These Instagram Mistakes Will Hurt Your Music

The other day I learned that website bloggers report less than 2% of their internet traffic comes from social media. Which got me thinking — how much time should an independent band spend on Instagram?

After observing several independent bands, we at Ennui Magazine have determined that less than 10% of your time should be spent on Instagram and other social media platforms. But that 10% needs to be spent wisely.

Unarguably, your band needs to maintain a presence on social media. But if you’re spending multiple hours of your day trying to build a “community on Instagram,” you’re making a huge mistake. It’s a tough pill to swallow but the data is there — your band is wasting time on Instagram.

Beware of the social media treadmill

Social media has become something we call a ‘treadmill.’  That means after a certain point, you can gain as many followers as you want, but no matter how much effort you put in, you’re not going to move forward — like running on a treadmill.

Sure, you might be able to build a following of 10-thousand followers on Instagram, but if those followers aren’t buying your merch or streaming your songs, then it’s all smoke and mirrors. If people aren’t clicking that link in your bio and if your followers don’t ‘like’ or ‘comment’ on your content, it doesn’t matter how many followers you have.

Since the beginning of social media, there’s been this belief that platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, are these one-stop-shop marketing platforms that can transform the way that your band is received. And that’s partially true.  We’ve seen countless artists and bands build enormous followings on social media that have helped catapult them to stardom. But the difference is, all of that usually comes organically after they’ve already seen success in other forms.

Focus on the music for 70 percent of your time

Social media can be a great place to engage with your fans but focusing more on the platform and less on the content is where artists go wrong.

A recent example of a band capitalizing on social media is our friends in lovelytheband. They ran carefully targeted ads promoting the release of their song and music video for “Broken” which, after it’s release, reached millions of listeners. Because of how they utilized social media, they went from, “Wait, what’s their band name?”  to “Oh yeah, they’re that band that sings that ‘Broken’ song.”

If you really want 10-million followers, go write a song that’s catchy-as-hell, and get it featured on Spotify playlists — the followers will come.

Jordan Henrie, Ennui Magazine

But their success isn’t because they spent all of this time on Instagram interacting with fans and gaining thousands of followers in anticipation of their first release. Their success came because they spent all of their time writing music that they knew would resonate. Because they focused on creating a large quantity of high-quality content, when they took it to social media it spread like wildfire.

It’s a fact: everyone you know is on social media

With so many people using social media, it’s difficult to argue that platforms like Instagram are not a great place to try and reach new fans. But that’s the trick — first you actually have to focus on your art.

Stop for a second and ask yourself — when was the last time you were introduced to a new band on Instagram and you liked their feed so much that you then went out and checked out their music? No, almost always you find the music first and then go check out the band on social media.

Finding time for social media can be a difficult balancing act for independent bands.
Photo: Wicked Bears by Jordan Henrie

People don’t become successful because of social media, they become successful because they did something well.  If it’s a band, they made an awesome album. If it’s an actor, they were in a movie that people enjoyed. Then, after they accomplished something great, the social media following came organically.

The only people that are successful because of social media, are memes — people like Salt Bae, and what is that guy doing? Probably sprinkling salt on something that doesn’t need it.

Even people like the Kardashians, James Charles, and countless Instagram models follow this pattern. They aren’t seeing success because they took the time to engage in social media. They developed an organic following because they consistently delivered content that people wanted to see.

No one cares what “influencers” like Logan Paul are doing these days, because their content was never any good.  

Jordan Henrie, Ennui Magazine

The same ideology goes for bands and music. Let the content (in this case, your music) build your following for you.

And when you’ve got your ‘hit song,’ get creative. Try promoting it through different marketing platforms. Don’t put all your energy into Instagram. Do something different than every other band on the planet.

What to do with the next 20 percent

There are dozens of ways to push your music out into the universe. Try something other than social media. Here’s a list of ideas:

  1. Instead of spending two hours following two thousand people on Instagram (just so you can unfollow them in two weeks), send your music to two music blogs. Have them write a review of your single or album and let them run a merch giveaway for you.
  2. Reach out to influencers who create Spotify playlists. Send them a song you haven’t released yet and let them break it on an upcoming playlist that they’re organizing. Or submit it directly to editors that curate official Spotify playlists.
  3. Team up with a cool local business that supports bands, and book a free show. Put up fliers around the store and let people find your music while they’re shopping.
  4. Get on a more lucrative platform like YouTube and start vlogging your shows, rehearsals, and band hangouts. People love to connect with bands on a deeper, more personal level. And you can create engaging content that doesn’t distract from your actual art.
  5. Get weird. Do a ‘sexy carwash’ and play your music over some loudspeakers. See if the local senior center wants to try something other than bingo night and play a show for the elderly. Contact local radio stations and do a live performance on air. Set up your gear at a public park and busk until someone asks you to leave.
There is a time and place for social media when bands utilize the platforms effectively.
Photo: Problem Daughter by Jordan Henrie

Get creative. Start pushing your content in ways that will be more beneficial than the endless treadmill that is social media.

Time for the final 10 percent

Marketing your band certainly needs to be a more diverse process than just building a massive Instagram following. But I don’t think the time where bands don’t need social media is anywhere in the near future.

There is still a time and place for maintaining a professional appearance on social media. If you keep it minimal and organized and follow an attractive content theme — when people do look you up on Instagram, they’ll take you seriously.

When someone hears a song they like, and they decide to take time out of their day to look you up on social media, they want to see something that makes them feel like they know you. Leave the spam for the stories feature and when you decide to post to your feed, make it something that reinforces the music.  

There’s no point of even being on social media if you’re just using it as a lazy way to promote your next show.

Don’t sacrifice creativity for authenticity

It’s important to remain transparent, but nobody wants to see the kid-next-door on the big stage. People want to see an alien from another planet do something they’ve never seen before. That’s why we’re attracted to the whole ‘tortured artist’ thing. People want a sexy, modern, intriguing twist on David Bowie. And that translates over to social media.

You don’t want to be another band on social media, you want to be the best band on social media.

Jordan Henrie, Ennui Magazine

If there’s one thing that bugs the hell out of me, it’s how the entire DIY pop-punk scene treats social media. Nobody gives a shit about appearances. It all feels and looks like pre-Enema of The State Blink-182 and bad poop jokes. No one wants to take these bands seriously because they’re too embarrassed to take themselves seriously.

Too many bands litter their social media with poorly designed flyers for house shows that have long since passed. Why would anyone want to see that? They don’t.

You’ll have to find the right balance for your band, but don’t get caught out on either side of the spectrum.

Don’t waste all your time on social media. But the time you do spend on it should be intentional and goal-oriented.

If you find yourself spending hours every day trying to promote whatever daily post you’ve shared, or if on the other hand, you haven’t logged in since your last show — it’s time to re-evaluate.

For more industry tips and music marketing hacks, check out Ennui Magazine. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube.

Jordan Henrie

Jordan Henrie is the Owner of Ennui Magazine. Jordan grew up in the suburban area of Detroit, MI. He now lives in Salt Lake City, UT and is actively involved in the local music and art community.

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