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Sony unit takes stake in Gulf concert promoter

Rob McIntosh (second from left) and Daniel Goldberg (second from right) founded Mac Global in Dubai in 2014

The founders of an agency that has played a central part in revolutionising entertainment in the Gulf said on Thursday that a tie-up with New York-based Sony Masterworks will buy the operation time and space to expand and invest. 

Sony has acquired 55 percent of Mac Global for an undisclosed sum, Daniel Goldberg, one of two founding partners, told AGBI. 

Goldberg founded Mac Global with his partner Rob McIntosh in Dubai in 2014. The agency promotes concerts, including those by Ed Sheeran, Michael Bublé and Lewis Capaldi, manages talent and produces theatrical and sporting events in the Middle East, such as Harry Potter in concert.

Goldberg and McIntosh will retain 22.5 percent each in Mac Global.

“We get a shot in the arm in terms of the business, and we can take the business to the next level, so we are happy about that,” Goldberg said. 

“Everything that we have been doing in pockets across the region we want to expand. We want to do more sports, more comedy, more orchestral events across the region. The deal with Sony allows us to take that to a whole different level,” Goldberg said. 

Masterworks is the classical and legacy division of the larger Sony group, comprising Masterworks, Sony Classical, Milan Records, XXIM Records and Masterworks Broadway imprints. It has expanded by acquiring a number of smaller, organically grown businesses around the world, of which Mac Global is the prime representative in the Middle East.

With the transaction, Mac Global will be able to offer other Sony Masterworks products including pop-up cinemas and offerings by other promoters outside the region. 

“It means we are not always living hand to mouth. We can plan much further ahead. And in terms of the harder times, if they do come back, it enables us to weather the storm,” Goldberg said. 

“We are a very small boutique operation, and during Covid it became apparent that we absolutely had to do this not just to get through a tricky period, but to take the business to the next level without watching our backs constantly.” 

Goldberg, a former DJ and journalist, has been working in Dubai since 2006. He said the entertainment offering in Dubai and other Gulf states has been revolutionised by the opening of indoor venues such as the Coca Cola Arena and the Dubai Opera House.  

“The Dubai and the UAE music scene has gone from having two or three nightclubs to having multiple venues. It has grown massively. What has changed is having so many venues at our disposal. It has enabled [us] to programme year-round and go through multiple venues… It is much more exciting now and has enabled us to get really creative.” 

In Saudi Arabia, Mac Global works with Ithra, also known as the King Abdullah Centre for World Culture, under the auspices of Saudi Aramco. Ithra is currently hosting its Tanween festival. 

Earlier this year, Mac Global took Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in Concert to the kingdom. The agency has also introduced Thierry Henry, the soccer star, and Cuba Gooding Junior, the actor, as public speakers, and even Russell Peters, a Canadian comedian, to Saudi Arabia.  

Goldberg said that the agency was always sensitive to local concerns and cultural sensitivities, in particular Ramadan and other holidays.

In Qatar, the ending of the World Cup will mean that there is a series of large-scale venues which will be available to promoters. Ed Sheeran played in the Doha Convention Centre in 2015 and, according to Goldberg, was amazed that local people in Doha, and elsewhere in the region, were not just familiar with his music but knew all or most of the words to the songs. 

“It [has] always been our mission to educate the music elite that the Middle East is a viable touring market,” Goldberg said. 

“We are in the business of putting smiles on people’s faces and of people enjoying themselves. We are here to give emotional connections, build communities and bring people together,” he said.

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