From Rihanna to Julio Iglesias, the UAE is drawing an increasing number of global acts, helped by surging visitor numbers.
Dubai World Trade Centre attracted 140,000 people to 12 live events in the first quarter of the year. That is more than the whole of the last year when it registered 106,000 people at 24 concerts.
"There is an increase in regional tourists attending music events in Dubai," said Issam Kazim, the commercial director at DWTC. "Dubai is already a holiday spot and it is easier to convince people to come here for music events."
The convention centre plans to host music industry conferences to capitalise on the trend.
Once ignored by big-name acts on tour, the UAE is rapidly becoming part of global tours for bands such as Coldplay, Aerosmith and The Killers, with concert promoters able to command high ticket prices.
Basic tickets costing Dh250 for the Rihanna concert in Abu Dhabi in October sold out within hours. The most expensive tickets were priced at Dh1,295.
In the first three months of the year, DWTC hosted the Cirque du Soleil Dralion, the Egyptian composer and pianist Omar Khairat, and the Spanish singer Julio Iglesias. This week, the Royal Moscow Ballet performed Swan Lake.
The rise of top name artist tours in the Middle East and Asia has coincided with a global decline in CD sales. The 92-year-old music retailer HMV announced bankruptcy in January in the latest blow to the industry as more people download songs for free online. That trend is encouraging more artists to go back on the road and concert goers are benefiting from that trend. After abysmal showings for more than a decade, the music industry in February announced an increase of 0.3 per cent in its global sales, the first increase since 1999.
Total revenue for last year was US$16.5 billion, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.
"It is hard to remember a year for the recording industry that has begun with such a palpable buzz in the air," said Frances Moore, the chief executive of the federation.
Streaming music services, such as Apple iTunes, Spotify and Rhapsody, increased in subscribers to 20 million, or 44 per cent. Music events in the UAE typically draw fans from across the region. Apart from hosting international events, DWTC also staged concerts focused on the expat community from the Indian subcontinent.
These included 100 years of Indian cinema with Tamil film stars, the tabla maestro Zakir Hussain and Bollywood music performers. A series of Norooz concerts celebrated the Iranian New Year. These drew about 10,000 fans in total.
Abu Dhabi is also attracting some of the biggest names from the world of rock and pop. Yas Island hosted Metallica on April 19.
It will be followed by Rihanna in October and the Creamfields dance festival in December. Performers from Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas descended upon the venue for the 16-day World Beats event last month.
Flash Entertainment, which is wholly owned by the Executive Affairs Authority of Abu Dhabi, is the company behind some of the biggest concerts in the capital.
On average it holds 15 events a year, said a spokesperson. In 2011 and 2012, the events attracted 800,000 fans from across the world.
The Metallica concert drew fans from as far as South Africa, Poland and France. Since last March, the du Arena has undergone significant refurbishment that will continue throughout the summer, she said.
"These enhancements are intended to take what is now the region's leading concert venue and place it on a platform with some of the most recognised international arena facilities," the spokesperson said.
"Such improvements are critical if the venue, and indeed the city as a whole, is to continue its growth as a major regional hub for international tours and events."