How to make it in the music business

Experimenting with selfies, Aria Alagha
"Experimenting with selfies," Aria Alagha

Ethnomusicolgy graduate Aria Alagha is the Creative Director of Arke Digital – a London-based digital marketing agency that boasts an impressive list of recording artists as clients, including Lana Del Rey and Ellie Goulding. You’ll find him across his social media channels under the moniker @baradar85 – Baradar means ‘brother’ in Farsi. Aria clearly values his heritage. His recent project – It came from Swagistan – was a radio show that celebrated cultural diversity in diaspora communities.

SOAS Blogs caught up with Aria to talk about his success, the music he loves and how the internet changed everything for the music business.

Aria, as the Creative Director of Arke Digital you’ve had the chance to work with some incredible artists – such as M.I.A, Lana Del Rey and Dua Lipa – what can you tell us about your collaborations with them?

“I can’t go into detail on specific projects, but I can tell you that each artist has a different way of working with us. There are some projects where we are creatively involved and others where we just manage the distribution of content. A big part of what we do at Arke is helping new artists to communicate effectively through social media and how to tell their story. But some artists have already been doing this for years and don’t necessarily need to change what they do, as least I wouldn’t say so. I think it’s more important for the artist to feel comfortable than to push them to do things because it’s on-trend or will get bigger reach.”
Aria Alagha, weapon of choice: my MacBook, music, Aria Alagha

Weapon of choice: my MacBook

As a SOASian, I imagine you like to look at the world in a different way to a lot of people. Does Arke Digital have an ethos that makes it unique?

“Haha I guess SOASians are a weird and wonderful… sorry I meant “unique” bunch. But I don’t see that really going into the work that we do, or maybe I’m just too close to it to see it myself. Perhaps it’s that I never want to go for the most obvious choice. It’s the balance between integrity and getting results. That is the challenge. That’s the shit that keeps me awake at night.”

You studied Ethnomusicology at SOAS. What role has your studies played in your journey?

At the time I really wanted to be a musician and a producer, but going to SOAS opened up my mind to many other ideas. This was around the time of MySpace, YouTube, Napster and Facebook, so it was quite an interesting time to look back at how early ethnomusicologists did their research, and realising the potential the internet had to debunk stereotypes and myths that were written in books, because now you could talk to people through the internet. You could go on to forums and have discussions with people from all over the world! You could go on YouTube and check out the things you were studying in books that were over 60 years old, and better yet, it was performed by people from that culture and not some second-hand reinterpretation of it. The idea that the internet gave people the tools to tell their own stories fascinated me and it still does.”
On tour with Dermot Kennedy, music, Aria Alagha

On tour with Dermot Kennedy. (Credit: Lucy Foster.)

What advice do you have to anyone wanting to breakout into the world of social media branding?

“Experiment with everything, and don’t take shortcuts.”

Is there a piece of work you’re most proud to have been a part of?

“There is so much stuff I’m really proud of different reasons. But the one that means the most to me is my own project ‘It Came From Swagistan’ which I was really proud of getting on Reprezent Radio. I had always wanted to do radio and they opened their studios up to me and let me do whatever I wanted. I am eternally grateful to them for that.”

What were the last 3 live music events you went to?

You mean ones that weren’t work related? I just got tickets to see Sevdaliza’s next show, and I recently really loved seeing MNEK and Rina Sawayama performing in London.

Where can SOASians follow you?

@baradar85 everywhere.

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