Jakob Owens - Instagram

February 9, 2021

I’ve heard dozens of musicians make the same complaints: It’s just so hard to get heard these days. It’s nearly impossible to get any traction! I have a Bandcamp, Spotify, Soundcloud..Ugh!

I hate to break it to you, but you’re going to have to start using popular social media if you want to become, well, popular. What if I told you that Tyson Ritter could easily hear your latest All-American Rejects cover, but that you just aren’t putting it out there correctly yet? Today, we are taking a look at how to use Instagram to finally create a fanbase, and get heard.

Putting Yourself Out There

I’m not going to pretend like this isn’t difficult. When it comes to the media, there is a lot more content out there than there ever used to be. There are approximately 115 million active people on Instagram in the US alone (Source: Statista.com ). You can think of this two ways: As 115 million people putting out content that could drown your music, or, as 115 million potential fans. (I suggest you take the latter mindset).

You’ve probably heard this hundreds of times, but you’ve got to post regularly. People who post once a day get way further than musicians who spam the feed with five covers at once in a vain attempt to play social media catch-up (trust me, I’ve been there). Consistently posting pictures and music teasers is the best way to grow.

Instagram is a great way to promote your album or single ahead of time.

For more tips on what to do before releasing music, check out this video!

Quality and Quantity

A good rule of thumb for posting to grow a fanbase is this: 50% quality, 50% quantity. What I mean here is that, half the time, you should be posting high-quality content. This can be anything from edited pictures from a recent photoshoot, to pieces of studio recordings. You might be thinking, well, why not post high-quality content every time?

The answer is simple: There’s not enough time! If you only posted the best of the best, the people who post ten times a day will totally drown you out! Not to mention, fans like real people, not robots. They want to see you, down-to-earth and behind-the-scenes sometimes. As far as consistency goes, posting in your feed once or twice a day is ideal. However, even a few times a week will still result in significant growth other time.

Tags and Stories

Tags and stories are two things that musicians on Instagram tend to under-use.  Let’s talk about stories first. A little-known fact is that you can actually @ people and use hashtags in stories too!  Stories allow you to post daily content without it showing up in your long-term feed.  So, if you have a funny blooper that you want to share for just one day, or a new announcement to make, check out Instagram stories. They disappear after just 24 hours.  So go wild and post as many stories as you like!  

Yes, the hashtag.  A source of much dislike.  I’m here to break the news to you; you need them, in small doses.  Be sure to do your homework on hashtags before you post. Hashtag generators like Ingramer can help you find high-ranking, relevant tags. Hashtags are necessary, because they help the algorithm know what your post is about (and where to put it on the explore page!).

Some people say that the magic number of hashtags is 11, and I agree. If you want to, you can max out your posts with the 30-hashtag limit.  Just make sure you’re not using any tags that are currently blocked, as it could result in a temporary shadowban. 

Lastly, don’t forget to tag people and relevant music promo accounts too.  There are dozens of lists on the web of Instagram accounts that will promote your music on their page for free, so find some that feature your genre, and get to work!

Connecting to Real People

Making art can be a competitive, jealous business. Writer Austin Kleon has some great advice in his book ‘Show Your Work’.  If you haven’t checked it out yet, you should. He suggests that, rather than seeing other artists as competitors, treat them as your comrades.  Fellow Insta-musicians can serve as collaborators, and can help you form new and important connections.

Here’s some tips:

  • Only connect with people whose music you actually appreciate
  • Don’t be spammy
  • Engage regularly
  • If you create something that was inspired by someone else, give credit
  • Make something new together

Don’t go around hitting ‘like’ on just any photo or cover, or paying for automated bots.  If you want to make meaningful connections, only comment and like music that you enjoy.  Start by talking to musicians that have around the same amount of followers (or a few hundred more) than you.  

Be sure to engage with people regularly.  Nobody’s going to want to watch a person that says ‘hey, look at me, look at me!’ and ignores everyone else. It’s like jumping up and down on a stage and clapping for yourself. You’re never too busy or famous to come down to earth every so often and say hello and thank you. If you don’t respond to comments or engage with other artists, that’s essentially what you are doing. Make sure to respond to every comment.  It shows your fanbase that you’re genuine, and starts a real connection.

Another tip here is to ask other musicians questions.  If you ask another artist a question, they’re far more likely to respond than if you just post a heart-eye-emoji or say good job.  Quality engagement is key, so make sure it’s a two-way street.

If you make a cover or steal a few ideas from somebody, be sure to tag them and say hey, you inspired me!  After all, imitation is the best form of flattery; but ONLY if you give proper credit.  If you keep making connections with new people, there will likely be some collaborations down the road.  Now, you can help each other grow (not to mention that you’ve made a new buddy along the way!).

To recap:  

  1. You can get heard.  Are you still saying that you can’t?!  Stop that.
  2. To keep your fans interested, post a combination of high-quality content and pieces of work in progress.
  3. Don’t be afraid of a few tags and #hashtags here and there.  They’ll help you be seen, and rise above the millions of daily posts.
  4. Engage in genuine communication with other artists, in order to make quality connections and to help each other rise.

There you have it! With consistency, research and a little photography you can build an active fanbase too.

Music Promotion Insiders
Music Promotion Insiders

About the author 

Aleah Fitzwater

Aleah is a licensed music educator who has been making sound for over 15 years now. She is a (music) content writer and active Midwest performer. She holds a Bachelors of Instrumental Music Education from the University of Toledo. In addition to teaching and performing, she is a session musician who frequently arranges pop and rock tunes for the flute.

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