Here’s What It Takes to Open a Successful Music Business in Dubai

cityscape of dubai with burj khalifa
Photo courtesy of Ivan Siarbolin

What does it take to open a successful music business in Dubai?

We ask Patrick Abdo, the founder of The drum path, a multimedia company established in Dubai last year providing everything a future drummer needs to know about drums in one single path.

You’re gonna need more than beyzat

Beyzat, darahem, masare or in other words… money. One answer we got is capital, or funding. But Patrick tells us it’s more than just having money.

Due to the competitive and fast changing landscape that defines the UAE, you’re going to also need a great service and a whole lot of perseverance.

As we always believe, the best way to learn and discover a scene is to simply go and find out yourself.

So that’s what we did – we took off from Malta and flew over to Dubai for a five-day trip to give us the answers to our questions.

First impressions of Dubai’s music industry

Considering that the Middle East is one of the fastest growing regions for the music industry, we get the impression that Dubai has a role in this.

To give you some context, we land, rent a car and tune in to Ibiza Global Radio UAE, a locally based station playing 24/7 electronic music.

The first thing we hear was an ad for Ultra Music Festival was making its debut here in March bringing the likes of Adam Beyer, Amelie Lens and Mind Against. For those who don’t know, Ultra throws massive productions around the world that require huge investments.

Speaking with Patrick about artist payouts, he tells me that rate for playing at events are quite high.

Joshua F Williams, producer, audio engineer and musician said back in 2015 that “the UAE also pays musicians more for their residency gigs than most places, so some of the best musicians in the world have moved to Dubai to make a living.”

The UAE, a multi-cultural hub

The first thing you realize is that the UAE is a multicultural hub for people working and doing business in the region.

Patrick states that “we decided to open our business in Dubai because of the number of cultures we were able to approach and the connections we were able to make there.”

Landing in Abu Dhabi felt more like landing in the United States. Everything looks new and freshly painted. And everybody speaks English.

At the same time you’ve got people of Middle Eastern, Southeast Asian, African and European descent everywhere. In 2020, a United Nations report stated that 88.1% of people in the UAE were foreigners, making the locals a minority in their own country.

This was a big reason for the decision for The drum path to be established in Dubai.

Understanding the music business in Dubai

Dubai is the land where anything is possible (except WhatsApp calls). They’ve built the world’s tallest building, hosted the 2020 World Expo and continue to raise the bar of ambition of what the city of the future should look like. That’s why so many people come from all the world to work here.

“A big advantage of working in Dubai is the connections you make that help with the business, and secondly, the ease of services here due to the government making everything paperless and easy to do.”

As long as you are offering something new and innovative it will receive attention. Then, once you’ve made the promise, a great service must be delivered. In Dubai, if you are looking for good service, meaning a great time at a restaurant, going out or even going “out, out”, everything is handed to you on a silver platter (that is, if you can pay for it).

So, here’s what we’ve determined it takes to open a music business in Dubai:

1. Capital or investment for your business in Dubai

A Roland electronic drum set - a veritable investment for The drum path
A Roland electronic drum set – a veritable investment for The drum path

One disadvantage of opening up a business in Dubai is the cost of living – so having enough capital to sustain your business through the first year is key.

Your business – whether it’s music related or not – needs lots of capital to support it in this expense laden environment.

“In Dubai, capital is very important. Basically, without capital, it is a bit difficult to open a company here because the rentals and cost of living are so high.”

2. Be prepared to face competition and be open to opportunity

The front desk of The drum path, music business in Dubai
The front desk of The drum path, music business in Dubai

Just bringing wealth will not determine your success – there is a lot of competition in Dubai’s music industry. Considering that it’s one of fastest growing markets in the industry, you should understand who you are going up against.

On the other hand, there is a lot of demand for music services in Dubai because people constantly try to find new hobbies or new interesting things to learn. Aside from that, the presence of full-time musicians with residencies in Dubai is a good sign.

“Music is a very common thing to think about when wanting to learn something new. Not to forget the entertainment scene, which is huge, pushing the demand for music.”

Speaking of demand for music, Patrick states he is open to collaborate with new people.

“We are growing and so is the team. The perfect people to work with us are the people who are looking to grow in the music industry and build a career in it.”

3. Perseverance: you’re going to have to work hard to get what you want

Patrick's piano and two copies of The drum path
Pictured: Patrick’s piano (he offers piano lessons too) and two copies of The drum path

Being a director of a music business in Dubai doesn’t mean sitting back and watching it happen.

Patrick works seven days a week to make sure he finds success – and he’s not the only one. It’s a long process, but like many start-ups he eventually plans on bringing other people on board to support his business. For example, hiring music teachers in Lebanon that can give remote classes.

“For me, it wasn’t an easy ride, but the goals were too big to let go, and our love of what we do is big as well. It takes a lot of fighting: to get your service to the right people, from money, to your team, to the growth curve, to patience, to technical difficulties, to logistics, to everything.”

Patrick adds that you have to keep focus to get your name out there, because the easier route is to give up – and giving up is always a temptation.

“The drum path is a dream come true. For us, we worked so hard to achieve the program that is finally reaching the people around the world. And for the student, every problem they faced while or to learn the drums has been solved with The drum path.”

Are you serious about learning the drums?

Click the link to read more about Patrick’s project, The Drum Path.

Written by Luc Rouffaud

Luc Rouffaud is the founder of Underground Sound and has six years of experience in the music industry, particularly running a music publication and marketing events.

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