High notes of the Week

Dubai Music Week was home to important discussion encompassing the creative and business side of the regional music industry. Saeed Saeed reports on the highlights.

Before his performance in Dubai, will.i.am vowed to return for the next instalment of Dubai Music Week and bring the rest of his band, The Black Eyed Peas. Courtesy Dubai Music Week
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Dubai Music Week offered something for all: from the concerts to the panel discussions curated by the leading music industry body Midem. While casual music fans enjoyed the concert action, the event was home to important discussions about the creative and business side of the regional music industry.

Rod Temperton in the house

Not technically. The 65-year-old Englishman took part in Tuesday night’s Michael Jackson Dream Team seminar via Skype from what looked like a dingy London office.

To the casual MJ fan, the songwriter’s appearance was insightful. Temperton wrote the classic tunes Rock with You, Off the Wall and Thriller, but to the music nerd it was revelatory as Temperton is rarely seen in public and has only given a handful of interviews over the past two decades. To witness him exchange behind-the-scenes tales with the legendary producer Quincy Jones was a moment to savour.

Artists, know yourself

Branding is not simply about creating a fabricated image, stressed Frank Cooper, PepsiCo’s chief marketing officer for global consumer engagement. The architect behind Beyoncé’s recent US$50 million (Dh184m) advertising deal with Pepsi said all musical branding campaigns and partnerships must begin with understanding the artist’s identity.

“If the artist doesn’t want to sell out, he has to identify the values they will maintain and find the brands that respect those values and partner with them,” he said. “Then they can build things together that would create value for their fans. If they do that, everybody wins.”

Shazam wants you

One of the world biggest music apps is looking for local material to add to its mammoth musical database. Shazam’s music manager Stephen Titmus said the process is relatively simple: “I urge local artists to go to our website and submit the music. The great thing about it is that it’s free and you got nothing to lose and it could take a week before it’s up.”

While acknowledging Shazam is most effective for the artist with radio play, it still offers value to little-known acts. “We don’t have a magic bullet for success,” he said. “But all you need is one person to hear your song and the conversation begins.”

Gomez all grown up

Selena Gomez is enjoying her debut world tour as a solo artist. “I am happy with how things are going,” she said at a press conference. “But at the same time I know I am just a kid that is trying to figure out what my place is. It has been very good for me to experience the places that I have been to [without] having ones telling me what to do and not to do. It’s all part of growing up.”

The 23-year-old performed a sparkling set at the Dubai World Trade Centre on Friday night. Her 19-song performance was punctuated with visuals and backing dancers. For parents, the best part was that Gomez was on stage right on time, unlike her contemporary Justin Bieber.

Will.i.am returning with The Black Eyed Peas

Speaking before his performance on Thursday night, will.i.am said he can’t wait for Fergie, apl.de.ap and Taboo to join him on his next UAE jaunt: “I know I am here already, but I can’t wait to return,” he said. “Next time I will come back with my group The Black Eyed Peas.”

The 38-year-old definitely got the party started on Thursday night with a DJ set incorporating his solo and group material, in addition to a few rock excursions. Donning a microphone, he also sang along to a few tunes including his solo hit This Is Love.

Work hard and make it happen

Few people know more about the ups and downs of the music industry than Bill Werde. As the editorial director of the respected music industry publication Billboard, the New Yorker said the UAE-based artists need to understand that they are not immune to the challenges facing musicians in other parts of the world.

“The Middle East is no exception in that you have aspiring artists who feel major labels are not out to help them,” he said. “There is a little bit of a sense of entitlement and what I always encourage is: people should use the tools that are out there to make, distribute and market your music. If you are sitting around waiting for someone to make your dreams come true then it probably won’t happen.”

Dubai Music Week 2014

Plans are already under way to make the next event bigger and better. While being “extremely happy” with the inaugural event, Midem’s director Bruno Crolot promised next year’s will be better planned.

“We will have more time to work on the programme and discuss with the regional players to understand their needs,” he said. “We will go much deeper in what the region needs in terms of the conference. Maybe we will add other formats, such as an academy-type programme where people will learn more practical things about the music industry.”

• Check out our Scene&Heard blog for more stories from Dubai Music Week


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