Instagram for Musicians: Word of Mouth Is Dead, Long Live IG

Why is being a part of the Instagram musician sphere so important for artists? We’re addressing the shift in music discovery and the importance of putting yourself on the map.
Instagram for Musicians: Word of Mouth Is Dead, Long Live IG
Urban Klancnik

Music lovers are always thirsty for new music and new artists. Before social media, they relied on record stores, TV, radio, and even more importantly, on their friends to share their favorites and latest findings. Now everything revolves around social media, and Instagram especially is a gamechanger. With it, an opportunity for Instagram musicians arises.


So how did the ‘Gram become such a tool for music discovery? 

A friend of mine told me that he spends about 15 minutes most mornings trying to decide what to listen to in his car before he drives to work. “I’ve listened to everything a hundred times over. I want something new but familiar,” he said, almost desperate. But there’s new music everywhere today…isn’t there?

Well, yes and no. Access to music became easy in the last decade or so. You get on Spotify, Deezer, YouTube, SoundCloud, or any other streaming service, and get access to millions of songs in the blink of an eye. By the channels’ own statistics, musicians upload 12 hours’ worth of music every minute just on SoundCloud, and about 40k songs a day on Spotify, where there are about 4M songs that have never been accessed or played by any user. YouTube says people upload about 400 hours of videos to the channel every minute. Of course, not all is music, but music videos are among the most popular on the platform. Basically, you’re caught in a flood of “information” and it’s difficult to find what you like. Especially if you don’t even know what exactly you’re looking for. 

From friend to friend

Remember the last time you heard a song on the radio and didn’t know who the artist was? In the past, we had to talk to our friends about new music. When you didn’t know the musician, one of your friends or acquaintances usually did – and sometimes you had to dig deep while asking around, and even unveil your singing voice to make a point. Or maybe a friend bought a new album, told you how awesome it was, and you simply went to the store and bought it. Word of mouth was the best way to find new music. Now social media is taking over.

Social media is changing the game. A post on Instagram can spread like wildfire and reach people all over the world.

Instagram – the word of mouth revival

People love to share something they like with their friends, and that’s how Instagram became an unlikely hero for music discovery. Remember the word of mouth principle? It still works, but it’s now mostly transferred to social media, and Instagram has become its online embodiment. The company made a smart move in 2018, allowing users to share album covers and Spotify links in their stories, and the feature became extremely popular. When one of your friends with a similar taste in music shares something on Instagram, it’s a good bet you’ll like it too, so it’s a great tool to discover new music. 

As social media work like a network, a post can spread like wildfire and reach people all over the world. Imagine: 100 fans share an artist’s story, and let’s say they each have around 500 followers. The reach increases by 50k, and that’s just the first degree.

The company made a smart move in 2018, allowing users to share album covers and Spotify links in their stories.

A good example of an artist utilizing “the power of the ‘Gram” is Lizzo, who got a lot of fans through this channel. One Instagrammer gave a good example on how she discovered Lizzo: a friend of hers posted Lizzo’s song on her story, and soon enough, Lizzo was one of her favorite artists. It’s as simple as that. By the way, Lizzo now has over 6.5M followers on Instagram, she's gotten most of them (5.5M) since May 2019, and new ones keep joining the party. 

Lizzo knows how to use Instagram to her advantage. She’s also not afraid to flaunt her body, and the fans love it. This post got over 1M likes alone. 
Source: Instagram

Endorsed by influencers

A good example of how influential Instagram is occurred in 2017, when Jake Paul, a YouTube vlogger and one half of the notorious Paul brothers duo that doesn’t shy away from scandal, included the song “Rolex” by Ayo & Teo in a post on his channel with 7M followers at the time. Soon after, YouTube views for the song “Rolex” exploded. The duo was signed to Columbia Records, who noticed a sudden spike in sales and streams and at first had no idea what had happened. A similar thing occurred when Lebron James played a song by Tee Grizzley in one of his Instagram posts. Tee got half a million new followers on Instagram in barely one month.

Ayo & Teo became a huge success after influencer Jake Paul posted their song on his Instagram.

People can discover new music by checking what their friends (and idols) are posting. The result: new songs and artists based on a personal recommendation.

If your friend’s posts and stories on Instagram have such an effect, what can someone with a huge IG following do? If a huge star like Ariana GrandeJustin Bieber, or, if you like harder riffs, a supergroup like ColdplayIron Maiden, or Slipknot posts something about an unknown artist, it can turn that musician into a superstar quicker than you can say Beyoncé’s baby bump. 

Your role models most likely follow artists they think are cool. We’ve got a way for you to discover how Instagram musicians are connected – search for your favorite artists, and check their pages to see who they follow and who follows them right here


So, is the word of mouth dead?

We could say it's just morphed and relocated. We're spending more and more time in the virtual world, and a lot of communication takes place on social media. Instagram made music discovery more convenient, but it's you who has to make sure to put yourself on the map. Also, networking and working on your engagement is key. 

To do this right, read more about the basics every Instagram musician has to follow: Pro 'Gramming: Tips for Winning Instagram as a Musician




Cover photo: Eric Nopanen (Unsplash)


Here's another way to up your game. If you're a musician, your page, automatically updated with all your latest stuff, is probably already on Viberate. You can send it to promoters, talent scouts, and A&Rs, and use the time you'd otherwise spend updating your onepager on making music. Check it out and sign-up to claim it.


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Urban Klancnik

Urban Klancnik

Guest Writer at Viberate
A journalist, writer, drummer, and music enthusiast. Spent the last 20 years destroying his hearing with Metal and Rock and sharing his experiences from some of the biggest festivals in the world.