Despite a shift in the recording industry that’s occurred over the last two decades, making it in music remains as hard as it’s ever been.
Internet behemoths like iTunes and Spotify have rerouted the path listeners take to find their new favorite artists. Auditions take place on nationally televised contests where premium phone lines decide who gets a record deal rather than record executives.
A lot has changed in the 48,000 or so days since the first label - the American Graphophone Company - came into being. Success is no longer dictated by the payola that was backhanded to commercial radio stations in the mid 20th century, a time of nostalgia when flat disc records played at a speed of 78 revolutions per minute.
The revolution that matters most to musicians in the 21st century is social media. It grants them exposure to audiences, unlike anything that was available before. And with its unique user interface and gargantuan engagement power, Instagram has many merits for today’s established and aspiring musical artists.
Why you should be promoting your music on Instagram?
In terms of its user count alone Instagram trumps other social networks. With 300 million daily active users that have a median annual household income of between 30k - 75k, it’s one of the best channels to build a fanbase from.
The network’s primary feed function works as an almost autonomous mini-marketing department for artists. Lasting just 24hrs, Instagram Stories create a sense of urgency to the content uploaded which can foster bonds between musicians and fans. And its recently rolled out the vertical application, IGTV, gives up to 10 minutes of video space to build hype around songs and upcoming releases.
When should you start promoting your music on Instagram?
If you’re asking yourself when should you use the platform in your promotional strategy, it really doesn’t matter what stage of career you’re at. Instagram should always be used to promote your content wherever you are.
You don’t have any music yet
Believe it or not as a burgeoning musician you can start to market through Instagram even if you haven’t recorded any tracks.
Before he had any major hits under his belt, Jay Z clawed his way our the Marcy Projects by projecting a brand image that was in no way reflective of where he was at in his career - by using his Uncle’s limo business to turn up at shows and throwing $5 dollar bills into the crowd that had been crowdsourced by his small management team.
The moral of the story in this instance is, he created a brand that connected with his audience without music. You can do the same on Instagram by thinking like a marketer before thinking like a musician.
Get started by creating a profile with a bio featuring links and details on the upcoming genre of music you’ll be offering. You can also upload any press shots you have (DIY or not) to build your own branding with the followers you’re looking to generate.
You are about to release an album
Launching a new album can be done effectively using Instagram Stories, IGTV, and Instagram Live. Upcoming content, music videos and any studio work related to the release can be documented on Stories, IGTV and Live respectively as a means of generating anticipation and hype.
People are flocking to Instagram with Stories alone bringing almost 70% more daily users to the platform. Building such anticipation for a launch can also create a buzz that states an artist or band is truly worth checking out. And with the platforms recommendation algorithms, more people are likely to become fans that buy into your brand and your offerings.
You’ve got content but struggle with growing your fanbase
If your fan base hits a plateau with a loyal but non-expanding following, Instagram can be used as a magnet to bring in the more fans you need.
When artists share content over and above their music - such as news or even their daily happenings at the local grocery store - it helps create a story about what they’re like as a person in real life. This will give online users a greater chance to identify with the personality traits showcased in an unbiased and unadulterated way.
Unconvinced? Hark back to American Idol season one winner Kelly Clarkson. Her much-documented track to stardom - which took the route over odd jobs, waitressing, telemarketing and selling vacuum cleaners door to door - won her the hearts and minds of fans globally and propelled her into the musical stratosphere.
You are an established artist who wants to reach a broader audience
As an established artist, it’ll be highly likely that you have a large social presence. Even at such lofty heights, optimization of all your social media channels can be used to drip feed other followers into the internet’s most engaging platform, which readily allows connections to Twitter, Facebook and more.
Tools such as Buffer can auto post to multiple platforms, which is ideal for musicians busy tracking in the studio or touring.
