The Fundamental Musician’s Guide to Instagram for Bands

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I know what you’re thinking. Another social media account to stay on top of? Will I ever have time to actually play music, instead of just posting about it? Instagram has climbed the ranks of relevant social media tools for artists simply by being a vehicle for videos and photos, which statistically have the most hits and reach over text posts on Facebook and Twitter.

So here is my guide to quick and easy Instagram account management for bands.

1. Follow, follow, follow!

I had a friend at BKNYLive manage our social media accounts over the summer. One of the first things he did was target our potential audience by mass following followers of the Instagram accounts of similar bands, music blogs that covered our genre, record labels, etc. He followed about 2,000 accounts and within a few weeks we had close to 1,000 new followers.

blood orange
Getting cozy with Dev Hynes aka Blood Orange (@devhynes)

2. Unfollowing.

If you’re concerned about your follower ratio, there are lots of apps like Mass Unfollow and that will unfollow non-followers for you. But be warned: some of these sites can leave your account vulnerable to hacking and might not be worth the trouble. Instagram also tends to recognize when these tools are being used, and can sign you out automatically as a result, which is a pain. I tend to go through manually and unfollow any users that seem irrelevant (i.e. Ruby’s Jewelry Store, sexychatgal6969).

3. Content.

There are lots of different views on content generation. Some folks claim that you should only post musical content of your band — rehearsal recordings, show pics, etc. A great practice is to hand your phone off to a friend or significant other before you play a set, and tell them to snap away while you play! You can pick and post the best shots and video snippets later. Personally, I use my band’s Instagram as a personal account — photos of my dog get a lot of likes, and each time a new user likes a photo, they might check my profile, which includes a link to our music and a short bio. I also take a lot of photos of friends’ bands and tag them with their Instagram handles, which not only promotes other musicians in the community, but exposes our account to those bands’ fans.

madam west
Photo courtesy of Madam West (@madamwestmusic)

4. Promo.

We blitzed Instagram with a ton of promotional videos before our album release, and got a lot of hits on our site as a result. You can also post screencaps of press coverage (link to the article in your caption or bio), album covers, merch (include pricing or any promotional deals and a link), and links to wherever your music is streaming. Hit 1,000 plays on Spotify? Post a screen capture! Same goes for funny fan posts to your FB page, flyers for shows and music video shots.

+ Read more: Learn how to use metadata to get your music heard above the noise with “Getting Seen: Maximizing Your Album’s Online Visibility”

5. Modeling.

I took a look at Taylor Swift’s Instagram to get an idea of content creation for a large following. Along with photos at shows, Taylor’s instagram includes selfies, childhood photos, and cute animal pics. She uses Instagram much the same way I do — a combination of music-relevant posts and a behind the scenes look at her daily life. For a more band-oriented look, I scrolled through Gogol Bordello’s account, which looks like it’s managed by the band’s representatives rather than the band themselves — it’s mostly professional photos of shows and promo flyers.

gogol bordello
“I was there!” courtesy of Gogol Bordello (@gogolbordello)

Don’t be intimidated by large acts’ polished accounts — just do what works for you and your budget! Of course, if you are in the position to pay someone to manage your account, or even for professional photos (which you should have regardless), do it! Visual content is your most valuable asset when creating your online presence — my band’s recent shots got excellent mileage on Instagram and our other social media accounts. If you or any members of your band are photographers or creative types, check out The Antlers’ account, which is full of landscapes, arty nudes, and pretty filters.

the national
“Vanilla in Manila” courtesy of The National (@ntnl)

6. Best times to post.

I try to follow a few simple rules when posting. I post about once a day — I don’t want to blitz my following too much — and try to post at peak traffic time, which can vary, but generally abides by this handy guide (2-3pm and 8-9pm on weekdays). Consider your audience — are they based in a different time zone? Are they high school to college age, meaning are they in class most weekdays? You can test your network’s peak traffic by posting at different times during the week to see which posts get the most mileage.

So what are you waiting for? Get posting — it only takes a second! And if you get addicted like I am, try out photo and video editing apps like Boomerang, Hyperlapse and Aviary to spruce up your shots. If you need a follower to start you off, add me @madamwestmusic and I’ll be sure to follow back.

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