Musician’s Guide to Instagram – Part 1

No platform is growing faster than Instagram. Now holding over 1 Billion (yes with a B) total users, 800 million monthly users, and anywhere from 200 to 500 million daily users, you are seriously missing out if you aren’t on Instagram. As a musician, the need to use Instagram for growing your fanbase is even more important. This post is your personal guide to Instagram as a musician giving you tips and tricks to beat the algorithm and get more fans/followers!

In 2018, Instagram released a ton of new features for their app and they all can help musicians gain more followers, attract new fans, and begin to convert those fans into paying superfans.

This two part series will cover the Best of the new practices on Instagram. This first post will cover how to beat the algorithm, knowing what to post, and how to get more followers. Part two will be a guide to Instagram focusing on making the best bio, Stories vs Live, and how to reach out to influencers.

The Algorithm

Nothing strikes fear into the hearts of business owners more quickly than a change of the Instagram algorithm. While the app was chronological, meaning posts appeared on your feed as they were posted no matter who posted them, in 2016 a new method was adopted. This algorithm was in response to more people and brands joining the app and making sure that you saw what the algorithm thought you wanted to see.

There are 3 major factors that go into the algorithm and this information comes directly from Instagram itself. The three most important things to remember for beating the algorithm are: Interest, Time, and Relationship. Now you know their secrets you can begin to work with the math and make sure you are seen by more people!

IG algorithm graphic.jpg


The more Instagram thinks that you will like a post, the more it will promote it in your feed. It gets this answer out of what types of posts you like while scrolling and engaging with accounts. So you watched one slime video? Now the app thinks, “Oh hey, they liked slime let’s show them 50 posts that have slime in them!”

Interest means that you should be targeting your photos to meet the interests of your fans or your ideal fans. Think about who your ideal fan is for a moment. Do they want to see images of you in the studio, hear secret sneak peaks of new songs, see your life behind the scenes? Or do they want to know about a secret hot sauce brand you’ve been developing on the side? These are real life examples of musicians I have worked with!

Figure out what your audience wants to see and then give it to them.

Don’t know what they want? ASK! Set up a poll, ask them to reply to a DM, or have them leave a comment.


Did you post something today or three weeks ago? Things that are posted today are shown over things posted in the past.

The app can only show things to people if you give it stuff to show people. Seems easy enough, right? The more content that you give Instagram and the most consistently that you give content to Instagram, the more Instagram will put your stuff in front of your fans!

It really is that simple.


How close are you to the person posting? Do you actively engage with them in stories, like all their posts in feed, and leave comments, or is this a person you found while on the Explore page and have never interacted with before? The more you engage with accounts, the more they will appear.

This means for every like that you want, you need to give 10. For every comment that you want to receive on your posts, you need to give 20.

Each time a comment is left on your post, make sure that you respond to them right away!

Please don’t leave generic comments that just say “thanks”. Give your fans something to respond to! The more you can get a conversation going, the more it tells Instagram that “hey, something is happening in this comment section that fans really like, I am going to promote it to more people”!

The three most important things to remember for beating the algorithm are: Interest, Time, and Relationship.


Continuing our guide to Instagram, is knowing what to actually post on your feed! To know what to post you have to answer two questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What story are you telling?

Not the place you expected to start? That’s okay. These questions grow out of having a music brand. Brands are not the scary things some people make them out to be. It’s a shortcut that you can take to figure out how to best talk to your fans.

Think about it this way. Lady Gaga and Ozzy Ozbourne have totally different brands and everything they do and communicate to their fans is done differently. Neither is better than the other. It’s just different.

We want that for your music.

Are you a musician who is an indie folk singer songwriter? Your visual images on Instagram can include rustic landscapes, guitars, and you playing live.

Are you a pop star? Maybe you’re a punk band? Or maybe you a rapper? All these have different motifs to go with them.

Don’t waste your valuable Instagram space on something else. Always be promoting the images you want people to associate with your music.


The third part of this guide to Instagram covers your followers, both the ones you have and the ones you want. There are three ways which people can see your posts on Instagram. The first is that they already follow you and see your post in their normal scrolling feed. The second is that they find you via hashtags on the Explore page. Finally, they search you out specifically and visit your main page. That gives us three opportunities to best reach people and make them fans.

When you post it is so so SO important to ask yourself: is this image attention grabbing? If I saw this when scrolling, would I stop and look at it? And will this connect to the audience I already have?

If the answer is yes, then you post it!

Should you worry about the number of followers you have and buy more if you don’t have enough?


Let me say that again, buying followers is one of the worst things to do.

First, Instagram knows. They are really seeking out bots who like and follow and are killing those accounts left and right. Which means your money gets wasted. Not fun.

Second, you are building an authentic brand. When you’re booking shows, you want to be sure of the draw numbers you have. Buying followers and having over 10,000 on Instagram means that when you go to book a show at a venue and they see you only have 15 people lined up to attend you are not being truthful in your marketing of your music. This hurts your relationship with venues and booking agencies.

So how do you grow followers?

  • By liking and engaging with your current fans.
  • By posting content your ideal fans want to see.

Look at your account and see where there are areas you can improve. Answer the branding questions and start to gather ideas of what your ideal fan would want to see on Instagram. Ready to move on to part two on the ultimate guide to Instagram for musicians? Click here to read about how to write the perfect bio, IG Stories and Live, and how to reach out to brands and influencers to grow your audience.

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