Cacciatore says advocacy-related work became a bigger focus for artists and labels around 2008, when social media networks like Twitter experienced wild growth and breakout acts like Lady Gaga made supporting the community an explicit priority. When Gaga expressed interest in speaking out against “don’t ask, don’t tell” in 2010, Mighty Real connected her with OutServe-SLDN, a network of LGBTQ military personnel. Soon after, Gaga’s tour bus drove 11 hours out of its way so she could speak at a rally in Maine, where she encouraged her millions of Twitter followers to join her. “Yes, we advised her in that [rally],” says Cacciatore, “but it was authentic. It was her. We just helped her magnify her role in this space.”
In the past, he has declined to take on projects with artists whose intentions seem less than genuine. “I’m not going to put together an advocacy plan just because a manager or an outside person is telling them to do it,” he says.
More recently, Mighty Real worked with Cyndi Lauper to connect her team with LGBTQ centers in Tulsa, Okla., that sold concert tickets for one of her shows in exchange for a cut of profits -- a savvy promotion technique that also benefited underserved queer populations. “In these areas, the LGBTQ community centers are crucial,” says Cacciatore, “as they may be one of only a handful of safe spaces for folks to socialize and get any support.”
Labels also often look to these agencies as sounding boards when artists are releasing material that might contain sensitive or offensive content about queer people, says Vinny Moschetta, vp marketing at The Karpel Group, another LGBTQ-focused marketing company whose clients have included Nicki Minaj, Sia and Björk. Usually, they take the feedback to heart. “It’s not coming from a place of malice,” he says. “It’s just not having that deep connection to the community that we do.”
Historically, marketing to queer audiences has often meant marketing to white gay men in particular. But Moschetta stresses the importance today of treating queer consumers as a diverse community, not a monolith. “If it was just left to ads you take out during RuPaul’s Drag Race or on Grindr” -- the gay hookup app on which Madonna and Ariana Grande have advertised music and concerts -- “you’re going to miss whole parts of the community that we as a company spend our time making inroads with,” he says.
Moschetta says that in the past five years he has worked with an increasing number of artists from genres like country, rock and hip-hop. As a result, the company’s campaigns have become more specific: It threw an album-release party at a nightclub catering to gay black men, for instance, and it has also connected musician clients with organizations that support transgender women of color, who currently face disproportionate rates of violence. “The avenues are there,” he says. “It may just take a little extra work to reach [these audiences] in a meaningful way.”
Helping artists and labels make money is, of course, a big part of what these agencies do. But those who work for them emphasize their desire to uplift a segment of the population that continues to be persecuted, particularly under the current U.S. administration. “Even though LGBTQ market visibility is increasing and our economic spending power is rising, there is still major discrimination, violence and injustice happening,” says Cacciatore. “Those stories need to be told. We need messengers who can not only celebrate with us during Pride, but also be there in the trenches with us the rest of the year, day in and day out.”