DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Those who fetch $130 for a barrel of oil can call the tune these days. And it seems the tune is becoming so catchy that even Madonna, the original Material Girl, might be singing soon in this rich Persian Gulf city-state.
Flush with oil dollars, Dubai is no longer satisfied with being just a business, tourist and sports mecca. It's trying to boost its prestige further by pouring money into entertainment to lure the music industry's priciest stars.
Santana's February concert in Dubai was sold out. Last month, Jon Bon Jovi performed in Abu Dhabi, the Emirates' capital, just a short ride down the coast.
Justin Timberlake, Elton John, Pink, Aerosmith, Destiny's Child and the Gypsy Kings have all entertained Western, Asian and Arab expatriates in the past few months in this string of seven semiautonomous states in the Persian Gulf. Music fans regularly fly in from Cairo, Beirut and elsewhere across the Middle East to hear their idols.
But a Madonna concert — if it happens — would take the musical glitz to a new level.
Last month, the Dubai-based Gulf News daily and the tabloid 7 Days reported that the pop diva would come to Dubai this year on a tour organized by a Los Angeles-based events company, Live Nation, to promote her new album, Hard Candy.
Madonna might perform twice, the newspapers reported, at a public concert and at a private party, a first in her decades-long career. The price tag for the performances: more than $20-million, the papers said.
So far, however, Madonna's publicists are publicly staying mum.
Nasim Tabatabaei, marketing and public relations manager for Live Nation Middle East, said Madonna was still putting her tour together. "She had offers from everywhere, and that could include the Emirates," Tabatabaei told the Associated Press.
The mania over the possible Madonna concert is a reflection of the fact that the Emirates have seen "a huge jump in events here, both in the number of people attending concerts and in the significance of artists performing," said Thomas Ovesen, managing director of Middle East AEG Live, the regional arm of an international company that produces live events worldwide.
Artists who perform in Dubai expect to earn "twice as much" as they do in the United States or Europe, Ovesen said.