Business

Universal inks strategic partnership to develop a ‘Music City’ in the Middle East – featuring the first Capitol Studios outside of Hollywood


Universal Music Group has made its latest move in one of the world’s fastest-rising music markets, the Middle East and North Africa.

UMG has struck up a strategic partnership with a UAE-based entity called DGMC (Dubai Global Music City) to build what they describe as “the Middle East’s first-ever Music City”.

The ‘Music City’, based in the UAE, will feature new recording studios and educational academies. It will also be home to a new joint venture label between UMG and DGMC that will sign and develop local artists.

DGMC claims on its website that the development will be the world’s first “purpose-built music city” and the company says that it aims “to build sustainable careers in the international music industry and export the region’s signature sound.”

In a press release issued in April 2023, the UAE government – via its Dubai Culture division – said it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Music Nation Copyrights Management and DGMC Production, with the aim of “supporting Dubai’s music sector and raising 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 include three new Capitol Studios-branded recording studios.

These will be the first-ever Capitol Studios facilities to be built outside of the iconic Capitol Tower in Hollywood. (Legendary artists from Frank Sinatra, to Nat King Cole and The Beach Boys have recorded at Capitol Studios in Hollywood.)

UMG says the new studios in the UAE will feature a Dolby Atmos mixing room, recording studios, a “green room”, a writer’s room, and a rehearsal studio. UMG says that “a range of must-see music experiences for fans are also planned”.

Elsewhere in Monday’s (February 12) announcement, UMG and DGMC said that the educational academies will offer “structured curriculum courses as well as special ‘Master Classes’ hosted by “top talent in the industry”.

Monday’s news marks UMG’s latest move in the MENA region and the UAE.

It arrived just six months after UMG acquired Chabaka Music, a prominent music company based in the United Arab Emirates and founded in 2013 by brothers Ala’a and Tarek Makki.

The news also follows UMG’s launch in 2021 of Universal Arabic Music (UAM) in tandem with Republic Records and music biz entrepreneur, Wassim ‘SAL’ Slaiby.

According to IFPI’s latest Global Music Report, the MENA region’s recorded music market grew 23.8% YoY in 2022 (the third-fastest globally that year), and represented the highest share for streaming of any region globally, at 95.5%.

The MENA region was also the fastest-growing music region in the world [in percentage terms] in 2021, growing by 35% YoY.

“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.”

Rasha Khalifa Al Mubarak, DGMC

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 Universal Music

“We have long recognized the potential in the Middle East, and are incredibly proud to be working with world-class partners like DGMC.”

Adam Granite, Universal Music Group

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 investing in the wider MENA region include the likes of Reservoir and Warner Music Group.

In October, Warner Music Group made a strategic investment in HuManagement, described as a ‘trailblazer’ in the MENA region.

Other investments made by Warner in the MENA region in recent years include, in 2021, its acquisition of a minority stake in Rotana Music, which is claimed to be the largest record label in the Middle East.

And in 2022, Warner Music completed its acquisition of Qanawat Music, which operates as a music distributor across the Middle East and North Africa.

Reservoir Media formed a joint venture in 2020 with Abu Dhabi-headquartered music publisher and music rights consultancy PopArabia.

In August, Reservoir and PopArabia announced a catalog acquisition of Cairo-headquartered content production and distribution company RE Media, and the acquisition of master and recording rights for the catalog of Egyptian rap duo El Sawareekh.

That followed Reservoir and PopArabia’s acquisition of Egyptian label 100COPIES, as well as the acquisition of Lebanese label and music publisher Voice of Beirut.

 Music Business Worldwide

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