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

Exploring the future of music in the Middle East

Exploring the future of music in the Middle East through the lens of innovation…

The world is seeing exciting change on all fronts and the music industry is no different. To mirror these developments and build on them, MDLBeast, a Saudi music entertainment company, launched the XP Music Futures conference in 2021, with a mission to become the key accelerator of music in the Middle East and, in turn, help increase the region’s GDP. Last year’s event was a huge success, attracting 4,700 attendees, 150 local, regional and international speakers, and industry experts representing 25 countries.

XP Music Futures has already managed to cement its position as one of the Middle East music industry’s most influential events. The conference returns to Saudi Arabia for a second edition this year, and is set to kickstart Riyadh’s loudest week, taking place 28-30 November ahead of the region’s biggest music festival, Soundstorm, which runs 1-3 December. Already much anticipated, XP Music Futures 2022 will showcase ongoing initiatives and lead conversations around the conditions and infrastructures needed for a thriving music ecosystem by assembling the world’s brightest minds to create an industry-leading blueprint for innovation, self-expression and commercial success for music.

At the heart of that will be focused on four key building blocks: Talent, Scene, Impact and Innovation. The pillars will be discussed in multiple session formats, including workshops, keynotes, panel discussions and fishbowl sessions. This feature looks ahead to XP Music Futures’ Innovation pillar, the newest addition to the conference’s discussion blocks and certainly one of its most exciting.

Dedicated to being an inclusive and representative platform for the region’s music industry, XP is working with a Board of Advocates and Advisors as one way to achieve such diversity. This board includes LA-based artist, musician and technologist Arabian Prince, who is obsessed with innovation, digital technology, and music production and who shared his thoughts around innovation in the Middle Eastern music scene ahead of this year’s event.

“You can create music from anywhere now and it allows the new generation of creators to be free to express themselves much quicker”

Arabian Prince, Kim Renard Nazel said: “The fact that everyone has a computer in their pocket in the form of a smartphone is amazing. You can create music from anywhere now and it allows the new generation of creators to be free to express themselves much quicker than back in the day when we needed big synths and sequencers as well as recording studios to create music.

“I will be at XP once again this year to help expand the thinking and possibilities of new ideas in music and innovation, bringing technics, workshops and creative ideas that will help the region flourish in the music industry. Music is the language of the world, the one thing we all have in common is our love for music. New technology can help with the learning curve and knowledge. I can’t wait to see what this journey will bring, I am excited.”

Nada Alhelabi is strategy director of MDLBeast and the programme director for XP Music Futures. She shared her excitement about bringing the subject of innovation to the fore at this year’s conference edition.

She said: “Developments in digital technologies have resulted in monumental changes in most aspects of the music industry. XP is aiming to be the forerunner in the country when it comes to innovation in music and creative industries; therefore, adding innovation as one of our main pillars this year was a no-brainer.”

“Amongst the many sessions we’ve got at this year’s XP Music Futures, we will discuss Immersive Technology, Web3, Metaverse and Digital Disruption”

Innovation has always played a huge role in building and shaping the music industry, not only in the region but also on a global scale. It has changed the way people create music & evolve in the music scene. As a fact digital distribution is now accessible for any artist without even having to be signed to any labels. Our innovation pillar was introduced so that our region can gain expert insights and advice from leading music stars, tech icons, startups, investors and industry-relevant leaders. As the world is evolving around innovations, so is XP Music Conference.

“Through the innovation pillar and technology, music creators have the opportunity to present their business ideas to professionals within their industry to get their advice, discuss potential challenges, suggestions for improvement and precise guidance on how to spark the attention of potential investors.”

Looking ahead to XP 2022, Alhelabi revealed a selection of the must-attend sessions that will lead on innovation this November.

“Amongst the many sessions we’ve got at this year’s XP Music Futures, we will discuss Immersive Technology, Web3, Metaverse and Digital Disruption,” said Alhelabi.

These will be presentations, panel discussions and AMAs. We have an Immersive Technology workshop which will be a destination offering virtual, mixed and augmented reality to showcase the transformation of the music industry as it enters a new dimension. Web3, the new iteration of blockchain technology, incorporating concepts such as cryptocurrency, DAOs and NFTs, will be addressed through panels, keynote and networking sessions. As for the Metaverse segment, activities like Fishbowl, Roundtable and Think Tank will focus on understanding the metaverse through the eyes of the pioneers in this field.

“Lastly, Digital Disruption sessions will be in the form of panel discussions, presentations and AMAs (ask me anything). They will showcase innovations that highlight the nuances of live concerts in gaming environments.”


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.

XP Music Futures 2022 to focus on innovation

The Middle East’s leading music industry gathering XP Music Futures is accelerating growth across the region’s already thriving creative scene.

