BIZ PRIDE:
AARON ARKIN

Aaron Arkin is a crossover music agent at UTA. He currently works with top clients including Christina Aguilera, Akon, Offset, Latto, Kaskade, Bebe Rexha, Kylie Minogue and Busta Rhymes, among others. Arkin also works closely with the LGBTQ+ community, securing opportunities for clients like Lil Nas X, Big Freedia, Rebecca Black and Tinashe.


What, in this particular year, does Pride mean to you?

What I feel most is that Pride is the ability to be your full, authentic self, putting that first, making that the priority and really following through with how you live day to day and how that translates into business. That is what Pride means. We read a lot of terrible things that are happening. At least as it pertains to artists who I’m working with and how they identify, there is, I think, a certain hesitancy to play certain shows because there is a factor of unsafety, of feeling like they are not welcomed in some of those spaces. Quite frankly, it’s heartbreaking that we as reps still need to have those conversations in 2024. But, at the end of the day, I think there’s still a general movement towards acceptance.

Do you represent queer artists?

I work with Big Freedia, who has been a huge force for a lot of reasons and a big part of this conversation for years, in terms of just being so gender-nonconforming. I work with Tinashe for TV and film business. I work with Lil Nas X, Rebecca Black and Bebe Rexha. I also work with a handful of non-queer-identifying artists like Christina Aguilera, Kaskade, Kylie Minogue—folks who are massive forces in the community because they have been such strong advocates and straight allies. And we created true safe spaces at their shows for the queer community long before it was a part of the conversation.

Lil Nas is a phenomenon. Can you talk about watching that rocket ship take off?

His trajectory is amazing. I’ll never forget where I was when Lil Nas X came out, when the news broke that he had come out. I was in an Uber coming back from the airport for a work trip, and it came up as a notification on my phone. I remember being so excited. His music was already playing on the radio, but I blurted out, “Oh my God, Lil Nas X just came out!” My Uber driver was so excited as well. We literally pulled over and had a full moment on the side of the road on the way to my apartment just because we had to read the tweets—we had to see what people were saying. It just felt like such a moment of celebration and really felt like a pivot in the culture. And how an artist who is moving to the very top and on such an insane rise like Lil Nas X still uses that moment to fully embrace himself, knowing that he was going to open the floodgates for a lot of other artists to be themselves in that honest and authentic way.

Does it make you feel proud to have this job, to get to do the work you do?

It definitely does. I’m extremely proud that I get to call these clients friends and collaborators. I think for someone who is a gay man like myself, to be so deeply embedded, especially within the world of hip-hop, is a unique and profound thing for me. And it’s not lost on me that there’s been years of tension between hip-hop as a genre and the community and homophobia. I think my love and passion for the music and the culture that surrounds it allows me to kind of transcend that noise. And I can only think about my place in this and the fact that while hip-hop has come a long way, there’s still far to go. The fact that I have a seat at that table is progress in itself.

Do you feel like you can help build bridges between the hip-hop community and the queer community because of the role that you have with that seat at the table?

I definitely think having that seat at the table, we have a unique and special opportunity to help be that bridge. Specifically working with artists and rappers in nontraditional ways—because what I do in crossover, it’s everything but touring. It’s TV, film, it’s podcasting, it’s voiceover. It’s helping bring artists into those worlds that they’re oftentimes unfamiliar with. And it doesn’t have to be on the nose by putting two artists on a stage together. It can be, “How can we bring an artist into a TV or film project that thematically gets into LGBTQ issues and equality?” And I think drawing those sorts of connections—whether it’s an original song, a cameo, a voiceover—the ability to touch those things, by default has created new lanes of acceptance and the ability for artists to let the world know where they stand, whether they’re queer-identifying or not. I think the ability to play in those spaces and to touch those projects speaks for itself. And I’m always trying to figure out ways to build those bridges.

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