A professional musician from the age of 15, Arkins left school at 17 to front his band Housebroken. He is a vocalist, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, who counts piano, bass and trumpet in his repertoire. With no prior acting experience, Arkins heard of the filming of The Commitments from his sister. Following seven auditions, Arkins was cast as Declan 'Deco' Cuffe, the band's lead singer, but was replaced in that role after Parker discovered newcomer Andrew Strong. Despite not featuring as a singer in the fim Arkins did provide lead vocals for two tracks – Treat Her Right and Slip Away – on the accompanying soundtrack album.
Following the release of The Commitments Arkins moved back into music and signed a record deal with MCA Records in 1993, although he did not finish recording the consequent album. He has composed and produced work for a number of commercial clients, television projects, and for two short films. In 1998 he did briefly return to acting, in a short film entitled What Are You Looking At? In 2011 Arkins joined many of his fellow cast members from The Commitments to perform a series of concerts across Ireland, to celebrate the film's 20th anniversary. This was followed by three dates in the UK in 2012.