Abu Dhabi: Haneef Al Rais, founder and chief executive officier of Raisani, has been a part of the music industry since he first started out as a DJ at the age of 15.
Now, with his own record label and other companies under his belt, the Emirati entrepreneur opened up to Gulf News about his experiences and observations about the music industry in the country.
"We started out as an event management company in 1999 with Universal Music. In 2000 Virgin [Megastores] started opening stores in the UAE and I signed up with them.
"I began to meet with record label promoters, DJs… they showed a lot of interest in what I was trying to set up and motivated me to start my own label. In 2003, I set up the brand ‘Raisani', and one year later I released my first album," Al Rais said.
According to Al rais, there is no law in the UAE regulating the music industry. As a result, he was forced to register his label in Germany.
"In Europe, artists are paid royalties for their work. If their music is used by a company for a television advertisement for example, or on the radio, or in a club, they have to approach the artist and inform them about the use of their music. In the UAE, there are no such laws to protect the rights of artists," he explained.
The godfather of House music in the Middle East, as he has been dubbed by his peers, also shared his insights about the UAE's fledgling music scene.
"When I first began doing events in 1999, there were only two clubs in Dubai. I tried to get [DJ Roger] Sanchez to come and play. Only 100 people turned up because they didn't have any other choice," Al Rais said.
Currently, those wishing to have a good time are spoilt for choice in both venue and music selection, after the explosion of the UAE's music scene in recent years.
Many high quality clubs and concerts, among other elements, are causing the country to become a destination of choice for many travellers.
However, Al Rais admitted that since establishing Raisani Records, the UAE's first and only independent dance music record label, it had been a rough but rewarding road to reach his current level of success.
"When I first set up my record label, many independent DJs approached me to sign them up because at the time Dubai was hot and they wanted the opportunity to be heard in the UAE.
"We manufacture four compilation CDs every month, with 3,000 to 5,000 copies of each compilation that are then shipped all over the world.
"We sell each CD at 10 euros (Dh55), so our profit is approximately 30,000 euros per compilation, and that's after we pay the artists for using their tracks," Al Rais said.
"I now have more than 100 singles singed to my label, and the DJs are signed to my company for life."
Several local and regional DJs have also approached the record label with their material. Al Rais was forced to decline their requests because they still had to work on their craft in order to meet Raisani Records high level of quality. However, Al Rais is open to working with such individuals in order to help them hone their skills.
"Some people approached me after finding out that I have a record label... in Dubai. When they first sent their material, I found that compared to the international DJs that I have signed to my label, they were amateurish. But I wanted to help them, so we tried to find ways for them to strengthen their skills.
"Despite all our help, I still found the quality of their music below the quality I had established for my label so I was forced to turn them away. But I am open to receiving music from people living in the Middle East, and will sign them on if I am satisfied with the quality of their music and believe that they can satisfy the terms of my contract," Al Rais said.
While Raisani Records is just a part of the overall-Raisani brand, it seems to be one that is just a bit closer to his heart.
"Music is my first love, right after my mother," Al Rais laughed.
"It's a big part of my life and it's a dream come true that I am able to do what I love," he added.
How much money do you spend on music? Where would the economy be without the music industry?