Saudi Arabia’s XP Music Conference recently took place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which drew hundreds of music industry professionals from the Persian Gulf and around the world.
According to a new article in Variety, the purpose of the conference was to embrace new potential opportunities in the music industry. Justin Bieber, one of the biggest pop stars in the world, recently performed in Saudi Arabia– but not without drawing international criticism from the press who have noted the country’s dismal human rights record.
Regardless, the motivation for the conference seems to be economic rather than whitewashing the Kingdom’s troubled reputation. Dubai has seemingly emerged as the area’s epicenter of music and culture, and it’s clear that Saudi Arabia wants to be part of the financial picture.
The conference featured panels on copyright issues, streaming, and the live sector, all highlighting a domestic market that seems to be growing. It’s a remarkable change for a conference like this to be hosted in Saudi Arabia, a deeply religious country where men and women rarely fraternize socially.
However, sweeping social changes in Saudi Arabia have prompted new opportunities for the music business. While Riyadh may not immediately surpass Dubai or nearby Tel Aviv as a cultural hotbed–in addition to the fact that alcohol is still forbidden in the Kingdom–streaming subscribers and the digital market will continue to reshape the country’s thirst for entertainment.