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XP Music Futures 2023: A catalyst for growth

XP Music Futures, the three-day music conference organised by MDLBEAST, is making waves in the MENA region, cultivating the music scene and community for its third consecutive year. The event, held at Riyadh’s JAX District from 7-9 December, offers a dynamic program that spans both day and night, featuring a remarkable 47.42% increase in the number of international, regional, and local speakers compared to the previous year, totaling 286 speakers.

Sessions at XP Music Futures addressed critical topics such as ‘Maintaining a Thriving Grassroots Culture,’ ‘Powering The Creative Economy with AI,’ and ‘Turning up for a Sustainable Future: Music for Climate Action.’ This regional-first event encompasses panels, workshops, live acts, retail experiences, and more, serving as a precursor to the grand SOUNDSTORM music festival from December 14th to 16th.

MDLBEAST CEO, Ramadan Alharatani says: “Over the past three years we have brought together the brightest minds in the music and entertainment industry from across the globe. We consider XP an incubator of talent and creativity—giving artists a platform, knowledge, tools, and network that they need to forge successful, sustainable, and profitable careers in the region and around the world.”

Diversity is a key focus, evident in the gender split of 48.25% female vs. 51.75% male, the international speakers comprising 51.7%, and regional/local speakers at 48.3%. With representation from over 30 nationalities, XP Nite promises an eclectic mix, featuring performances by more than 150 artists across seven event stages.

With each passing day, the event continues to amplify the nation’s cultural landscape

The captivating energy on display beautifully seized the momentum, highlighting the vast musical potential of Saudi Arabia. XP Music Futures, held at Riyadh’s JAX District, hosted sessions like ‘DJing & Turntablism Workshop with Nacho Marco’ and ‘Listen Up! The Importance Of Hearing Health.’

Beyond the music, the event offers a unique escape, known as “The Healing Oasis,” where nature, music, and art converge to create a sensory haven for attendees. Elevating the essence of music innovation in the Middle East, Hamaki spearheads “Beyond The Beats: Sony Music Middle East x Hamaki” at XP Music Futures. This distinctive workshop not only showcases Hamaki’s pioneering influence but also becomes a pivotal chapter in the event’s commitment to unravelling artistic frontiers and fostering educational brilliance.

As XP Music Futures transitions from day sessions to XP NITE, Saudi Arabia’s underground scene explodes with energy, featuring over 130 artists across seven stages. Notable collaborations like Noctuary x Yoyaku and MDLBEAST Records X SWANA Sound amplify the nightlife, keeping party-goers moving until the late hours. Among the diverse lineup, international acts such as Tinariwen from Mali and Chelina Manuhutu from the Netherlands bring their unique sounds, while local talents like Majid Untamed and Femme Fest x EQUAL Arabia’s lineup contribute to the eclectic mix, ensuring a dynamic and unforgettable three-day extravaganza.

XP Music Futures and its accompanying festival SOUNDSTORM not only showcase the present vibrancy of Saudi Arabia’s music scene but also contribute significantly to its future growth and cultural enrichment. With each passing day, the event continues to amplify the nation’s cultural landscape, solidifying its position as a catalyst for the music industry in the MENA region.


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XP Music Futures unveils first phase of ’23 lineup

XP Music Futures, the leading music conference in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), has revealed the first phase of speakers for its highly anticipated 2023 lineup.

Taking place between 7-9 December, this year’s XP sets the stage for the next generation of musical minds, welcoming visitors of all ages for the very first time. 2023’s programming promises an experience that’s as eye-opening as it is star-studded, led by none other than Emirati superstar Balqees Fathi, multi-platform hip-hop sensation Abyusif and Canadian-Iranian businesswoman Golnar Khosrowshahi.

This year’s event builds on its already unparalleled platform, spotlighting MENA’s thriving nightlife industry, fostering collaboration, and boasting the talents of artists and professionals from the region to eyes and ears worldwide.

Diversity has always been at the heart of XP Music Futures, with the previous edition boasting an impressive 44% representation of women speakers. The upcoming conference is no exception, featuring an array of prominent voices from a range of backgrounds– both personal and professional.

XP Music Futures has also pulled back the curtain on its acclaimed NITE Program lineup

The prominent and influential speakers gracing XP Music Futures’ 2023 agenda include the versatile and talented Emirati sensation Balqees Fathi, who will share insights from her journey to stardom, as well as HH Mashael AlShalan, Co-founder of AEON COLLECTIVE, joining to shed light on the intersection of music and climate action. Abyusif, a global rap influencer, explores the evolution of Arabic hip-hop alongside pioneer of the genre Malikah. Golnar Khosrowshahi, CEO of Reservoir, will discuss her journey in shaping the first female-led independent music company in the US and the importance of empowering creativity.

The lineup continues with renowned light artist Christopher Bauder, who will test the boundaries of immersive musical experiences. Wassim Bou Malham, Co-Founder of Factory People, shares insights on creating sustainable venues, and bilingual Jordanian singer Reina Khoury will host a session to shed light on the importance of cross-cultural collaborations in today’s borderless industry.

XP Music Futures has also pulled back the curtain on its acclaimed NITE Program lineup, teasing a range of showcase events through a hand-selected first phase announcement. Japanese DJ and producer Satoshi Tomiie will be making his way to Riyadh to showcase his exceptional jazz-infused House sounds as part of the collaboration between the French record label Yoyaku and Saudi collective Noctuary.