The conference, a first of its kind, was recognised as a huge success by 87% of attendees of its debut edition. XP is home to groundbreaking discussions aimed at providing infinite opportunity for Saudi to become part of the global music scene.

The inaugural event – organised by the Saudi music entertainment company, MDLBeast – welcomed more than 4,000 music industry movers. Together, they learned from a diverse set of 150+ speakers from more than 25 different countries – of which half were female – ensuring a fair balance and representation in action, not just words.

The three-day conference also fulfilled its commitment to diversity through its day and night programming, where daytime workshops and sessions were shaped around four main pillars – Talent, Policy, Scene, and Impact – and each night came with a packed schedule of exciting live entertainment, headlined by local and regional artists.

This year’s edition from 28-30 November is also focusing on innovation. Discovering, developing, and empowering talent is key to XP Music Futures. An independent study following 2021’s maiden XP discovered that attendees found immense value in the conference’s use of local and regional talent for its daytime workshops and nighttime performances, with that relatability offering a significant degree of inspiration to the majority of attendees.

Two of the talents featured as part of XP last year were Marcela Rada and Banah Anabtawi, both of whom will be returning to Riyadh again this November. A skilled sound engineer and college professor specialised in immersive audio, Rada has years of experience working with independent artists and was one of the motivating speakers at XP 2021.

“The music business in Saudi and the region is still in its early stages, which in return, provides a huge opportunity”

“I had no clue what to anticipate as it was my first time speaking in the Middle East, but it turned out to be an experience of a lifetime and felt so natural,” said Rada. “The music business in Saudi and the region is still in its early stages, which in return, provides a huge opportunity. This is the moment we must establish a solid foundation based on important principles, education and learnings to ensure success for the local artists.”

Looking back on her experience, Bahraini singer songwriter Anabtawi said: “Having grown up in the Eastern province, it was surreal to finally be able to present my music to Saudi Arabia for the first time. I was blown away by how versatile and accepting the audience was and loved meeting other regional creatives and artists at XP.”

In support of XP’s efforts to grow Saudi and regional talents, Rada is developing master workshops for this year’s edition, titled “Music Production: From Zero to Hero,” which will cover basics from how to build your own home studio, to recording and mixing techniques, to immersive audio.

Commenting on the initiative, Rada said: “It’s important XP provides tangible support and I’m very excited to be hosting this initiative as part of that. Over the span of three-days, music production courses will be offered for an opportunity of in-depth learning which will no doubt upskill talent to the next level.”

Stressing the importance of accessible education, Anabtawi feels strongly about mentorships and talent managers to support talent in the music scene.

She added: “An important role which I believe we lack in the region are talent managers. A lot of the artists either depend on their experience or their network but there are very few, if any, official professionals in the sphere to support in building contracts, commercialising and marketing the talent and finding opportunities.

“XP provides a great platform for artists to put themselves out there, network and build relationships that could further foster their careers and fill those gaps.”

“I’m confident international interest will significantly rise if we were to truly paint an accurate picture of the scene here”

As the gateway to music in and from the MENA region, Rada has huge enthusiasm for talking about regional talent.

She said: “I’m confident international interest will significantly rise if we were to truly paint an accurate picture of the scene here. It’s incredible and XP drives this a step further. The exchanges being held benefit the music ecosystem as a lot of these important topics being discussed are not only relevant for the region.

“People tend to fear what they don’t know. However, music is a global connector and XP is leveraging this for the interest of the Saudi people, the region and the globe. There is an opportunity for a fusion of regional sounds with international artists.”

Sharing their views on what is vital to build a music career, Anabtawi stressed the importance of keeping it real when it comes to not only talent, but self-awareness.

She explained: “Don’t get lost in the process of commercialising your talent and always stay true to yourself. Also, as important as it is to have a unique voice, your network is also crucial so keep putting yourself out there. There is nothing called luck, only hard work.”

Similarly, Rada believes that relationship building is a key ingredient to career success.

“Never burn bridges, undersell yourself or play for free, and always stay focused and open to learning anything from anyone you meet,” she said.


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.

XP Music Futures conference gears up for sequel

XP Music Futures is set to return to Riyadh from 28-30 November as the most forward-thinking gathering of music leaders in the region.

One of the most exciting developments taking place in Saudi Arabia has been the emergence of a vibrant music industry. There is immense opportunity and talent present today ready to hit stages and share their sounds worldwide. Studies show that the MEA music market is expected to grow by up to 16.5% by 2027, reaching $670.03 million – and MDLBeast, a Saudi music entertainment company, is playing a significant role in supporting this growth.

