Nada Alhelabi – Strategy Director, MDLBEAST

MDLBEAST’s XP Music Futures Programme Director shares her aim to help drive the cultural, creative, and economic shift in the Saudi Arabian music industry and reflects on what it means to be one of the many talented and hardworking women on the MDLBEAST team.

What sparked your interest in the industry?

I have always had an unconditional love for music, and attended music festivals and events around the world for fun. Burning Man, EDC, and seasons in Ibiza made me realise the positive impact music has on people and the power it has to bring people together.

Following these experiences, I obtained my certification in sound healing, and I felt a need to bring the positive energy of the music industry back to my home and favourite place, Saudi Arabia. Aside from the fact that this was my home, there was so much untapped potential in the artists of the underground music scene, and I had to do something about that to give all these talents a platform and opportunity to shine. 

What does your job entail day-to-day?

When you are a part of the MDLBEAST team and family, there really is no fixed schedule with regards to day-to-day duties. Every day there is a new adventure, new concepts, new faces, and new experiences. I enjoy fluctuating between meetings, checking my emails, gathering with talents and, of course, being on-site at the events, but it’s always good to keep an open space for the unexpected.

This is not the conventional nine-to-five job. Like many of the MDLBEAST family, I work around the clock to accommodate different time zones, clients, and projects, and there is nothing else that I would rather do. The amount of work that goes into all MDLBEAST projects requires extensive energy and passion. Whether it be individual projects and events, or completely transforming the music and entertainment industry here in Saudi Arabia, the drive I have to achieve this is derived from my love for music and background in sound healing. As long as I love what I do and do what I love, me and my team are willing to give 24 hours of every single day of the week for it – especially when what you do is changing the course of music history!

What have been some of the biggest achievements in your career to date? 

Some of my biggest achievements were having the opportunity to work on amazing transformational projects in Saudi and in the region for the governmental/public sectors. Another thing I really take pride in is completing my graduate studies in San Diego, where I also got to work on major public sector projects. After investing more focus and time into my passion for music, I obtained my sound healing certification, which led to many more milestones and kick started my career in the music industry. 

My latest and most exciting achievement, of course, is being the Strategy Director for MDLBEAST, which is a title with many roles that I was so honoured to take to redefine the music industry in my country. 

Do women face greater challenges than men to break into the industry? 

The MENA music industry is going through an historic transformation, and women are of course part of this monumental change. While the numbers don’t lie and the industry is shown to be led by men all over the world, I find myself surrounded by talented and hard-working women every day. 

The change is really happening for us. The number of women I am seeing gradually and increasingly entering the Saudi music business is growing and this is just the beginning. This is a topic that we are thrilled to be talking about at XP Music Futures, our annual conference. Women in Music will be one of our crucial topics in which we will address the value that female artists and presence will bring to the industry and the necessary next steps to be taken.  

Have you ever witnessed or been subjected to any form of discrimination in the workplace? 

I have certainly witnessed discrimination in the workplace throughout my career in different environments, however, I have never personally been subjected to any. In an industry dominated by men, you typically must prove yourself twice, but even though music is 70% led by men (the last time I checked across all sectors), MDLBEAST really isn’t a place where anyone feels discriminated against. I certainly never had to prove myself as a woman. There are, of course, many other kinds of discrimination possible at any workplace – none of which would ever happen under my watch.

How does it feel to be part of such a massive culture shift like the one taking place in KSA?

I believe that music has been a part of our culture from day one. Genres like hip-hop and rap have been on the rise for the past 20 years, but most of this was underground and low-key. The love and enthusiasm towards music has been in us for a while, but we’re now taking steps towards driving a cultural and creative change that is allowing for all the untapped potential here to come out. It truly is the best feeling to have the chance to be contributing toward such an iconic change for your homeland.

During XP Music Futures, our music conference, we will be bringing together some of the biggest names in the music industry. The aim is not just to drive the cultural and creative shift, but the economic shift, too. To make the most out of local resources and talents while growing our music economy simultaneously is the most rewarding idea. 

What is your advice to young women looking to break into the industry?

My advice to any of the young women thinking about getting into the music industry is that this is the time to take the leap of faith. The opportunities are here, and you have our full support, especially the support of all the women in the field – we are rooting for you! Being a woman is an asset for the ever-growing music industry now. It certainly brings some obstacles, but it is a bumpy ride for everyone, and it will all be worth it in the end. Your success will not only mean a life-changing career for you, but a life-changing milestone for the entire musical culture and history of Saudi Arabia. 

What are your hopes for the future of MDLBEAST and the Saudi live events industry in general? 

After our debut event, SOUNDSTORM, in 2019, the economic and social impact was nothing any of us had expected. It gave a platform for so many talents in the region and allowed the locals to be aware of these unexpected talents. 

In fact, 83% of Saudi youth believe that SOUNDSTORM 2019 increased opportunities for local musicians and creatives in the country. 86% of young Saudis said they were prouder of the creativity and culture in Saudi Arabia as a result of the first festival. There was also a 36.5% increase in demand for global artists who performed at SOUNDSTORM 2019 for 12 months after the event as reported by the IMS report. This was just the beginning.

We are hoping that after these enormous achievements, the general public feels even more confident in putting their trust in us to control the continued growth of the music scene in the region. We are hoping that they believe in MDLBEAST’s goals and that they help us move towards that goal. MDLBEAST should come to be known as not just an entertainment company, but for developing the region’s music economy and defining the next generation of music and entertainment. The only way for us to succeed in that is if they were part of the journey.