The Saudi-based label Wall of Sound will be showcasing an array of artists, including Egyptian producer El Waili. The Amman-based Vortex crew will also be present at XP, with artists such as Kosh, who will be delivering a one-of-a-kind live performance. Syrian funky and disco infused duo TootArd are also set to perform at JAX District for XP’s NITE program as part of Keife Records’ showcase, alongside the electric Malinese Tuareg band Tinariwen, and Saudi collective Untamed, who will be showcasing the Berlin-based DJ Paramida.

Having already built its reputation on captivating attendees with engaging sessions, skill-enriching workshops, and genuine networking opportunities, this year’s XP Music futures guarantees to up the ante. The conference invites music enthusiasts, professionals, and innovators to join in Riyadh from 7-9 December and play an active role in shaping the future of the global music industry.

Tickets for XP Music Futures 2023 are available here.


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XP Music Futures announces return to Riyadh

XP Music Futures – the Middle East and North Africa’s prominent conference dedicated to amplifying the region’s music and creative scene, has officially announced dates for this year’s event.

Taking place from 7-9 December in Riyadh, this year’s XP will not only hone the surging and ongoing success of the region’s nightlife industry – the fastest growing in the world, but will create a vibrant playground of collaboration and creativity for artists and professionals in the region. Widely considered the most forward-thinking gathering of music leaders in the region, XP Music Futures aims to stimulate the new generation of music professionals in the wider MENA region, while sparking collaborations with the global music community.

XP Music Futures will offer new formats to its visitors including Arabic sessions and workshops, as well as mixers to bring international and regional talent together. The conference will also offer networking forums and demo labs, showcasing the latest technologies in the music industry to participants, and will be building its programme on four pillars: talent, scene, impact, and innovation.

2023 will also see XP focus on its commitment to mentor and build communities

2023 will also see XP focus on its commitment to mentor and build communities, announcing the introduction of a new addition to XP’s efforts in developing the scene in the region: Hunna. Composed of two integral parts, the Hunna initiative is a groundbreaking initiative designed as a platform and safe space for women in the music industry to gain the necessary mentorship to develop their skills and careers, while also collectively disrupting the outdated and non-equitable systems in the music industry at large.

The first part of the Hunna programme will pair rising female talent with experts in their field for a three-month mentorship programme, kicking off in June. By creating meaningful connections, the Hunna programme aims to connect women in the music industry, to foster a stronger, more equitable, music ecosystem. The second part of the Hunna programme will organise a gathering of minds at this year’s XP Music Futures, focusing on difficult yet necessary conversations at this year’s conference, such as female representation and equity in music spaces. Between initiatives like this, and a 2022 speaker lineup that was 44% women, it’s easy to see why many are considering XP Music Futures a true testament to diversity.

This year’s conference will also see the return of XPerform, a competition for vocalists giving vocal talent in the region the chance to show what they’ve got on the stages of XP Music Futures while also growing their career with the eponymous MDLBeast Records. We are excited to announce that YouTube is officially sponsoring the initiative, aimed at discovering and nurturing emerging musical talent in the Middle East.

As part of the partnership, Liliana Abudalo – head of YouTube Music, Mena, will join the panel of judges to help select the top talent, alongside Matthew Dicks, Banah Anabtawi, Karima Damir and LilEazy. Last year saw hundreds of singers submit applications, with the Top 5 entries being flown to Riyadh for a live performance in front of a panel of expert judges. After the dust had settled, Saudi vocalist Asayel has crowned the winner, acting as the catalyst for the thrilling next chapter of her career. Now ready to bring the next great vocal talent to the limelight.

XP Music Futures 2023 promises to be an eye-opening experience that brings together the brightest minds and talents from music, tech, and business

Another new innovation the conference will be showcasing this year is XP Presents. XP Presents will be focusing on a specific region every year to showcase its diversity and to highlight its culture to the XP audience. This initiative will encourage cultural exchange and the celebration of cultural diversity. This year, the spotlight will be on South Korea, known for its thriving pop culture, including K-pop music, Korean dramas, and Korean films. With cutting-edge technology, the country is also driving the innovation in the musical and cultural fields, contributing to the South Korea’s rich and vibrant culture.

Next to a busy programme for this year’s conference, the XP team has been organising smaller scale focus group workshops around the region called XChange. With this workshop, they are curating a panel, workshop, showcasing performances and a networking mixer in Abu Dhabi, Cairo, Amman, and Riyadh, leading up to the conference in December. XChange doesn’t just increase XP’s impact on the entire MENA region, it also allows the team to get an even better insight into each local scene and to tailor XP Music Future’s programme to the wishes and needs of the whole region to offer the best quality of sessions and workshops during the annual three-day conference in Riyadh.

Speakers for this year’s event will be announced shortly, but the conference has unveiled that it will be opening its doors to aspiring professionals and enthusiasts of all ages for the very first time, offering workshops and activities for children and families as well.

Continuing to chase its goal of expanding opportunities for music industry professionals of all backgrounds, inspiring future generations, and laying the groundwork for establishing equitable industry policies for growth within the MENA region, XP Music Futures 2023 promises to be an eye-opening experience that brings together the brightest minds and talents from music, tech, and business. Join as XP uncovers the unseen from 7-9 December and personally take part in shaping the future of the global music industry.


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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.”


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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.


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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.”


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