RMA - Close Your Eyes [Teamwrk]
Sep 30, 2021


MDLBEAST is one of the most interesting brands in electronic music to pay attention to – just take a look at the lineup they have dropped for this year's SOUNDSTORM Festival and you'll instantly see why. We're excited to be joined by Talal Albahiti, COO and Head of Talent Booking, who gives us great perspective on the MDLBEAST brand, their growth since they've launched, and this year's edition of the festival. Enjoy! 
Talal, thanks so much for joining us, we’re so excited to celebrate the next edition of the MDLBEAST SOUNDSTORM Festival. What are your plans for this year?
It’s a pleasure speaking to you guys. Let me start by saying that the first edition of SOUNDSTORM in 2019 saw 400,000 attendees, 80 artists, and six stages in what became the biggest music festival to take place in the region, ever. We want to build on that this year. SOUNDSTORM ’21 will be even bigger and better, with more stages and more artists. Because of the number of artists and appetite of festival goers across the region, we’ve extended the festival to four days instead of three, with performances from over 150 artists. We’ve just announced the initial lineup and have some of the biggest names in the world of music, and we will soon announce a second batch which includes a wider variety of musical genres.
Can you share some perspective from behind the scenes – when does the preparation for the next edition of a festival like SOUNDSTORM begin, and what is it like gearing up for a festival of this magnitude? What was the process like for curating the lineup?
It means a lot of sleepless nights and a massive effort from everyone involved at MDLBEAST. In 2019, we organized the festival in less than 4 months – which is crazy when I look back at it. However, in 2021, we’ve been lucky enough to have 12 months to work on curating the lineup and preparing for everything. Our lineups are shaped by a number of factors, but always include the top global, regional, and local industry talent. With this carefully blended group we offer incredible artist experiences for our audiences, intercut with local performers. The outcome is a unique and positive entertainment experience for everyone.
Can you take us back to the launch of the MDLBEAST brand – where did the idea come from and what was it like turning it into a reality?
It's been an incredible journey so far. MDLBEAST, as a music entertainment company, was established off the back of the 2019 festival. We saw how big of an impact it had on the region – not just attendees, but also the artists who performed – and took it upon ourselves to start building a music infrastructure which was previously non-existent in Saudi. The festival showed us just how much potential there was in the region, as well as the significant benefits it could have for artists who decided to perform here. For example, in the year following SOUNDSTORM 2019, artists who performed at the festival had 36.5% more demand within Saudi compared to those who didn’t.
How has the brand grown from when you first launched it until today?
Nowadays we’re more than just a music festival. We’ve developed into a music entertainment company with the aim of promoting and amplifying music culture, while defining the next generation of live entertainment. We were – and always will be – extremely passionate about the level of talent across Saudi and have taken it upon ourselves to build a regional talent infrastructure. We essentially want to lift local artists to the global stage through talent scouting and management, and one way of doing this is through MDLBEAST Records, the company’s record label which produces and distributes music by local, regional, and international artists.
During the last year and a half of Covid, you've been busy outside of festivals as you shifted focus to streaming, the launch of your label, and other initiatives. Can you tell us more about these?
Covid was a blessing in disguise for us as we not only launched two virtual initiatives, Freqways and Frequencies, but also worked on developing data and insights to support our business development. MDLBEAST Freqways – our multistage online music experience – was launched as a response to the global pandemic, and to date has highlighted over 50 local and international artists with performances across 45 global locations. MDLBEAST Frequencies, our online radio channel, is growing daily and has given 250 local and regional artists a platform to showcase their music.
Furthermore, we’ve spent significant time conducting research to better understand our audiences and offerings. Our research has revealed the positive impact that MDLBEAST is having on Saudi, with our inaugural festival contributing to 16,000 direct and indirect jobs, while injecting $118.5M USD into the Saudi economy. Moreover, 86% of young Saudis said they were prouder of the creativity and culture in Saudi Arabia as a result of SOUNDSTORM 2019. This gives us the motivation to continue what we’re doing and create real, credible change in the industry.
Can you pick three regional artists who will perform at the festival this year and tell us a little more about what makes each special?
First off, there’s Nouf Sufyani aka Cosmicat – Saudi Arabia’s first female DJ. Her story is really interesting as she graduated from dentistry school and worked in a dental practice before becoming a full-time artist and releasing her first-ever single, called "Toxic Romance." Another name to look out for is Vinyl Mode, an established DJ in the Jeddah underground scene. He spent over a decade shaping the electronic music scene in Saudi, growing his profile, and connecting with the EDM community both locally and internationally. Another name to watch out for is Malkin, AKA 28-year-old Ahmad Almalki, who is part of an exciting new wave of EDM artists emerging from the Middle East. His background is in photography (shooting campaigns for the likes of Coca-Cola) but was inspired when he attended the festival in 2019 and decided to pursue a career as a DJ from that point on.
What is the music scene like in the Middle East and Saudi Arabia, and how is it growing and changing? Where do you see it going from here?
The music scene in the region is still in its infancy but big things are expected to happen. The MENA music market is thriving and expected to grow to reach $670.03M USD in 2027. This comes as no surprise when music streaming revenues in the Kingdom topped $69M USD by the end of 2020 alone. This gives us the motivation to build a strong foundation and personally I think it’s the most exciting region in terms of potential. There are few countries in the world seeing such significant cultural change as that being witnessed here, with 2/3 of the Saudi population under the age of 30. With the positive impact that we’ve seen from SOUNDSTORM ’19, the narrative becomes quite clear in that our country is made up of young people who love music, love new experiences, and who want to continue seeing the impact music and entertainment has on their country.
Get your tickets for this year's edition of MDLBEAST SOUNDSTORM here: https://tickets.mdlbeast.com/
Connect with MDLBEAST: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter
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