegedly plagiarising one of her music videos.

Malik’s former band, One Direction, had the second-highest-grossing tour of 2015.