Waref Hawasli is the publisher of Rolling Stone Middle East. He believes there is a huge gap in the UAE market for music lovers keen on discovering emerging bands. Here, he discusses his new music venture that will delight lovers of alternative music.
The concept is called All Access. Tell us about it.
Annual membership will offer four free private concerts a year and discounted tickets to two or three other concerts. Members will also get a year's subscription to Rolling Stone magazine delivered to their door, and other things like access to VIP areas at concerts and meet-and-greets.
The first event is on December 14. What's going on?
This is at Nasimi Beach and it's a taster, a teaser to build awareness. Lazzy Lung, which won our Battle of the Bands in 2011, is opening for the headline act, UK indie rockers Tribes. We'll also have up-and-coming Lebanese comedian Nemr Abou Nassar, a fashion showcase from leading brands and food from RS BBQ. We've gone for a soft launch to build awareness - the official launch will be in [the first quarter] of next year. We really wanted this to grow by word of mouth. We've invited our brand ambassadors, the press and other members of the community. Membership is available to purchase now but I don't really expect people to bite until they know the line-up for 2013. We want to do an official announcement with talent, dates, venues - not do a membership with a that-might-kinda-happen approach. In the future, we want to announce our line-up in the last quarter of the year because we want people to renew their memberships. But for 2013, we are in negotiations with acts now. They are from all over the world.
Tribes … I think I've heard of them
That's a reaction I get from a lot of people. Or a blank look. It's very likely that the majority of people won't have heard of them but music lovers will have heard of them. We are going against the grain but we've never gone into a situation that's been guaranteed. Industry experts calculate that there are about 35,000 concert-goers in the UAE and we think a good percentage of them would approve of the move to bring in acts from the emerging music scene. We are not going after the acts that will bring in 15,000 to 20,000 fans. Other promoters are already doing a good job of doing that. For the Rolling Stone Live concerts, they'll be names people will likely have heard of. The four free ones - you may have heard of them but if not you'll love them.
How much will membership cost?
Right now its Dh495 (US$134). The starter fee might increase and we'll also offer a couple of tiers of membership. But this is really about driving a movement and building a community [of alternative music lovers] and offering an enormous amount in return for a small fee.
The first members-only All Access Experience will take place at Nasimi Beach in Dubai on December 14. Tickets on the day available to non-members, subject to availability.