Curious to discuss the art of using social media to connect fans and artists together, Sunny Stuart Winter sat down with Aria Alagha, the Creative Director of Arke Digital, who has worked with artists like Dua Lipa, Lana Del Rey, and others running their social media campaigns.
Guest post by Sunny Stuart Winter
Having researched social media influence for my BA (Hons) degree, I love nothing more than the opportunity to discuss it or hear about the creatives who are leading the way in the Industry, using social media to connect artists and fans. Welcome Aria Alagha, Creative Director at Arke Digital who has worked with Dua Lipa, Lana Del Rey, Riz Ahmed, Gabriella Cilmi and more.
I posed some questions to Aria about his impressive work, about his experiences, advice for upcoming artists and much more. So read on and if you connect with any of this, please do share it around. Aria's work deserves to be recognised and I think it's a compelling topic.
Hey Aria, thanks so much for doing this. I'm going to jump right into the questions.
One of your earliest roles in Music was doing social media for Riz MC and Gabriella Cilmi. How did that come about?
I was interning for a digital agency that worked mainly with dance music but I was finding the lack of creativity and understanding of digital platforms frustrating, as most campaigns leaned heavily on like-gating and sharing competitions to inflate numbers quickly rather than building engagement and telling a story.
By chance I happened to notice Riz in a TV series called Dead Set and was compelled to look him up on Twitter. From there I discovered he was this amazing rapper with a bit of controversy surrounding his latest release “post 9/11 blues” and that he was looking for extras to be in his next music video, so I went down there and the rest is history.
With Gabriella, I had known the drummer in her band from when I was in high school so as she went into her 2nd album campaign I was very much into her electro-disco-queen vibe and asked my friend if I could go along to see her at a G-A-Y performance. We met backstage and she said something about having had a dream about me, and we just got along from there. I spent a lot of time with her throughout the 3rd album’s production and promotion.
What did you learn from those early roles? And what did you achieve?
I learned how harsh the media and the internet can be towards young women. I learned a lot about trying to marker to the right audience and not the cheapest audience.
I think together, in the early days, we achieved a level of creativity and dignity that was more in tune with the artist’s personality rather than trying to push product and grow followers quickly.
So during this time, you also held down a full time digital marketing role. How did you balance the two?
I got very little sleep. But the excitement of having full control over my projects, ones that I cared very deeply about made it worth it. The work that Riz Ahmed was doing, and is still doing, is definitely worth losing sleep over. He was recently on the cover of Time magazine as one of the most influential people in the world. These are the people and the artists that not only push themselves, but also motivate the people around them to do better.
I always say this on social media, but I feel I owe a great deal of my confidence and success to working with Riz.
You studied Ethnomusicology at University. Could you maybe explain what that is and what you found fascinating about it?
It’s the study of music from non-western origins. Being a British-born Iranian who grew up half in England and half in Tehran, I’ve never quite felt like either place was my home. When I went to music college in Northampton, the tutors picked up on my interest in a more global and experimental sound palette so they encouraged me to apply to SOAS specifically to do this course.
It was a great experience, I learned about Japanese buddhist and Korean shaman music, and also started to look at the potential of Korean pop artists breaking into the west via YouTube (this was around 2008).
Amazing! i'm really fascinated by K-pop artists and their fan communities. That artist-to-fan relationship is like no other!
So you mentioned doing social media for Riz MC and Gabriella Cilmi; how important do you think social media branding is for new & upcoming talent today?
It’s incredibly important. This is how most people with judge you on first sight.
I talk with a lot of upcoming artists and more often than not, they're not giving social media & creative content enough of their time. What advice could you give them on starting to produce content?
I would never force someone to do something they’re not comfortable doing. But artists need to realise that they have to be more active in the telling of their story, it’s important for them to find that comfortable way of sharing, whether it’s through text screenshots, video, animation or curation.
There’s also a whole generation of kids who’ve grown up on social media, have the tech and ability, so find someone who gets you and pay them what you can afford, even if it’s just beer and travel.
I would love to see more upcoming artists doing that. So much potential out there, they just need to look for it!
So what would you say makes content or a social media campaign successful? What is the end goal?
Effectively communicating the artist’s vision. Sometimes the artist needs help in defining or refining their vision, but once they know what they want, it’s about how effective we are with communicating that through social media and connecting with an audience.
You've worked with huge artists like Lana Del Rey & Dua Lipa to name but two.
How do you creatively separate from the different artists you work with? Is there ever an overlap of ideas?
I think the artists on my roster are quite distinct from each other and creative ideas usually spark from something the artist has told me or things they’ve liked on social media.
It can be challenging to present complicated ideas to artists who are touring for most of the year so it’s important to keep concepts and execution as simple as possible.
Keeping it simple is some good advice! So what are your plans for the future? What are you excited for?
My plan for the immediate future is to get through Q4! We have a lot of very exciting new projects launching this year and some great albums planned for 2019.
I’m excited to do more video in the new year, I had a great time shooting tour diaries and music videos for Off Bloom in 2018 (we even experimented with VR in a very crude sense).
I'll definitely keep an eye out for that and encourage others to do the same. Aria, thanks so much for your time, I really appreciate it. I hope to catch up with you again in the near future to hear about all your new achievements.
I love stumbling across fascinating, creative individuals who are absolutely knocking it out the park in their work. I connected with Aria after sharing some footage of M.I.A from Bestival (see my last post) and i'm hoping to get him involved in a future episode of Such Great Heights to hear more about behind the scenes of his relationship with artists and their communication to fans of what they stand for.
I urge you to check out Aria's work at www.arigradi.co.uk and follow him @Baradar85 on socials (Twitter &Instagram here). He's doing really brilliant things and I guarantee you will be hearing more about him as the years go by. Trust me.
More content coming soon including many more interviews with musicians and professionals working in the Music and Entertainment Industry. I've got so much coming up in October including attending the Houses of Parliament (more on that later) so keep up with me on socials @sunnysjwinter (Facebook /Twitter / Instagram).
Until next time...