After arriving in the UAE a year ago with a desire to expand her networks, she wasted no time in turning the page to the next chapter of her career.

Roberta Hickey has plans for the MENA region. The CV of this Music and Media Industry heavyweight is a significant one.

Roberta, or Bertie as some know her, could have been content to stay in the markets she was best familiar with.

A year ago, driven from an inkling eleven years previous, she hit the shores of the UAE as a new base to expand her networks.  Without losing a beat, here are the pages unfolding, and the next chapters being written.

The First chapter:

Roberta’s start in industry grew from hearing the sounds of her dad’s vinyl collection and her start as a child model taking her from Doncaster, England to London to the likes of Sylvia Young stage school.  Her day to day school growing up required Saturday attendance.  She was encouraged to pursue English, history, and politics.  She attended University of Leeds on a degree in Communications Studies with an advertising focus.  One module was about technological developments affecting change in the music industry.  This was a perfect curriculum alongside a thriving music scene of Leeds of that time.

Job hunt:

Cream Ibiza is where Roberta found herself working her first summer as her rite of passage on the isle.  Upon her return back to UK, it was a challenge to return to her quiet hometown, so set her sights on London.  With a ‘what’s next in store for me’ question looming, she sent out twenty cvs per day eventually landing a job in advertising in media buying.  She began working on accounts of Coca Cola and Samsung learning about social media’s future of smartphones in 2010.  She started working on platforms such as Spotify and MTV.  Roberta quickly graduated to social media strategy and landed her first music industry job managing the social media for Carl Cox and his label Intec, of which Nicole Moudaber was part.  

I want my MTV:

Roberta is a connector, and this was no different to when she spotted a dream job opportunity at MTV.  She hit up an established contact there to recommend her for an interview.  In preparation, she took an academic approach, revising every video, event, record label of the artist, and memorized the top 40 by heart. Roberta preempted any questions they might ask.  She imagined if she was tasked to curate a dream lineup at MTV who would she pick?  Like the stars aligned, this is exactly what they asked and was offered the job.  

A highlight was the annual European Music Awards (EMA’s).   During her tenure, the EMA’s were held in Rotterdam and Bilbao. When the EMA’s were held in London there was the ‘House of MTV’ series with three days of panels, workshops, parties, and reaching out to students for them to meet people in the industry.  

IMS Ibiza:

International Music Summit is the revered music conference led by BBC Radio icon Pete Tong with innovative programming and a community feel that is held in Ibiza, for which Roberta has been a project manager. It was announced in February 2023 that Beatport acquired a major stake in IMS, and formed a partnership with this conference brand.   


Roberta is consulting for a company that was recently acquired by Sony Masterworks as their live music placeholder in the region. She will look to book artists not only in UAE but opportunities, for example, in Bahrain and Qatar.  “In the past, tours were more looked toward Australia, Asia and Americas, with the middle east not so much in the front of mind for artists.” 

Roberta ponders, “There's opportunity to build a kind of underground emerging culture here. Alserkal Avenue, the creative hub in Dubai, is one of my favourite places, they recently did a non-alcohol Art Festival.  It was food trucks and art exhibitions and performances on a Sunday, over a thousand people across two days for art, food and underground culture. I think when people think of Dubai, they think of the brunches and glamour, but so much more over the last years. It's growing quicker than ever. The part that I'm super excited about is asking how can I play a part in creating more of a music industry community here, more culture around emerging artists and smaller, intimate events?”

Little Pink Book:

From the beginning Roberta wanted to create a positive platform for women. “At the time when I was going to conferences and panels, there was talk about gender pay gap and issues that need talking about to make a change, positive elements to being a woman in music. I didn't want young women to hear negativity, such as I'm in the music industry, already defeated if I can't trust to get paid as much as the man sat next to me.  It was to shine a light on powerful and successful women in the industry, build access, that was my aim. I grew a really great community to bring women together to inspire and empower each other.  

"In London I started running this in lockdown.

I was getting some free educational content about DJ producing and the industry to encourage women to use the time and space. We partnered with Mixpad and Pioneer DJ. We live streamed DJ production workshops, combined interviews with industry tips. Pioneer DJ gave us equipment to give away during each session.  Its one of the best projects because of how the community came together. Bring joy, a bit of motivation and purpose during obviously a turbulent time. Then I launched it here."

There is now a global directory of female DJs, producers and vocalists. “We're in phase one spreading the word getting women to sign up. Phase two is announcing launch partners as labels and promoters actively using the directory to discover female producers, DJs for A&R purposes.  Phase three is to launch it as an online platform community element.  In your area you can instruct, teach, produce, collaborate, host, or other functions.”

BACKSTAGE is musivv's segment honoring the men and women behind the successful artist. Features under this segment are eligible for a nomination under this category in the Musivv Awards’ annual recognition.

April 5, 2023

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