Warner Music Group Announces Acquisition of MENA Distributor Qanawat Music Following Rotana Investment

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Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Photo Credit: David Rodrigo

About 13 months after finalizing a multimillion-dollar investment in Arab record label Rotana Music – and roughly two months after taking a majority stake in African distribution and rights-management company Africori – Warner Music Group (WMG) has inked a deal to acquire Dubai-based distributor Qanawat Music.

Warner Music Group (NASDAQ: WMG) announced this latest buyout today, and the play arrives amid continued music industry growth in the Middle East – and amid continued major-label efforts to establish a presence in the region. Described by WMG as “a leading music distributor in the Middle East and North Africa,” Qanawat Music is expected to officially become part of Warner Music “soon,” higher-ups said, presumably referring to legal and regulatory considerations.

Qanawat Music (Qanawat translates to “channels” in Arabic) was previously a division of 21-year-old Qanawat FZ, which bills itself as “the leading mobile VAS service and digital content provider in the Middle East and North Africa.” This latter Qanawat entity is likewise based in Dubai, and its founder, Adnan Al-Obthani, is set to remain CEO of Qanawat Music even after it begins operating as a standalone unit under WMG, execs disclosed.

Regarding the distributor’s reach and global footprint, the involved parties communicated that Qanawat Music “has a presence in Dubai, Cairo and Casablanca,” besides offering “its services in more than 20 countries across the region.” (Egypt is home to north of 100 million individuals, and Universal Music Group opened an office in Casablanca, Morocco, back in June of 2020.)

Addressing today’s agreement in a statement, WMG president of emerging markets for recorded music Alfonso Perez-Soto emphasized the perceived potential associated with enabling regional artists to find fans on the global stage.

“With this new deal, we have a massive opportunity to export exciting talent from the Middle East and North Africa – there is an important and growing Arabic diaspora worldwide that we can tap into and which will help amplify the music,” Perez-Soto said in part. “We’ve recently seen huge global success with our artists from Sub-Saharan Africa and we’re eager to repeat this achievement by building a proper distribution and upstreaming structure for the best talent from the Arabic world.”

Last month, Middle Eastern streaming giant Anghami (NASDAQ: ANGH) arrived on the stock market after merging with a special purpose acquisition company, having partnered with Sony Music Entertainment (SME) in December to launch a “boutique record label” called Vibe Music Arabia. Finally, in terms of the majors’ steps to expand their reach in MENA, April of 2021 saw Universal Music Group roll out Universal Arabic Music with The Weeknd manager Wassim “Sal” Slaiby at the helm.