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Universal Enters Strategic Partnership To Develop A “Music City” In The Middle East – Introducing The First Capitol Studios Outside Hollywood

As reported by Music Business Worldwide, Universal Music Group (UMG) has announced its latest venture into one of the world’s fastest-growing music markets: the Middle East and North Africa. The company has formed a strategic partnership with UAE-based entity DGMC (Dubai Global Music City) to create the region’s first-ever “Music City”. The development will include new recording studios, educational academies, and a joint venture label between UMG and DGMC that will sign and develop local artists. DGMC claims that the project will be the world’s first “purpose-built music city” and aims to create sustainable careers in the international music industry while exporting the area’s signature sound. In April 2023, the UAE government announced that it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Music Nation Copyrights Management and DGMC Production to support Dubai’s music sector and raise it to international levels. 

Commenting on the news at the time, Rasha Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairwoman of both Music Nation and DGMC, said: “This public-private partnership with Dubai Culture, Music Nation and DGMC, together with our renowned international partners, will deliver state-of-the-art copyright protection, distribution, and advanced recording facility infrastructure to ignite Dubai’s music economy and establish Dubai as a leading Music City.”

The Music City development will feature three new Capitol Studios-branded recording studios, the first outside of the iconic Capitol Tower in Hollywood.

The new studios will include a Dolby Atmos mixing room, recording studios, a “green room”, a writer’s room, and a rehearsal studio. UMG also promises a range of must-see music experiences for fans. In addition, the educational academies will offer structured curriculum courses and special Master Classes hosted by top talent in the industry.

This is not UMG’s first foray into the MENA region and the UAE. The company acquired Chabaka Music, a leading music company founded by brothers Ala’a and Tarek Makki in 2013, just six months before this latest announcement. UMG also launched Universal Arabic Music (UAM) in partnership with Republic Records and music entrepreneur Wassim ‘SAL’ Slaiby in 2021. The MENA region’s recorded music market grew 23.8% YoY in 2022, representing the highest share for streaming of any region globally, at 95.5%. It was also the fastest-growing music region in the world in 2021, growing by 35% YoY, according to IFPI’s latest Global Music Report.

Rasha Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairwoman of DGMC, said: “We are thrilled to partner with UMG, the world’s leading music group, on this unique and exciting endeavor.

“Building a state-of-the-art music infrastructure and providing industry services to support aspiring musical artists is critical to our leadership’s vision to promote culture and the arts.

“DGMC’s initiatives will not only help to foster our regional creatives and music-related professionals, but elevate the UAE’s music economy to global levels.”

Adam Granite, Executive Vice President, Market Development, Universal Music Group, said: “We have long recognized the potential in the Middle East, and are incredibly proud to be working with world-class partners like DGMC.

“We share their excitement and vision to harness this potential and nurture the next generation of recording artists and songwriters.

“Our partnership will create a powerful platform for the incredible talent in the region and accelerate their careers at home and abroad.”

Other companies are also investing in the wider MENA region, including Reservoir and Warner Music Group. Warner Music Group made a strategic investment in HuManagement, described as a ‘trailblazer’ in the MENA region, in October.

The company also acquired a minority stake in Rotana Music, claimed to be the largest record label in the Middle East, in 2021. It completed its acquisition of Qanawat Music, which operates as a music distributor across the Middle East and North Africa, in 2022.

Reservoir Media formed a joint venture in 2020 with Abu Dhabi-based music publisher and rights consultancy PopArabia. In August, Reservoir and PopArabia announced the acquisition of master and recording rights for the catalog of Egyptian rap duo El Sawareekh and Cairo-based content production and distribution company RE Media. Reservoir and PopArabia had previously acquired Egyptian label 100COPIES, as well as the Lebanese label and music publisher Voice of Beirut.

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