Anna George has always possessed a keen ear for sound and a sharp eye for successful partnerships. This affinity for the business of rhythm guided her through the music industry. For over 15 years, she served as a specialist in music and brand partnerships within the MENA music and entertainment sector. It was during this tenure that she noticed a significant disparity in how the industry treated male stars versus their female counterparts.

"My experiences in the music industry highlighted the gender gap and the critical need to support female musicians. This is a global issue within the industry; there wasn't a single pivotal moment, but rather numerous instances, such as managing all-male festival line-ups and the historical under-representation of women in major music awards, that underscored my desire to help bridge this gap," George shared in an interview with City Times.

This realization led to the inception of FTA, or Female Talent Agency, which was established this year. FTA is a female-led creative agency specializing in music and brand partnerships in the region. "Running my own company has been a lifelong dream. I've always believed that the right moment would arrive, and here we are! With years of experience and profound gratitude for the journey that led me here, I knew it was time to take the leap. My career path clearly guided me to this moment. In mid-2023, I decided it was time to launch FTA, but first, I wanted to complete the projects I was involved in. By the end of December, I left the corporate world and launched FTA in early February," explained the founder of FTA.

Having spent her formative years in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Bahrain, George has had a high-profile career, including roles at Sony Music Entertainment Middle East, TikTok, and the Dubai International Film Festival, which prepared her for her entrepreneurial venture. Transitioning from a corporate to an entrepreneurial setup came with its challenges. "One major hurdle was adjusting from a structured environment with abundant resources to managing every aspect of my business independently. Initially, I felt overwhelmed with the long and unhealthy working hours."

"I realized the importance of connecting with fellow entrepreneurs and business owners. I reached out on LinkedIn and networking groups to find people at the same stage as me. Surrounding myself with like-minded individuals provided guidance, reassurance, and we navigated challenges together. Some of these connections have even led to potential collaborations," she said.

Today, FTA represents artists from Morocco to Saudi Arabia, including stars like Lebanese singer/songwriter Nurzy, Arab pop star Reina Khoury, and Saudi Arabian star TamTam. Research by IFPI, representing the recording industry worldwide, shows that people in the UAE listen to an average of 22.5 hours of music per week, 22 percent higher than the global average. With music being so pervasive, it becomes crucial to integrate the presence of women into its fabric.

"A female-focused talent agency like FTA is essential not only for promoting gender equality but also for celebrating diversity, empowering female artists, and driving innovation within the music industry," explained George. "FTA currently represents 20 female artists, and this number is expected to grow rapidly as the team expands," she added.

The music landscape is evolving, becoming more fluid, dynamic, and accessible than ever. "One of the main drivers of this evolution is the rapid growth of digital streaming platforms and social media networks, which have democratized the distribution and consumption of music. Brands can leverage these digital platforms to amplify their message, engage with fans, and build brand loyalty in ways that were not possible before," wrote George on the platform SME10X.

She noted that the music scene is in a transformative state, with artists experimenting with new genres. "We are witnessing more experimentation with music. These artists are breaking boundaries, challenging stereotypes, and using their creativity to redefine the narrative, and FTA embraces and celebrates this. It's inspiring to see these artists feeling more empowered than ever to be who they want to be. Of course, there are still challenges, but they are carving out their own paths in the industry. The future of the female music industry in the Arab world is incredibly promising, filled with endless possibilities and opportunities for growth and recognition," she said.

The journey to success is marked by early mornings, late nights, empty coffee cups, and worn-out shoes. George, who wakes up around 5am, understands this well. "At 5.20am, I head to the gym. By 7.10am, I'm back home and ready for the school run, which is one of my favorite parts of the day. My kids are morning people. By 8am, I'm at my desk, reviewing my FTA and personal goals for 2024. I do this every morning, followed by studying two to three case studies of global music-brand partnerships."

After a day filled with artist meetings, brand meetings, and various project briefs, George wraps up around 6pm and tries to spend time with her children. "I make it a point to attend at least one networking event per week and spend quality time with my kids before engaging in calls with counterparts in the US from around 8pm-9pm."

For aspiring entrepreneurs, George advises, "Don't reveal more than necessary, respect your privacy." She also suggests acting as if you've already achieved your goals. "Ditch the idea that shyness is helpful; create your own opportunities. Surround yourself with a small circle of trusted industry friends for support," she concluded.