Saudi Arabia's MDL Beast signs ‘watershed’ music licensing deal to compensate artists

Musicians whose tracks are played at the company's events and on their platforms will be paid as part of an agreement with rights managements firm Esmaa

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Rights holders to music played at some of Saudi Arabia’s biggest music events and festivals will be compensated as part of a new landmark agreement.

MDL Beast, the company behind the annual Soundstorm festival, has partnered with music rights company Esmaa to ensure payments are made to composers and rights holders whenever their works are played at MDL Beast events and on their platforms.

The deal encompasses music performed and played at Soundstorm, the industry showcase XP Conference and the recently launched online music channel Beast TV. Artists signed to the company’s in house record label, MDL Beast Records, will also receive payments when their tracks are played by other organisations signed to Esmaa.

Hussain Spek Toosef, Managing Dierctor of Fairwood Music, in a studio in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2010. Photo: Charles Crowell for The National

Launched in 2020, Esmaa is a rights management entity and a subsidiary of PopArabia, a music publishing company headquartered in Abu Dhabi's TwoFour54.

With the company describing itself as the first of its kind in Mena, the partnership with MDL Beast comes on the back of Esmaa signing a 2021 agreement with major UK music label Chrysalis Music and company Global Master Rights to represent the regional rights of more than 2,500 artists including Rihanna, Billie Eilish, Imagine Dragons, DJ Snake, Metallica, Migos and David Guetta.

Esmaa co-founder and chief executive Hussain ‘Spek’ Yoosuf describes the Saudi deal as a pivotal step in the evolution of the kingdom’s music and entertainment scene.

“Saudi Arabia’s music scene is undergoing incredible change at the moment,” he said. “It is a watershed moment as music rights holders will be paid performance royalties for the first time for uses within Saudi Arabia, and we commend MDL Beast for taking the necessary steps to respect creators.”

MDL Beast chief operating officer Talal Albahiti says the move is essential for Saudi Arabia’s music industry to become economically sustainable.

“Ultimately we want to grow the music industry in the region and the best way to do that is to make sure it is economically viable for artists and composers to create the sounds we all want to hear,” he said.

“We certainly want to see creators getting fair reward for their work wherever the music is played, and for us that is two-fold. We pay to ensure any time we use an artist’s tracks during our licensed events, they get paid, and as a rights holder we receive payment when our artists’ music is used by other media and events, and we pass that payment on.”

To know more about the Middle East's copyright laws, check out the conversation below between The National's Saeed Saeed and Esmaa co-founder and chief executive Hussain ‘Spek’ Yoosuf as part of Dubai Media City's On Music series.

Updated: January 19, 2022, 2:17 PM