Instagram is one of the most effective music promotion channels out there with over 1 billion monthly active users. And 500 million of those users are on the app every day. Not to mention, Instagram has the highest engagement rates across all social media channels, making it a great place to engage with and grow your fanbase. That being said, if you’re not using Instagram correctly it can be a major waste of your time. So here is a fully comprehensive musician’s guide to Instagram and all the music marketing tips you need to get started.
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Once you are through here, make sure you check out this article for a step-by-step guide that walks you through exactly how to grow your fanbase on Instagram.
Should You Use Instagram?
While Instagram is great, and there are plenty of Instagram musicians killing it, it’s not for everyone. You shouldn’t just be promoting music on Instagram just because other people are doing it.
As a musician, you should use Instagram if the demographics of your fanbase strongly correlates with their user base. AND if image-based sharing aligns with your interests.
35% of all adult social network users are on Instagram. But 72% of teens and 71% of 18-24-year-olds are using the service. So, if a segment of your audience falls into the 13-29 year old demographic, Instagram could very well be an important part of your social media mix.
If you’re not sure, the easiest approach is to take a look at the audience at your next concert. Who’s in the crowd? How old do they look? A more accurate option is to glance through the analytics of any other social channels you’re using. Both Facebook and Twitter offer detailed stats on your fans.
Not sure what to post to Instagram? Download this free social media ebook: How to Promote Your Music: With 3 Social Media Checklists
Musician’s Guide to Instagram: Setting Up Your Instagram Account
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of actually posting to Instagram for musicians and getting more followers on Instagram, let’s make sure you have your account set up to make the most of all of Instagram’s features.
Convert to a Business Account
If you plan on using your Instagram account to promote your music and connect with your fans, the first thing you’re going to want to do is to convert to a Business account. A Business account functions exactly like a personal account plus some additional features like analytics and direct contact buttons among others.
To convert to a business account go to the “settings” menu and choose “Switch to a Business Account.” You’ll have to connect to your Facebook artist page to set it up.
Make the Most of Your Instagram Bio
You don’t get much to work with in the bio section on Instagram, but there’s still a lot you can do to optimize.
A good bio explains who you are and what you do in as few words as possible. Think of it as a super condensed version of your elevator pitch. Your goal here isn’t to just tell people what kind of music you play. Instead, you want to share your story and what it is that makes you unique. What is that hook that will get someone interested?
It’s also important to use language that relates directly to your target fans. Think about how you can make it obvious what niche you cater to in just a few words.
You only get one link in the bio section. So instead of constantly switching it out, use a service like Linktree to link to multiple pages. On your Linktree, you should have a link to your website, your other social channels, your store, and a direct link to a landing page where fans can get free music in exchange for an email address.
Choosing Your Instagram Profile Picture
Just like your bio, your Instagram profile picture should represent you as a musician (or band). In other words, it should match your image and vibe.
If you don’t have any professional photos of you or the band, this might be a good opportunity to get some done (you can use them across all your social channels and website as well). A logo or album artwork can work as well. The space is quite small, so just make sure the photo you choose looks good shrunken down to size.
Posting to Instagram for Musicians
Now that you have an account set up, let’s go through the fun stuff – actually posting to Instagram. Instagram is very much a content marketing platform. It’s more about sharing your story and using the posts you share as a way to continue that narrative, so keep that in mind as you craft your posts, images, and videos. You’re trying to hook fans and draw them into your world with interesting and engaging content. It may take you some experimentation to figure out what kind of content your target audience relates to, so don’t be afraid to try different things to discover what works.
I also want to clarify that even though Instagram is an image-based platform, you do not need to be a professional photographer to be successful. In the next few sections, we’re going to cover everything from photography and editing, to content, captions, posting times, and stories. In this musician’s guide to Instagram, we’ll look at everything you need to know about posting to Instagram.
Instagram Photography & Editing Tips for Musicians
When taking photos, the first thing to keep in mind is the lighting. Bright, indirect natural daylight will give you the most consistent lighting no matter if you’re posting a shot of the band or a close up of your gear. That said, there’s a lot that you can do creatively with harsh lighting or even backlighting if you’re feeling inspired.
A good photo is like a good song – you have one key theme and everything else is working to support that theme. So when composing your photos, try to keep one main subject per photo. That subject could be you, an audience, your guitar, a new sticker design, a setlist or lyric sheet, the tour bus, or anything else relating to your music. The key is to not let photos get too busy.
In terms of taking your photos, any smartphone will produce great results. You can use your phone’s camera app, or opt for an app like Camera + for more features.
Next, you can use Instagram’s uploader or an app like Afterlight, Snapseed, or VSCO Cam to edit your photos. It’s easy to get sucked into all the editing options and get carried away, so here are the basics. Try adding a bit of Brightness and Contrast to start. Add a bit of Saturation if you feel like your colors are getting washed out, and perhaps play with the Highlights and Shadows to adjust the lights and darks. You could also add a bit of sharpening if the image looks fuzzy.
And finally, you can apply a filter from Instagram or your editing app to all your photos. Lower the strength of the filter down a bit as full strength filters can be overpowering. If you use the same filter on all your posts it will give your feed a more consistent and professional look.
Click to get this free guide to Instagram for musicians.
What to Post on Instagram as a Musician?
Success on Instagram really comes down to utilizing content marketing. In other words, sharing valuable content your fans will love and pulling them into your world. If you’re wondering how to promote your music with Instagram, here are some rapid-fire ideas to get you started.