At the core of this musical and cultural transformation is XP Music Futures – MDLBeast’s music conference, set to take place for its second edition from 28-30 November 2022. As the warm-up to Saudi’s seismic weekend EDM festival, Soundstorm (taking place 1-3 December), XP will once again attract many of the most exciting young, up-and-coming talent from across the region and around the world, plus a packed guestlist of globally respected artists, producers, and music makers.

Last year’s breakout year in 2021, saw over 4,500 attendees, all of which had one key purpose, to grow and build the regional music infrastructure, with a focus across four central pillars: Talent, Scene, Impact and Innovation touchpoints considered vital to further establishing and building greater regional infrastructure around artists and the wider music ecosystem.

If we look at the “Impact” pillar a little closer, we can see a focus on the positive reach of music culture wider into communities and other areas such as wellbeing, equality, and sustainability. Energetic activations included fishbowl sessions and passionate panel discussions covering the means of hosting safe events in collaboration with public health institutions, several empowering stories of female musicians in emerging markets, and the building of an environmentally sustainable touring model within the Middle East music industry, and much more.

Today, we catch up with multi-media artist, actor and professor, Yassin “Narcy” Alsalman; entrepreneur Lindi Delight, founder of De Light Management; Lutz Leichsenring, co-founder of VibeLab; and Jane Slingo, director at VibeLab, to talk us through their experience at XP 2021, and the elements they believe were needed to create impact in the music industry and beyond…

“It was very inspiring to see the showcased artists and collectives perform in their own city, some for the very first time”

Talking about experiencing XP for the first time…

Lindi Delight: At certain times, it felt very emotional and humbling. I had no expectations traveling to Saudi to attend XP, however, I was truly blown away by the nationals. Their generosity and openness and welcoming nature was incredible to experience. Even better, it was amazing to see so many women at the music conference ready to begin the work needed to develop the music industry for themselves, and others, either as artists or music industry professionals. During the night program of the conference, I visited the different stages to discover the local talent performing. It was very inspiring to see the showcased artists and collectives perform in their own city, some for the very first time. I would never have thought that I would ever witness such a music scene in Saudi Arabia in my lifetime, let alone contribute to its growth and development. It was an honour and I’m excited of being part of this year’s programming team.”

The audience believed that they are the drivers of societal change…

Lutz Leichsenring: “The first thing I noticed is the participants’ appreciation and enthusiasm to learn and discuss different aspects of the Impact pillar during our fishbowl sessions.”

Lindi: “After each of the sessions I was involved in, many young women came over to speak with me about what they learned, and how exciting it was for them to see international industry professionals travel to Saudi to share their experiences and insights in efforts to advance the music scene. They were very pleased to know there was room for them in the industry as well – highlighting the importance of equality and empowering stories of female artists.”

“We need to pass down the codes to the youth now, not later”

Education and mentorship are key aspects to have the aspired Impact…

Yassin “Narcy” Alsalman: “We need to pass down the codes to the youth now, not later. This will activate the cultural space in a unique and non-conformist way. Most of the time, in the region, there seems to be a transactional relationship around gatekeeping the industry. We need to break that down and just mentor youth, empower through confidence all while building new, fresh infrastructure and representation outside of the region.”

Jane Slingo: “The developed music world is going through a process of ‘unlearning’ practices and systems that don‘t support a thriving, and sustainable music ecosystem. Impact through XP has a significant opportunity to build this new music ecosystem with diverse representation and support for the mental well-being of creators and workers at the forefront. When the industry has diverse representation and well-supported mental health, the more exciting and respected, the more profitable it is. To achieve this, the focus should be on authentic international exchange, willingness for change, and a commitment to applying the learnings from other countries’ failures to the development of the local industry.”

“XP is evolving and adapting to the topics that are relevant to today’s industry ecosystem”

On the promotion of impact in MENA…

Narcy: “I believe that it could be achieved through regional grant systems like models in parts of Europe and Canada. The youth would benefit from artistic funding, a way to sustain themselves outside of general systems of funding art projects. This would be groundbreaking for the youth in the MENA region.”

Lutz: “I believe that it needs efforts from the top-down and bottom-up to promote Impact.”

Wrapping up the talk with a sneak peek into the XP 2022…

Lindi: “We have created a forward-thinking and diverse program for the next edition of XP that we’re all excited about. This includes a wide range of topics such as sustainability, Web3, the Metaverse, immersive technology, music policies, professionalisation, music production, data collection, and analytics to name a few. XP is evolving and adapting to the topics that are relevant to today’s industry ecosystem – this is what we need for the music scene in Saudi and around the world. We will also be introducing sessions in Arabic to increase the engagement of the local community. We aim to captivate the minds of the audience with thought-provoking insights, and future-proof careers through robust knowledge transfer from regional and international industry experts to existing and aspiring music industry professionals.”


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.