How to grow your fanbase and promote your music
Instagram gives an all-access pass to followers and as such its the go-to online community to grow fanbases and promote new music. Established million-selling artists like Lady GaGa and Taylor Swift readily use it as a channel to build audiences that hang onto their every word. Indie musicians intent on maintaining creativity along with quality content every day can do this too with…
As a hallmark of professionality, the first point of call is to have an optimized profile on Instagram. Your bio should have your latest offerings and products linked along with the latest album, singles, fansites and tour dates highlighted. Ensure all images, press shots, and logos fit and format with Instagram and its dimensions i.e. using a 110 x 110px profile image in JPEG only. Even if you don’t have a visual designer at your beck and call, graphic design tools like Canva can be used to create quality visuals for free.
Creativity is a major part of any successful act and whether it’s apparent or not, commercial music is - and always has been - based on selling a brand. An artists attitude, the clothes they wear, even their political stance (take 90’s alt-rockers Rage Against the Machine and Radiohead as prime examples) is just as important today as their music is.
Instagram is the vehicle that creates a bridge between musical acts and their existing and potential fans - and gives a brand and its fan an almost pseudo-one-on-one experience that complements the related music.
Instagram should be viewed by an artist as a lookbook of their visual and verbal story for audiences to buy into - with visuals showing their undeniable style and captions encapsulating their opinions.
The most successful artists are the ones that stay consistent in their output. Take for example Cherilyn Sarkisian who has had a no.1 hit in six consecutive decades. Never heard of her? She’s also known as Cher, the musical supernova whose appearance is as evergreen as her music career. On Instagram, post consistency can be tapped into in the same way.
It’s understandable that uploading constant musical content on Instagram would likely cause burnout and reduce the quality of your own output. Alternatively, you can be part of current trending topics on the network by jumping into conversations that use the most searched for hashtags. Even tagging your way into other like-minded music based and artist accounts will increase your exposure and can increase your user base.
Nothing means more to fans and brand advocates than to be in front of the stage and in almost touching distance of their favorite artists. With Instagram, you can also do this to a certain degree.
By formally including captions on Instagram you can get users to subscribe to your account or ask them questions directly about new tracks uploaded, or perhaps if there are any songs they’d like to see you cover. The options are endless but all will foster loyalty, reach out to a wider audience and grow following organically.
Instagram can be used to directly tag followers in your posts - with respect to content that brings fans closer to you. Tags could include a tour name, promotional campaign, photo description or gig location. Whatever is involved in said tags, it will close the virtual proximity - and also create value - for both parties.
In many respects, Instagram marketing for musicians is fundamentally an overhaul of the traditional promotional activities they used pre-internet.
Whereas signed fan club photographs and limited access to unreleased tracks previously created a sort of exclusive communication with their fans, an artist can now direct message them via Instagram. Messages can include a simple thank you for following an account or a free ticket to an upcoming gig.
Analyzing audience sentiment
Listening to audiences is extremely important for musicians. For to do otherwise could lead an artist into the dreaded ‘third album syndrome’ where initial content engages audiences but later offerings fall flat.
Through Instagram Insights you can gauge which uploaded tracks, images and captions are engaging effectively. This lets you lay out a clear strategy to grow your follower count with some serious traction.
By definition at least, it’s impossible to be in a genre of music all on your own - because where there’s a Johnny Cash there’s always Dolly Parton and where there’s a Chic there will always be an Earth, Wind, and Fire.
If you didn’t have any musical peers you wouldn’t have a market - and it’s just as well as Instagram can help you to capitalize on that too. You can actively reach out and promote similar artists and bands and tag them in your captions and link to their accounts. You can even comment on their own content. This will all help to bring in more fans of your genre and direct followers straight to your own account.
Final Thoughts on Instagram Marketing for Musicians
This article is serving as a guide for musicians looking to promote their music and grow Instagram followers.
As shown the network can be used by an artist or band at any stage of their career - from those thinking of embarking on a musical vocation to those steadily getting more popular to those that may have already made it, but want to stay on top.
Building relationships with current and future followers is the real way for acts to get a return on investment in today’s socially driven climate.
Although there are many reasons for all musicians to market on it, the simple fact that Instagram is where music lovers - both those on stage and those in the crowd - congregate, and it’s the main social channel to build a music career upon.