Emirates Music Summit addresses economic challenges local artists face due to coronavirus

UAE artists must think laterally as the coronavirus outbreak shuts down a growing number of venues and events

From left: Rapper Mazzi Bahi, VVIP founder Saber Ghaith, Guided co-founder Robyn Abouchedid and James Simmons from JS Entertainment all appear at Emirates Music Summit. Courtesy Str8 Up Entertainment
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With the coronavirus outbreak severely impacting the live music industry, UAE artists are encouraged to support each other.

This is the advice provided by local music scene stalwart, Lobito Brigante. The Dubai DJ and music promoter made the comments as part of the Emirates Music Summit, which took place in Dubai over the weekend.

As a health precaution against coronavirus, the summit – organised by Str8 Up Entertainment and Launch DXB - was streamed online, with all sessions dropping on YouTube on Thursday, March 19.

When it comes to the severe financial hit UAE artists are facing on the back of a growing number of cancelled gigs and events, Brigante said it’s time for all members from the local music community to be innovative during these challenging times.

“We have to talk with each other. We have to put our creative hats on and think laterally on different ways we can create revenue,” he said during his conversation session.

“We have to ask ourselves what can we do digitally, online and how we can improve our existing revenue streams. Instead of sitting back and thinking that everything will be okay, let’s assume there will be further lockdowns. This is a wakeup call and it’s important for us to connect with each other. At the very least, this will help our mental health.”

Nigerian Afro Beats singer MKO, real name Maduabuchi Okpor, echoed that sentiment. As a record label manager and curator of the Arts Fusion series of events, he hopes the virus causes a much needed paradigm shift among local talents.

“A bunch of people here focus only on their art without understanding that it is a business,” he said. “There needs to be an entrepreneurial aspect to what we do. I had four events cancelled already, so this is a wake-up call for many of us to have other revenue streams than just what we do musically.”

Not all of the conversation focused on the industry’s response to the coronavirus, with the Emirates Music Summit hosting a wide range of speakers – from artist and promoters to executives from local streaming giant Anghami – to discuss ways to develop the local and regional music industry.

L-R: MKO and DJ Lobito Brigante says artists must work together to fend off the effects of the Coronavirus on the local industry. Courtesy Str8 Up Entertainment

One session to look forward to online is the Music Industry Forward panel session, which discusses looking at the challenges of the UAE music scene.

Elia Mssawir, co-founder of events company Big Beard Entertainment, said the local industry is in decline due to lack of support from the private sector.

“Fifteen years ago the UAE had a very strong industry and there was a lot of support for local talent,” he said. “But due to a number of financial reasons, some of that support has not arrived and that caused the scene to be somewhat locked down.”

Albert M Carter, an artist manager St8 Up Entertainment, disagreed. “I can only attest to the four years that I have been here and I have seen the industry grow, especially with the arrival of streaming platforms. So I think the challenge is in finding the right opportunity and connecting the dots.”

But none of those opportunities will come to fruition if the music coming from UAE artists is irrelevant, stated Dubai DJ and producer Brooklyn. The popular Egyptian spinner, real name Mohamed Kareem Elsawy, said that it was time to get real with the lack of quality music and industry practices that’s underscoring the local scene.

“I don’t think we should be diplomatically correct,” he said. “The essence of what we do is creation and if you are only interested in being mediocre or just taking what every job without furthering the art, then you are not helping. We have to talk about that too.”

Albert M. Carter, from Str8 Up Entertainment, says the Emirates Music Summit is there to push the local music scene forward. Courtesy Str8 Up Entertainment

Speaking to The National after the summit, Carter said it was important for the event to continue and migrate online.

“While we may face difficulties in these uncertain times, we wanted to do an event that can benefit UAE artists as a whole. With the sessions to be made available online soon, more people will now have the knowledge they need,” he said.

“Another reason why we did it online is to show the importance of innovation in what we do. A lot of times in the music industry, when artist face problems they would rather complain about it than find solutions. So we wanted to show what can be done when having you are focused on solutions.”

All Emirates Music Summit will be uploaded online on Thursday. For details please visit www.emiratesmusicsummit.com