The Ultimate Guide: Instagram Promotion For Musicians

A lot has changed since the first Instagram was posted in 2010. With over 1 billion monthly active users in 2021 and more than 995 photos are posted per second across the world, Instagram is one of the most popular platforms for worldwide communication. That being said, if you want to make sure your music reaches the masses, you have to make sure to stand out over all the other accounts, brands, and, most importantly, bands. Here are a few music promotion strategies that will surely come in handy.

 

OPEN UP 

It’s very easy for promotional content to be quickly swiped away. If you want to establish a bond with your fans, make sure your posts in no way resemble a commercial or advertisement. Share the writing process, post silly things of you guys driving around or being silly. Don’t be too serious all the time, unless it’s a specific brand and its ironic. Make it as much about your band as human beings and full people as it is about the music.

Being open and fun will make your fans feel like insiders instead of onlookers. Now more than ever people are using Instagram to come together after a period of being away from each other. People want to laugh, they want to find their next favorite song, and they want to be “together”, even if it means online. So, no pretend separation between you and audience. The more your audience feels like they could have fun hanging out with you, the better. 

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FIND NEW FANS THROUGH #HASHTAGS

Especially when your band Instagram is new, choose a few strong #hashtags with a lot of posts and pair it with your stories and feed content. Never use more than one or two, though, as it tends to drive down traffic thanks to the new algorithm.

 

MAKE YOUR FOLLOWERS FEEL INVOLVED BY INCLUDING THEM

It used to be that giving away tickets or free downloads was the method of getting fans to share your music and help spread the word organically on social media. Now the currency is your fans and friends being seen themselves, so now you’ll see big indie artists like Phoebe Bridgers sharing her fans posts, usually about her music or regarding their gigantic fandom and how nerdy they think they are. This grows the fanaticism and love for an artist and creates a community of fans who can talk to each other and geek out over your music. The Beatles had a huge fan club, now Phoebe Bridgers does, and they have their own jokes and aesthetics. Time to build your online fan club!

Get fans to use a #hashtag specific to your band and have them wear your shirt or sing your song. Then repost it to your stories. The thrill your fans get keeps them coming back for more and wanting to share your content as it is released.

 

INTERACT WITH OTHER ARTISTS IN YOUR NICHE

This era is more about collaboration across the internet than ever before. When The Postal Service recorded their only album through emails in 2002, they could’ve never anticipated how it has influenced a large percentage of the music that was created in the last two years.

Don’t spend time trying to get huge famous people to notice you. The next stars are you and your peers on Instagram making music and putting it out there. If you’re a solo artist, reach out to people who are on your level, in your sort of style and feel, and have the same number of followers as you roughly, or one step up (if you have 500 followers, try to reach out to people with 400-750… or 1000-9000), etc.).

If you’re a band, reach out to bands in cities you wanna travel to and play with. Try to set up things for the future. The grassroots connections are always the ones that lead to the best, most satisfying experiences on the road. Plant those seeds while everyone is dying to book shows.

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DRIVING ORGANIC ENGAGEMENT: SURVEYS & QUESTIONS

To get people to follow and interact with your music and videos on Instagram and beyond, it is important to drive organic engagement with your audience by using some widgets Instagram includes in its stories feature. Things like filters can be funny, and the face changing add-ons have been used consistently by some bands to great ironic effect.

But, the best tools to drive this organic engagement are the survey and question features in stories.

With a few clicks you can create a survey between two things, and bands have found all sorts of creative ways to use this simple widget to take advantage of human nature and the way we can’t seem to help ourselves from clicking something like that. 

Some do battle royals for favorite band member, some do food surveys, others just do battles between favorite songs of theirs to see which wins out. Others ask legitimate questions targeted at helping the band order new march or figures out where to tour next. 

The question feature of stories is very useful as well, because you can either ask your audience a question and then post their answers, which makes everyone feel very involved. It’s open ended, unlike the survey, and can pull people into your world by asking for their voice and making them feel valued.

You can also turn the question feature around into an Ask Me Anything (known online as an AMA). Inviting your audience to ask you anything is vulnerable and forces you to open up in either a serious or ironic way. 

Whichever style you choose, either way, these widgets for engagement drive viewership and trains the algorithm to show you more often to more people.

 

HOW OFTEN TO POST

The algorithm used to be such that it wasn’t good to post a lot. Back then, posting too much would lower the amount of people who would see what you’re posting to try to “even out” the exposure of each account. Those days are long gone, and the current algorithm still reacts to grossly overcasting (5 photo posts a day), but is way more forgiving and rewards regular and consistent posting.

