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How a digital talent show brought Saudi to the spotlight

TikTok and Anghami’s ‘Sound of Saudi’ competition jumpstarts the musical careers of Saudi talents

By Joanne Chehab, Head of Managed Services, METAP, TikTok For Business

A talent-first approach to unlocking creativity

From poetry and calligraphy to music and film, the cultural landscape of the Arab world boasts a rich history spanning centuries, reflecting the diverse traditions, influences and skills of the creative minds that have shaped it.

And today, this cultural wealth is transcending borders, fueled by a young and vibrant population that is eager to showcase its art to the world.

In Saudi Arabia, for example, the new wave of local talent is playing an integral role in unlocking the country’s creative potential and exporting it to the different corners of the globe.

And while the next generation of entrepreneurs and creatives has been showcasing its ingenuity and innovation across the various arenas of the Kingdom, music, in particular, has been getting unprecedented attention.

As the appetite of music enthusiasts is being met by the passion of both established and emerging artists, the music scene continues to create a resounding impact globally, thanks to rising Saudi talents that are unleashing their potential and making their voices heard.

Their main stage?

Entertainment-centric, digital platforms that open doors to new forms of expressions and a world of limitless opportunities.

A global-first, fully-digital talent hunt

So how are digital mediums being harnessed by these talents to expand the cultural sector and unlock its diverse richness?

How are homegrown artists capitalising on creative outlets to showcase their talent, pursue their careers and grow their reach? Among the innumerable initiatives that are bringing talent to the forefront, is one that has captivated the eyes and ears of audiences across the board.

Recognising the abundance of “stars in-the-making” and leveraging the power of TikTok as a talent search engine, Anghami partnered with the Saudi Music Commision to launch “Sound of Saudi,” a global-first, fully-digital talent hunt aimed at searching for new Saudi musical talents.

This partnership, which was brought to life and amplified on TikTok, struck a chord with audiences, creating a lasting impact that reverberated across the world’s cultural stratosphere.

The numbers alone, speak volumes. The competition recorded over 32K participations and 1.3M votes, with the campaign achieving 970.7M video views, 35.8M users in reach and 7.4M in engagement.

The ‘making of’ a first-of-its-kind talent show

The formula for success began with leveraging TikTok’s hashtag challenge to call on the entire country to showcase their talent through an open-mic audition.

The five-month long activation kicked off with the biggest names in music (the likes of artists Zena Emad and DJ and Hip Hop artist Big Hass), as well as TikTok creators (such as Amy Roko and comedians Abdulaziz Bakr and Abdullah Bakr), who invited their communities to take part.

Anghami also created an in- app experience carefully curated to guide participants throughout the competition, with a page that includes Live Radio Studio Analysis to shed light on the talents, a podcast section providing tips on how to create for TikTok, and a feature to consult with a music expert to support them through the process.

Another factor that contributed to the impact of this unprecedented endeavor is the diversity of entries across not only age and gender, but also passions and genres.

From singing, composing, mixing or playing instruments, to pop, hip-hop, rap or rock ‘n roll, the richness that was put on display mirrors the diversity of Saudi Arabia in all its richness.

Judged on their artistry and creativity, 60 participants were then voted by the community to proceed to the shortlist phase and encouraged to build a fanbase, with the support of creators who endorsed them through shout-outs, duets and more.

Finally, ten artists were declared winners and celebrated as the talents that represent the new generation of Saudi talents.

Putting Saudi talent on the map

For these Saudi talents, winning is only the beginning of their musical journey.

While being selected as the “sounds that represent a nation” is a tremendous achievement in itself, the wins to their musical careers are just getting started.

To develop their unique voices and expand their worldwide exposure, winners were offered the opportunity to produce original tracks and music videos that were launched on TikTok, create TikTok duets with renowned musicians, and release their original solo music production exclusively on Anghami.

A number of released tracks were among the top streamed hits in the Kingdom, trending across the charts for registering record growth in a short period of time.

More so, the buzz surrounding their artistic triumphs caught the attention of international brands and local competitions, who came on board to sponsor the initiative and offer the winners amplified visibility among the wider public.

As they embark on the next step of the road to stardom, access to platforms like Anghami and TikTok can further amplify and accelerate their successes.

With 75 per cent of TikTok users saying they discover new artists through TikTok and 63 per cent hearing new music that they’ve never heard before on TikTok, the platform not only has the power to make stars out of gifted creators, but also to disseminate their evergrowing musical repertoire to the world – one hit at a time.

This is largely attributed to the way the community interacts with content and creators on the platform, turning tunes into hits that permeate the industry, top the charts and shape culture at large.

Enabling the KSA talent ecosystem

Today, more than ever, digital platforms will continue to act as a gateway for fostering, connecting and enabling talent – in music and beyond.

More so, they will continue to cement their position as a breeding home for promising artists and creators, launching their careers and setting them up on the path to success – no matter their expertise, discipline or talent.

As talented individuals continue to embrace digital platforms that facilitate talent discovery and empowerment, the impact of people-powered initiatives will transcend the creation of a new Saudi soundscape.

Moving forward, the world will increasingly tune in to witness and celebrate the achievements of Saudi artists that are empowered to shape their futures and share their successes with the global community.