You can post videos up to 60 seconds in your feed, so post short video clips of you or the band performing a song. Another idea is to post short tutorial videos showing your fans how to play a song or demonstrate a certain technique. Post short cover videos covering your favorite songs. Record a short video explaining the meaning behind your lyrics. Share videos from your live gigs or of the live audience and ask fans to comment if they were there.
You could share your gear set up, and even make it a regular thing with a hashtag like #gearsaturday. If you review and talk about gear regularly, it could open up the opportunity for endorsements and sponsorships down the line.
Share images from the studio, from rehearsals, from the tour bus, or backstage at gigs. Share images of your instruments, your new merch designs, or your new backdrop for gigs. Post selfies with your fans. Share images of lyrics you’re working on. Post professional photos you get taken for your website or album. Use these images as starting off points to tell a story to your fans.
What Makes a Good Instagram Caption?
Being such a high-engagement platform, your caption is almost as important as the image itself. As a rule of thumb, your captions should mostly relate to your music and your music career. Think of your captions like an ongoing story. Each caption should add value, contribute to your story in a meaningful way, and pull fans a little deeper into your world.
A good caption tells a story, starts a conversation, sparks discussion, or asks a question.
Your number one goal with your caption is to get your fans to leave a comment on your post (we’ll discuss the details of WHY later on, but suffice it to say the Instagram algorithm favors engagement). So a good caption tells a story, starts a conversation, sparks discussion, or asks a question. This is Instagram marketing for musicians 101.
Tell your fans a story or about an experience that relates to your music. Ask their opinions on something. Get them to vote on something (like the setlist for an upcoming gig). You can even use your captions to learn more about your fanbase. Ask them questions about their interests and what other bands they like and keep this information in your back pocket for future promotion ideas.
It’s also important to note that Instagram does not let you add clickable links to the caption. Instead, send your fans to your Linktree link in your bio.
When to Post on Instagram as a Musician?
If Instagram is definitely going to be a part of your social media and music marketing strategy, you need to determine the best times to post to get the most engagement.
There are plenty of studies out there that will tell you the statistically optimal time to post. But the truth is, every audience is different. So don’t give too much weight to those numbers.
Base your posting times around the numbers you see in your own Instagram analytics. You’ll be able to see what days and what times your audience is most active so you can plan on posting during those high-engagement times.
For example, you might see that your audience of mostly young adults or working millennials is active early morning, at 12 pm on their lunch break, and after 5 pm. A college-aged fanbase won’t be as active early in the morning. Teens may be active early morning and later at night. A west coast-based audience will skew a little later than an east coast-based audience if you’re in the US. And an Australia-based audience will be on a totally different timetable than a US-based audience. You see what I mean?
Instagram Stories for Musicians
Stories are another way you can post to Instagram. Unlike posts, which remain in your feed, a Story is only live for 24 hours. Stories are great ways to share quick updates, looks behind the scenes, sneak peeks, and even glimpses into your daily life.
Because Stories aren’t permanent, they don’t need to be as curated as your feed posts which often follow a similar theme or look and feel. So don’t be afraid to show a bit more of your personality. You can even give early looks at projects you’re working on.
Stories are also an incredible way to get your fans engaged. You can use features like polls, questions, sliders, or quizzes to get feedback from your fans or get them involved. Try hosting monthly Q&A’s with the questions feature, or get fans to vote on their favorite merch design. You can even share your music from Spotify directly via Stories.
Fans can also reply to your Stories which will send you a Direct Message. Frequently interacting with your fans through DM’s will help you build a relationship with those active fans. Ultimately, that direct interaction is the fuel that can help encourage fans down the path to becoming superfans.
Once you get to 10,000 followers, you will unlock a feature that allows you to link directly from your Stories. Fans will be able to “swipe up” from Stories to go to links like your website, online store, or YouTube channel.
You can also save Stories to your Highlights if you want to keep them around for more than 24 hours. Create a Highlight for frequently asked questions or with information about your gear so fans can use them as a quick reference.
Using Instagram Live Videos to Engage with Your Fans
The final post type we’ll talk about today is Live Videos. On Instagram, you have the option to live stream right in the app. These live videos can be a great chance to directly interact with your fans and forge those long-lasting superfan relationships.
All you need to go live is your phone. Optionally, you could also get some kind of mount to keep it from falling over (you can get them for under $30 on Amazon), and perhaps a simple mic that plugs right into your phone if you’re concerned about audio quality.
Your live streams could be acoustic performances, Q&A sessions, fun songwriting sessions, or even a chance to make big announcements like the drop of your new album.
The key to successful Live streams on Instagram is consistency and interaction. If you can get into a regular Live schedule, you’ll begin to notice more and more fans attending. While you’re live, take time to address your fans directly, say hi to them by name, and answer their questions. That direct interaction is what will keep fans coming back to support you.
Instagram for Musicians – The Bigger Picture
Now that you know what to post to Instagram, head to this article to learn the tips and tricks for growing your following on Instagram.
Even if you’re posting incredible content on Instagram and you have a ton of fans on the platform, it’s still only one part of your promotion strategy. If you want to effectively promote your music, you need to be thinking big picture and start getting your social followers to go deeper by signing up for emails and buying your music.
Click to get this free guide to Instagram for musicians.
We show you how to do this in the free How to Promote Your Music guide. You’ll learn how to create interesting and engaging social posts, and how to start collecting emails and emailing your fans. Plus you’ll get three social media checklists with tons of post ideas to get you started!
If you want help promoting your music, consider signing up for the Music Business Accelerator program (MBA).
The class is part of the online music business training offered at New Artist Model.