Instagram itself suggests posting to your photo feed once per day, while some tech writers say most successful brands post 1.5 times a day. So that means posting between 7-10 times a week, but there’s more than just the original photo feed if you want to get noticed….

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THE DIFFERENT KINDS OF POSTS

This isn’t the Instagram of 2015 anymore. You’ll have a hard time getting noticed only posting photographs in your feed. The key to getting your band noticed today is posting across Instagram’s multiple modes of sharing: stories, reels, IGTV, and then the photo feed. In that order of importance. 

Stories:

Post 5-10 a day, make some reposts of photo feed photos to direct people there, but more important are intimate, homey, behind the scenes feeling ones. Talking, telling stories, playing clips of songs in progress are very engaging types of stories and get people “into your world” as a band.

Some artists, such as Ben Gibbard, have chosen to only use the stories feature, but this is mainly reserved for bands who have reached a very high level of success and can afford to be choosey. For your group, a better bet is the 5-10 benchmark, though when you have a live show and get lots of good video and photos, it is ok to blast your stories with 20-40 short stories. (AMA’s are also a time when it’s ok to blast your stories feed).

Some bands completely rely on this technique, especially younger ones. Ultimately it’s up to you to determine what your audience likes and adapt to that.

The best way to do that is to take note of the drop-off rate when you post ten stories. If your first story gets 150 views and they all get about the same number tie the tenth, you’re posting the right amount of stories. If the first gets 150 and by the fourth you drop to 80 and then by the tenth it’s around 17, maybe post less stories and change up the content.

The key is keeping an eye on engagement and response.

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Reels:

Post 2-3 reels a week. They’re only 15 seconds long and are Instagram’s attempt to recreate TikTok, just in their platform. Be quick and humorous, or catchy and music focused. Some people like to post teasers of new songs being played in their bedroom, meme/joke like content that responds to something in pop culture moment, or even something very curated and edited. The key to Reels is the algorithm gets them seen WAY MORE than any other post.

In the first case, when singing little teasers of new material, a do-it-yourself feel is fine. You can use your smart phone and just prop it up against something. Others go a little further with a cellphone light rig and stand. The key is to make it feel cozy and like you’re just hanging out and sharing a new tune with a close, trusted friend.

In the second case, bands sometimes create their own version of a video meme (usually from TikTok). In a lot of cases, bands repost their TIkToks on Reels as a way to spread them further. So you’ll see the watermark of the TikTok video behind the instagram watermarks. It’s nothing to worry about aesthetically and is par for the course now.

In the third case, sometimes groups edit an actual “reel”, taking higher quality footage and maybe studio recordings of their material into a perfect short visual and soundbyte.

Either way, use your reels! Their short length and the algorithm are such that these things get seen and played more than any other kind of post on Instagram. Don’t forget to do it.

 

IGTV:

Post 1-2 IGTV videos a week. These can be longer and bands often do performances of a whole song, a story/rant, or answering fans questions from the week’s survey.

IGTV doesn’t get the traffic that Reels get, but it still an important piece of the puzzle. Many bands designate certain kind of content for IGTV: interviews, behind the scenes of recording or playing live, entire song performances, and more.

Some bands reserve IGTV for videos in which they speak and do not play. Others just play covers on IGTV. It has its own role, and you can tailor it to your purposes.

The key when posting IGTV content, just like with Reels, is to make sure you click the box enabling it to be posted on your main feed, dispersed with your photos. As stated before, this is not the Instagram of 2015, and that means a feed made up entirely of photos is not going to engage the highest number of people possible.

So make sure your mix an IGTV video in with your reels and photos.

 

Photo feed:

7-10 a week. Photos with people do better than objects, vistas, or your food, so post the members of the band. Let people see how cool they look and how beautiful they are, inside and out. Photos with a face or faces as the focus of the photo do better than full body images. 

Vary your posts between all kinds of angles of your band making music, hanging out, traveling, reaching out to the audience. Always make sure to share the posted photo as a story to direct people there. Some people will even cover the photo with words to get people to click through to the photo stream.

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NETWORK ON AND OFF INSTAGRAM

Make sure to cross post between apps like Instagram, TikTok, and other places like Twitch or Clubhouse. The bigger presence, the more chance people can find your music and link each other to your stuff. The most common chain of importance is to create content for stories, reels, and photos on Instagram, but also to repost TikTok videos with the water mark on it to the photo feed and stories as well. This cross-pollination will connect your audiences and hopefully grow your numbers across them all.

In this time, as the industry slowly regaining its footing, its important to be broadcasting yourself where the people are and not expect them to just find you in one place or another. Be as ubiquitous as you can, it only costs your time and effort. If all of this sounds too overwhelming, Planetary Group can help get your name out there. Just give us a call in at (323) 952-5050.