BEIRUT: “We are going all out, and we’re not holding back one bit,” Talal Albahiti, COO and head of talent booking and events for local entertainment company MDLBEAST, told Arab News on Wednesday.
Albahiti is one of driving forces behind the company’s flagship Soundstorm festival, a record-setting event that had its inaugural run (as MDL Beast Festival) in December 2019, propelling Saudi Arabia onto the international festival scene and raising the bar for such events in the region, with performances from the likes of David Guetta, Tiesto, Martin Garrix, Steve Aoki, Afrojack, as well as up-and-coming local and regional DJs.
After the COVID-19 pandemic forced hyped-up audiences to miss out on the second installment of the epic show last year, tickets are going on sale for Soundstorm’s triumphant 2021 return on Friday Aug. 27.
The massive success of the festival’s first edition, which brought together more than 400,000 attendees and 80 international, regional and local artists across six stages, was not only “something that the world hadn’t seen before. We even managed to surprise ourselves,” Albahiti said enthusiastically. “We’re proud of getting into the Guinness Book of Records for achievements like ‘the world’s largest stage,’ but — more importantly — the people that came to that show are still talking about it today.
“In 2021, Soundstorm is going to be even bigger — in size, the number of stages, and the profiles of the artists. What we’re doing is something new for Saudi Arabia. We are thrilled to show both the region and the world what we can do,” he said.
“When we first launched the MDLBEAST brand, Soundstorm was the best possible foundation. But we are not just an events company. We are an entertainment and new-media platform with music and culture at its heart,” Albahiti explained.
“We are not only focusing on unique live experiences like Soundstorm. We are building the music infrastructure from the ground up, including discovery and management of new talent,” he added. This is being done primarily through the company’s record label, MDLBEAST Records.
Behind the organization’s 360-degree entertainment offering is a growing constellation of entities. MDLBEAST Frequencies, an online radio channel attracting broad, multi-genre audiences, “allows fans across the world to discover and connect with their favorite and emerging artists.” MDLBEAST Freqways, meanwhile, was launched as a response to the pandemic and is “a multistage, online music experience that takes audiences on a virtual journey, with DJs performing from iconic locations around the world.”
Foremost on Albahiti’s mind today, however, is making Soundstorm — which will take place between December 16 and 19 this year — another groundbreaking occasion for artists and concertgoers alike. “We’ve locked in 95 percent of the acts so far, and we will be announcing about 40 percent of the lineup in the coming weeks. This partial list alone will have a tremendous impact on the market — just wait and see,” he said.
“We are not just shaking up the creative industry but carving out a piece globally for regional talent to be heard,” he continued. “There are a lot of quality artists in the MENA region. We have taken it upon ourselves to compete globally, and we want to see our own talent on global stages and touring the world.”