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Spotify launches SAWTIK to celebrate emerging Arab female artists across the MENA region

Around 60 per cent of aspiring female artists believe that their potential is limited by stigmas associated with women in the music industry.

Spotify, the world’s largest audio platform, launches ‘SAWTIK’, an initiative to celebrate and amplify the voices of emerging unsigned female artists in MENA, following research that unveiled their deepening underrepresentation in the region’s music scene.

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With female artists comprising less than 13% of those signed by MENA-based labels in the past five years, SAWTIK, which means “Your Voice,” will use Spotify’s reach to raise their visibility, while offering them education, networking opportunities and marketing support. SAWTIK debuts with an impressive line-up of 16 talented voices from the region and Arab superstar Latifa joins as the initiative’s first-ever godmother.

Recognising the scarcity of female artists in the MENA music industry, Spotify conducted region-wide research collecting insights from across the music ecosystem. With findings showing there is still a long way to go to level the gender playing field in the region’s music industry, Spotify saw the need to launch SAWTIK.

Data highlights the challenges for emerging female artists in MENA

Stigma and stereotyping. Around 60 per cent of aspiring female artists feel stigmatised for pursuing a career in music, where one in two aspiring female artists say they were advised against it. Half of the labels surveyed believe the ratio of female to male Arab artists had declined in the last 10 years due to sociocultural restrictions and female stereotyping. A quarter of the aspiring artists surveyed believe female stereotyping is making it difficult for them to break into the music industry, where one in two aspiring female artists have never recorded music, limiting their exposure and source of income to only live performances.

High demand for female-driven Arab music but limited access. 86 per cent of the labels surveyed agree that there is demand for Arab female artists, yet finding new female artists to sign remains challenging. The same rings true for listeners, where around half of the non-mainstream music listeners do not listen to local non-mainstream female artists as they are not aware of any. Half of the labels surveyed say those female artists make up more than 40 per cent of their top 10 performing artists despite representing 25 per cent or less of the labels’ entire catalogue.

Their voices will be heard

The launch of SAWTIK will see Spotify turn up the volume on the MENA’s most enthralling voices, showcasing the depth of the region’s talent, and helping emerging female artists break into the music industry. The 16 artists joining the initiative’s launch phase span the region from Morocco to Tunisia, Algeria, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and UAE.

Claudius Boller

Commenting on the launch, Claudius Boller, Managing Director for the Middle East and Africa (MEA) at Spotify said: “While Arabic music continues to thrive in the region and around the world, female artists continue to be underrepresented. SAWTIK is one of the many ways we are looking to amplify the voices of emerging female artists across the Middle East and North Africa and use Spotify’s global reach to further their careers. We are only beginning this journey, and with Latifa joining SAWTIK as the initiative’s first godmother, the artists will have an extraordinary mentor who will provide guidance and knowledge.”

Latifa will work with SAWTIK’s emerging female artists closely to nurture and endorse their future efforts. Speaking about SAWTIK, Latifa said: “Female Arab artists continue to fight stereotypes and other barriers in the pursuit of their musical passions, and the research from Spotify confirms this. My journey hasn’t happened without its challenges and while I enjoy a successful career, there are many others still waiting for the right opportunity to shine. With SAWTIK, female artists have a powerful platform to showcase their talent and connect with audiences who will love their music across all genres. I am excited to extend my support to these artists and help them see a real lift in their careers.”

Making them seen: A SAWTIK takeover of curated playlists, billboards, design collaborations and more

To honour its commitment to women in music and the arrival of SAWTIK, Spotify is also launching a regional campaign highlighting the musical and cultural contributions of female artists through a series of activities and experiences. On-platform, listeners can see Arab female artists taking over the covers of 18 of Spotify’s flagship playlists including Arab X and Arab Hip-Hop, as well as throwback playlists and many more for a week with a call to action to check out SAWTIK’s official playlist. Additionally, the first song on each of these playlists will be by female artists.

The SAWTIK playlist will continue to feature the region’s incredibly talented emerging female artists that deserve to be recognised for their art. Music fans can also catch the faces of SAWTIK’s debut artists on billboards in Cairo, Riyadh, Amman and Casablanca.

Lynn Fattouh

Lynn Fattouh, Consumer Marketing Manager for the Middle East and Africa (MEA) at Spotify said: “We designed the SAWTIK initiative to support emerging unsigned female artists with the access and tools they most needed. We are elevating their voices through our SAWTIK playlist, which embraces their unique sounds. The SAWTIK playlist is built to expose the region’s best emerging female artists. It will connect them to new and existing audiences and put their work under the music industry’s radar.”

Spotify is also dedicating its social media publication to SAWTIK artists for the next 48 hours and will host the work of Arab female visual artists who created art pieces celebrating female empowerment and SAWTIK. All the visual creative pieces can be found on Spotify’s local Instagram page.

This is just the beginning for SAWTIK. In the coming months, Spotify will roll out several activities supporting emerging female artists from the region, including hosting its first-ever female-only masterclass to educate female creators about Spotify For Artists and how to successfully market their music. Spotify will continue to find new ways to uplift the careers of female artists from the region.