With its combination of massive reach, engaged users, and ideal content options, Instagram is a critical platform for every musician. In this guide we share 8 Instagram-specific tips on posting for musicians. Don’t miss the bonus section outlining how you can win using each of the platforms within Instagram (the Feed, Stories, Reels, Live and IGTV).
1. Engage Instagram Fans With Your Music Making
Your most engaged fans will be those that feel like they know you. In decades past, big stars were unapproachable and tried to limit what people knew about them to the stuff that made them seem like they were better than the rest of us. Social media has changed all of that and the biggest stars are people that have let us inside their lives. Musician’s that are enjoying the greatest success on Instagram are those that use it to really let their fans in.
People might really like your new song, but what if you had let them in on the making of that song from before it was a finished, polished track? Your fans would love to hear the early demo, provide feedback and get insights into what is driving you in writing those lyrics. Let your fans be a part of the process on Instagram and your other social media. The additional benefit of this to you as a musician is that they will be invested in your new song and be motivated to get the word out.
What do you do outside of making music? Share it with your fans on Instagram. Let them get to know the real you. If you are also a gamer share some streams. When you take a trip, share some curated highlights as an Instagram Story showing where you went, what you did, and why.
If you let your fans know you, be part of your process, and feel truly included you will start to build a wildly-engaged fan base. Instagram can and should be a key mechanism to allow you to provide fans with this level of access.
Let your fans be a part of the process and they will be invested in your new song and be motivated to get the word out.
2. Make Videos Your Top Priority on Instagram
While Instagram started with a focus on photography, today video is the most effective content format on the platform. This is of course good news for musicians on Instagram since it allows you more options to showcase your music. We want to outline a few critical posting best-practices for you here so that you can really excel at getting exposure for your music on Instagram. In the sections below we share some specific tips and tactics for videos, but the key advice here is to use videos as your primary type of Instagram content.
3. Be A Thumb-stopper
If you are an Instagram user, you know how quickly you scroll down your Feed. If you want to get people to see your posts you need to stop their scroll. There are a few keys to successfully get people to stop and check out your feed post. If it is a video, the first key is what you show on screen in the first 5 seconds and the second key is the first line of the caption. If you are sharing an all new song or an Instagram-exclusive demo, showcase that. Add some on-screen text that says Instagram-exclusive and consider that for the first line of the caption. Perhaps you are sharing an acoustic version or an in-progress tune, leverage that to give people a compelling reason to stop, look, and listen.
Pro tip- Remember that in the Feed and Stories Instagram has audio muted by default. Since audio will often be essential to your content include a call-to-action to turn audio on. Also consider adding something in the video edit to show that they are missing some music. A little sound wave or other signal indicator can help.
4. On Instagram Size Does Matter
When you are creating your image or video for Instagram, you need to optimize for this use-case. For images in the Instagram Feed, a 1:1 square is still best. For video it is a little more complicated and the decision can have a significant impact on your post’s performance. We recommend you not use a traditional 16:9 video, like you would use on YouTube. Rather we would edit it to a 4:5 or 1:1 aspect ratio for the Feed and make your video 9:16 for Stories or Reels. These native sizes give you maximum screen real estate, which is helpful in stopping the scroll and signals to viewers that you are serious about your Instagram community. Also consider the length of your videos. There is a maximum of 60 seconds for the Feed and Stories. Instagram Reels are currently allowing up to 30 seconds in total length.
5. Set a Mood
When posting your music on Instagram do not feel like you can only post music videos. If you have a music video, by all means share it here, but you can do more with your music. If you have a new song that you want to share as an early demo, consider a simple “music player” look. You could also consider using some photos, art or colors to set the mood for your music. Another idea is to show the words on-screen to better prioritize the story that you are telling. The key is that you find creative ways to share your music and leverage the combination of visuals with your music to expand your creativity.
6. Feature Your Fans
Include your fans in your feed. Ask them to send in images of themselves when they get your special vinyl edition of your new album. Or encourage them to review your new song on Spotify or YouTube and send you the quote. Then you can create a visual quote of a key comment from that review in your social media.
7. Be Consistent
Your followers and Instagram will show you some appreciation for being consistent. We have seen noticeable performance gains in the number of followers and engagement rates on accounts that post regularly. One time per day is a good goal, but if that is too much for you, set a schedule that works for you.
Use ALL of Instagram
Instagram has continued to expand the content formats on their app and each is important to you in your efforts. To succeed in each, you really need to understand how they work and use the right approach and content for each. In this bonus section we will run through each and give you the core best practices, fine-tuned for you as a musician or band.
