How XP conference aims to put Saudi Arabia on the music map: 'The opportunity is enormous'

The three-day event will bring the music industry’s leading minds to Riyadh

The XP conference will run as the lead up to the dance music festival Soundstorm. Photo: MDL Beast
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If you are going to launch one of the world’s largest dance festivals, the impact should continue to reverberate well after the gates are closed.

This was the challenge facing MDL Beast, the organisation behind the 2019 self-titled blockbuster dance event in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh.

Held over four days, the extravaganza featured dozens of the world’s leading DJs performing to a crowd of 400,000.

With the event placing the kingdom on the dance music map, the collective now aims to permanently stake its place on the scene by launching a music conference.

Seizing the moment

The XP music conference will run from Monday to Wednesday, December 13 to 15 and gather the music industry’s leading creative and business minds for three days of discussions, workshops and masterclasses. It will take place at Jax in Riyadh's art district.

The event will also form the lead-up to the dance festival, beginning the next day under the new name Soundstorm.

XP programme director Nada Alhelabi. Photo: MDL Beast

Speaking to The National, XP programme director Nada Alhelabi says the event will build on the momentum and enthusiasm inspired by the festival within the dance music community.

“It’s fair to say that we are entering the most exciting time for the music industry in the Middle East, ever,” she says.

“The opportunity is enormous, the potential is being unlocked, and what we need is a moment for the industry to come together to seize this chance with both hands – XP is that moment.”

Much-needed discussions

It is also a moment calling for wise heads and calm deliberations.

The dance music industry’s giddiness surrounding the region’s prospects as a booming new market needs to be matched with sustainable initiatives to allow realising its full potential.

Alhelabi says XP can achieve this through discussions encompassing the fundamental structures of the dance scene.

With Amsterdam Dance Event cancelling its influential conference in October owing to the pandemic, XP is now set to become the setting where EDM can chart its course back after the devastation of Covid-19.

"We are looking at all the crucial building blocks and we have identified four," she says.

"They are talent development, promoting the scene to drive tourism, finding the right and effective policies to develop the scene, and, finally, the social impact of this industry."

It is the last aspect Alhelabi is particularly enthusiastic to get into.

“One particular hot topic we are looking forward to addressing is the representation of women in this industry," she says.

"This is not only a regional issue but a global one and we need to examine ways on how to develop that, whether that’s through policy development or other kinds of initiatives."

While the list of attendees – from executives to influential artists – has yet to be announced, sessions will tackle music trends, initiatives to develop music tourism in Saudi Arabia and efforts to expand career opportunities within creative industries.

You never know who you will meet

However, not all of XP’s offerings are heady.

In addition to the intimate production masterclasses provided by artists, there will be a string of network opportunities with daily evening events.

With some international guests using XP for their first visit to the kingdom and the wider region, Alhelabi says these gatherings can be crucial for breaking the ice.

"Ultimately, our goal is to empower the local scene in Saudi Arabia and the region and build capacity across all levels," she says.

"Part of that is to promote a positive image of the industry here and its positive change and we want to do that through building those personal connections and the exchange of insights and knowledge."

XP will take place from Monday to Wednesday, December 13 to 15 at Jax in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Tickets are from 1,750 Saudi riyals ($466), available at

Updated: October 11, 2021, 7:44 AM