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    Dubai’s first female talent agency’s founder on the unique sound of the region

    Anna George empowering female artists within the region through her new women-only talent agency

    Within five minutes of speaking to Anna George, two things are abundantly clear. One, she has an encyclopedic knowledge of the Middle East’s music scene, and two, she is absolutely music-mad. 

    After working in the MENA music and entertainment industry for the past 15 years, George’s passion for local sound has made her one of the most influential music executives in the region. As an expert in music and brand partnerships, she has an impressive CV that includes a ten-year span at Sony Music Entertainment Middle East, a stint as Head of Music Partnerships at TikTok, and a notable run as the Executive Director of Hollywood actor Steve Harvey’s MELT MidEast. But after 15 years working in the regional entertainment business, George is now marching to the beat of her own drum, by launching her very own music agency – Females Talent Agency. 

    For the love of music 

    Having grown up across the GCC, George went back to her home country of England to study Arts and Entertainment Management at university. “I knew from a very young age that I wanted to work in the music industry – on the business side, specifically,” explains George. “When I was 15, I was trying to manage artists at clubs,” she laughs. 

    After finishing her degree, she moved straight back to Dubai, which, at the time, was only home to one record label, EMI Music Arabia. With the company at capacity for employees, George took a job at Dubai International Film Festival until, one day, she spotted the sign for Sony Music being erected in Dubai Media City. Tracking down the right contacts, the young music fan secured a job with the global entity’s first Middle East location. 

    Banah is signed to Female Talent Agency

    At eight months pregnant, George was backstage with Latin American boyband CNCO before they performed a concert in Dubai. 

    “I obviously started off in a really junior position in marketing, but after about a year and half of working there, I pitched to the company that I thought I could bring in brand revenue for artists. They said ‘Okay, you go ahead,’ and the business grew really quickly,”  she recalls. “I was the only person in the market saying to brands, ‘Hey, we can provide music solutions for you’. It grew so quickly that I didn’t have enough local artists to fulfil the briefs.”

    I’m with the band 

    Noticing a gap in the market for nurturing local talent, George set-up an in-house talent agency within Sony Records. “I lived my music industry dreams at Sony Music,” she says with a beaming smile. “One of my career highlights was going on tour with a boy band called The5. They entered X Factor Arabia as solo artists and were put together, like One Direction. But what was so unique about them is that they were Moroccan, Algerian, Lebanese and Egyptian, so they automatically had a pan-Arab fan base. We ended up signing them and had huge success for years.” 

    “The5 were the first successful boy band in the region and the fans were fanatical, chasing them down at airports,” she adds.

    I'm with the band: George, eight months pregnant, backstage with boyband CNCO

    Working in the industry’s brand space, George was able to sign huge deals with The5, including a three-year deal with Clean and Clear, which included a competition for female fans to write lyrics for the band’s songs and perform with them. It also saw a competition to form a girl-band equivalent who would then go on to open for The5 on tour. 

    From mixtapes to tech

    “Then I hit my ten year mark at Sony Music and I thought that if I didn’t move now, I never would,” reflects George. “That’s when the job for the Head of Music at TikTok came up. The entire industry wanted this position.” Landing the job against several competitors, George transitioned from record label to technology giant. “I built an incredible team and completed many firsts for the region while working here, but then one day, another opportunity appeared out of thin air,” she recounts. 

    Working for Steve Harvey 

    “I met with Steve a few times before I said yes,” admits George. “Then he said something that really resonated with me as I grew up here. He said, ‘The purpose of MELT Middle East is that we’re using global power and reach to generate positive PR about the Middle East – everything we do has to change perception and redefine narratives.’” 

    After spending ten years of her career championing the local music scene, George felt the urge to support Harvey’s vision. “I had been constantly knocking on doors about how great the music scene in the Middle East was, so I thought, if I can play a role in helping him do that, it’s a yes.”

    Leaving her coveted role at TikTok after just under a year, the British expat joined Harvey’s team as Executive Director.  “It was exactly what Steve said it would be – I had access to Hollywood, was working on multi-million-dollar projects like bringing in Jason Momoa and Kevin Hart to do the Yas Island commercials,” she notes.  

    Listening to her heart 

    “But there was something pulling at me,” reveals George, discussing her next career move. “I realised very quickly that the universe had a really strong plan for me. I just realised it’s not my purpose to empower celebrities. It’s actually the artists in this region that need the expertise I have, need the help.” After a year of working for MELT Middle East, the mother-of-two decided to start her own company, Female Talent Agency, with  a distinct mission in mind.

    Giving back to the industry 

    Female Talent Agency (FTA) is the first female-led creative agency in the region that specialises in music and brand partnerships. “I’ve arrived at a point in my career where I know what my expertise is. Now, I want to help female artists build revenue,” says George with determination. “I know I can help brands who want to use music as a marketing tool.” 

    After landing her dream jobs over the past 15 years, the music maven knew she now wanted to go solo. “One of the reasons why it feels like the right time to launch FTA is the rise of streaming platforms. The distribution channels have exploded over the last couple of years which helps artists to reach a much bigger audience,” she explains.   

    The agency, launched this February, already has 20 artists from across the Middle East on its books. In this sea of talent, George has selected her musicians carefully. 

    “The artists I’ve signed are all using their creativity to redefine narratives and shift perceptions about the Middle East wisely. As a region, this is something we should all feel responsible for. Investing in the emerging artists scene is important and it’s something that FTA will be playing a big role in. I feel like we’re very close to Arabic music going global and local artists are getting very close to defining our international sound that’ll work around the world,” she says excitedly. 

    Hitting the right note

    After spending her career building up its foundation, George believes the industry is “at its peak”. She explains, “I spent such a long time helping build the infrastructure, setting up labels and all the things that are required for a music industry to thrive. Now, it’s exploded and it’s the most exciting time to be here.”

    With much of the Middle East’s music scene untapped, part of George’s mission is to showcase the region’s eclecticism to the world. “What’s so incredible about this new wave of female artists is that there are so many unique voices, different styles and new perspectives, which really highlight the vibrant, dynamic cultural landscape that we have in this region,” she says. 

    The Female Talent Agency reflects this variety on its roster, with rappers, hip-hop artists, DJs and singer-songwriters all signed to the label, just a few weeks after its launch. 

    With George’s tenure in the industry and a small army of empowered female musicians behind her, the region’s music scene is about to hit the big time. Watch this space.; @femaletalentagency

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