- Instagram Feed– The Feed is the original and still remains foundational to Instagram. This is a great place to feature your photos and videos. Keep in mind that items in your Feed remain viewable in your profile, so think about the combination of Feed posts and how they convey your brand as a musician or band. Use the 8 posting tips mentioned above to cook up Feed posts that work for you and your music.
Instagram Stories– According to recently released information, over 500 million people watch Stories every day. These 15-second snippets take over the full screen, are viewed consecutively, and disappear after 24 hours. This is a great place to create more informal video content like you talking to your fans directly, selfie-style, to tell them about upcoming events. We are seeing success here as a key factor to overall Instagram succces for musicians and bands.
One key to the native Stories experience is the use of emojis and interactive elements, called Stickers. Have some fun with the library of small image elements that you can add on within the Instagram app. Several of the Instagram Sticker options offer ways for you to let your fans provide input. You can add a poll or a quiz to engage your audience. Try some Ask Me Anythings using the sticker capability or gather feedback for your musical direction. Important tip here — by getting people to interact with your Stories it shows Instagram that they want to see your content and in the future, Instagram will show your Story closer to the front of their Stories list.
Instagram Reels– This is the newest addition to Instagram and is, admittedly, yet unproven. This is their take on TikTok and Instagram is working hard to assure that it gets traction. Like Stories, these use vertical video, making it very phone-friendly. There are a few key differences with Reels (and TikTok) that you need to understand. The big one is that while all other Instagram sections are shown primarily to your followers, Reels is shown to the people that the Instagram algorithm thinks will most want to see it. This makes this uniquely powerful for reaching new people.
We are seeing musicians doing some performing or teaching short lessons and things like that get really good reach already on Reels. However, you only have 30 seconds and the expectation is to see something a little more original in this type of short-form video. Some musicians have been experimenting with sharing short remixed versions of their songs to encourage other users to use them for their videos. The ways it might get used could be as music that they would dance to, sing along with, or do some other silliness over. I realize not everyone has the right music for that or you might not want that for your brand. Many hits have been built on TikTok based on this type of viral usage, so if you have a song or a part of a song that might work for this, give it a try. If not, at least start to create some short videos of you playing or doing something to see if Reels can help new fans discover you.
For Instagram Reels, hashtags are especially important. This helps more people discover you, but also gives Instagram some additional context to what your video is about and who might want to see it. Before you get started with Reels make sure to also check out our guide called best Instagram hashtags for musicians which will provide you with some specific ideas for hashtags and how to use them to reach new fans.
IGTV– IGTV gives you a format within Instagram to share your longer videos. These longer videos are shown to your followers in the feed where they see a short preview and then they are presented the option to click and see the full video. There are a few keys to success here to keep in mind.
- Like Stories, IGTV is shared as a vertical video by default, so plan for that in your editing. IGTV is only for videos that are over 60 seconds.
- You can easily create a preview in your Stories for your IGTV posts. This will help you get more video views and in Stories, the user is offered the option to Swipe Up to see the full video.
- Since most people will initially discover your video in the Feed (seeing only the first 5 seconds) or in a preview that you add to Stories, those first 5 seconds are super important. Make sure that they make it clear why someone will want to watch the full video.
For musicians, IGTV is a great way to share your longer form content. This is the place on Instagram to share you full songs, or a full set from your latest gig. Use this as a way to increase your engagement time with your fans.
Instagram Live– Live videos on Instagram are featured prominently in a top spot on your followers’ Stories bar, which is the top position when they log into Instagram. If you have built a following and are not using Live you need to get started. Live stream a practice session, a song writing session, a set at your next gig or a behind-the-scenes look at your next recording session. These work best if they are a little longer, so people can discover your live stream gradually as they open the app. Watch for comments and interact with your audience.
Pro Tip- Instagram wants to see you using all of their content platforms. We are seeing clear evidence that when you are posting regularly in the Feed, Stories, Reels and Live that they will give you priority in each. It seems that they want to reward that type of behavior and if you want to get a real edge on Instagram, make sure that you are taking advantage of the algorithm.
As a musician, you are all about content. Instagram should be a priority part of your music marketing activities. Once you understand each available element of Instagram and how you can use it, you will start to come up with natural ways to align what you do with what is needed for success.
We are looking forward to seeing you use Instagram to increase your audience. Take a moment and drop us a note below with your Instagram handle so we can follow you and watch you grow. Also use the form below to ask any questions that you might have.