Arts and Entertainment

BTS: Why Saudi Arabia wants high profile pop stars

Saudi Arabia isn’t traditionally a major stopoff on a global music tour, but big-name artists are increasingly going there.

Mariah Carey set the fame bar high back in January.

Since then Nicki Minaj said yes to a performance in Jeddah – but then changed her mind to support the rights of women and the LGBT community.

And now, South Korean boy band BTS have announced they will be performing a concert in Riyadh in October.

So why does Saudi Arabia want high profile stars to perform there?

The economy

The Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has said he wants to reform the country both in social and economic terms as part of his Vision 2030 plan to show a modern Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has been relying on oil to make money for a long time, but instability in oil prices mean it’s not as reliable now.

So because of the need for economic reform and investment from outside the country, Saudi Arabia has been trying to show the world it’s open for business.

And attracting artists such as BTS is seen as a way to do that.

Social reform

One area Saudi Arabia is trying to grow is its entertainment industry.

Lots of Saudi citizens travel outside the country to see concerts and films.

To make sure they spend money inside Saudi, new cinemas and shopping centres are being opened and mainstream artists are being invited to perform.

“They’re trying to create an inter-cultural communication between Saudi Arabia and the world,” Yasmin, a 24-year-old Saudi resident, tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

“We have people from all around the world living in Saudi Arabia so by doing that they’re trying to match everyone’s taste.”

Some of these social reforms also include lifting the ban on women being able to drive and allowing them to attend football matches.

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