Instagram and Music: Megalomaniacal Propoganda or Useful Marketing Tool?

In recent years, no social media platform has been as widely embraced by the music community as Instagram. The photo sharing web site and App have been utilized by artists to share photos of everything from new album artwork to their morning coffee. While the necessity for such a thing is negligible, at best, there is no denying the popularity of Instagram or the way its allowed artists and fans to interact.

At present, the most rabid group of Instagram devotees is the post-9/11 generation, who have been deemed ‘Generation Z,’ and the most popular artists on Instagram are a reflection of that demographic. While a range of artists are on Instagram, the most followed are the likes of Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, One Direction and its individual members, Selena Gomez, Katy Perry, and artists who have wide appeal with the 10-12 year old crowd.

The Instagram faithful aren’t entirely interested in tween pop, though. Albert Hammond Jr. (http://web.stagram.com/n/alberthammondjr/ ) of The Strokes, Tinie Tempa (http://web.stagram.com/n/tiniegram/ ), and Ed Droste of Grizzly Bear (http://web.stagram.com/n/edroste/ ) also enjoy a huge following suggesting that, despite the tweens having a stronghold on the site, a variety of people from every stage of life are Instagrammers.

In theory, it’s an amazing platform which allows artists to build, sustain, and engage with their fan base. It’s simple to use and the public always longs for further peeks into the mystery of celebrity life, no matter how banal that glimpse may be.

While at its worst, Instagram provides self aggrandizing looks into the ever-public lives of anyone named Kardashian, at its best it proves as an outlet for people such as Eyemediaa (http://web.stagram.com/n/eyemediaa/), an online business solutions company who opt for sharing photos of breathtaking scenery and bustling cityscapes rather than their morning bagel with a ‘vintage’ photo filter.

For those in the more visual arts; chefs, sculptors, painters, et al, it allows them to share their work with people they may not be able to otherwise engage with. For example, famous Chicago area restaurant, The Baked Apple Breakfast Co. (http://instagram.com/thebakedapple#) use their Instagram account to show patrons photos of daily specials, promotional photos, and pictures of their most sought after dishes.

A glimpse at a work in progress, new dishes, or some other bit of relevant minutiae to allow a peek into the private goings on of talented individuals would serve a purpose far more productive than what the public seem to desire from the photo sharing App. Doing a quick search of your hobbies and favorite artists on Instagram will lead you in the direction of ending up with content that interests you. While a wide range of artists do use Instagram, many choose not to, opting instead for sharing photos on their official web sites, Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts.

It is worth mentioning that several months ago, when Instagram became further enveloped in the vague world of the Facebook privacy policy, there was a rather loud public outcry over their desire to sell users’ photos to any advertiser willing to pay for them. The notion that these photos were the private (and copyrighted) property of the ‘photographers’ alarmed users and forced the powers that be at Instagram to revert back to the old privacy policy.

For many, that came too late, as the mere thought of Instagram somehow profiting off of their photos left a sour taste in the mouths of many.Super producer and Ultraistá founder, Nigel Godrich, closed his Instagram account during this time, choosing to use similar service, EyeEm for his photo sharing.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should admit that I no longer have an Instagram account, either. Partially because, as a writer, I seldom have things of interest to share, unless people really want to see photos of my laptop with the 1977 filter. I also don’t pretend that anyone is particularly interested in what my dog looks like first thing in the morning or what my steering wheel looks like in black and white.

That aside, I do understand fully the appeal it has for the masses. The current music industry climate practically requires artists to integrate such things into their business and give fans every glimpse into their existence they’re comfortable with. Using Instagram to share candid studio shots, photos of sound checks, life on the road, new artwork and promotional materials, and photo session outtakes are all great ways to interact with fans and utilize the ease of Instagram in a logical way.

I don’t feel particularly well versed enough in the Instagram community to provide a fair ‘Top Artists to Follow’ list, but a glance around the internet shows that a slew of such lists exist. While many of them focus on the number of followers and include the people mentioned above, the NME recently ran a list of The 25 Must-Follow Artists on Instagram.

What set this list apart from the others is its focus on the content the artists put on their Instagram pages, rather than who simply has the most followers.

Suggesting artists such as Snoop Dogg (http://web.stagram.com/n/snoopdogg/), citing his comical photos, and Frank Ocean (http://web.stagram.com/n/francistenenbaum/ ), for his ‘tasteful and artistic’ photographs, the list doesn’t just name names, it provides brief insights on what these artists do with their accounts. Justin Vernon of Bon Iver (http://web.stagram.com/n/blobtower/) is also included, as are  Unknown Mortal Orchestra (http://web.stagram.com/n/unknownmortalorchestra/), The Vaccines (http://web.stagram.com/n/thevaccines/ ), and a host of others.

To see their full (and versatile) list, check it out here. http://www.nme.com/blogs/nme-blogs/bands-on-instagram-25-must-follow-artists (*Note; the list does contain Nigel Godrich, who, as stated previously has migrated away from Instagram. This is the most content driven and diverse list I happened upon, but it is a few months old and some things have changed since then.)

Instagram can be used to narrow the gap between artists and fans and, when used in tandem with other methods of engagement, it can be a very powerful tool. Sharing photos which incorporate elements of your career will be far more effective in terms of prolonged fan engagement and will serve a much greater purpose than photos of things relevant only to you.

One comment

  • Cool article with interesting ideas. It’s true that aside from sharing their music online, bands and artists can use social media to share about their identity – and they got the hang of it really quickly!
    So many artists we didn’t know were on Instagram too, thanks for sharing those.

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