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As per usual, I was late to the party. Beautiful people mingling, trending political and social issues being discussed, all manner of things being shared privately and the occasional fake person following you, making no-context comments about their get-rich-quick schemes. ‘What a great party’ you may think, but no, this party never ends, and you're all invited through the app that is Instagram. Instagram shook up social media by moving the focus from boring rants posted by your ‘kind-of-a-Karen’ aunt who you haven’t talked to for a year, to instant engagement in the form of short videos and images. Messages which can be shown in images and short captions replaced the usual long paragraphs and Insta stories allowed for a temporary exhibit of ones exploits which disappears after 24 hours. The beauty of Instagram was its fast-paced focus on the visual and the fleeting nature of stories. Although today the platform faces competition from TikTok and is now owned by Facebook, it remains one of the biggest social media platforms, most recently creating Reels; a shorter version of Instagram TV to compete with rival platforms.  

Starting on Instagram  

Starting an Instagram for your music may seem daunting, but it needn’t be. The first step is sorting out a name for the account and deciding whether you’re just going to use your existing account and hone the content uploaded. In terms of the name, Instagram is littered with ‘TimSmith_Guitar’ or ‘GaryPrice1Official’ accounts and although it’s certainly a direct angle, other more creative possibilities exist. A cursory look through some of the session players/educators making Instagram work for them show a variety of creative names, some examples being ‘Kerry2Smooth’, ‘JulestheWulf’, ‘Guitarianna’, ‘dhodgeworld’ and ‘ChrisDaddyDave’. These guys all have 50k+ followers with successful careers and a seemingly common theme among them to use a catchy nickname. Maybe using a nickname adds a more casual edge as if you're interacting with a friend (as opposed to a ‘X + instrument’ style name) which in turn makes it more memorable. If it’s a group or a band behind the account than the whole process is a lot easier. As long as the name fits, use it, especially considering the name has already had some thought put into it. The name under the handle can also help with visibility in searches, so keeping that name simple and obvious can help people find you. 

Directly under the name is the bio. Being honest, when was the last time you read or remembered a bio? I can’t remember either, but this is where you can put brand hashtags and URL links, so let’s look at what should go into a good bio. The bio is, in effect, a space of 150 words to quickly sell yourself and set a theme for the profile. There are no right or wrong things to put in your bio, some musicians use it as flex real estate and list their achievements, others will put in a few emojis, but it definitely should contain a URL link to your website. The best way to maximise the hyperlink is by using Linktree, which allows you to link directly to a home page of other links, so allowing for you to put everything in one place. Along with the URL, including your hashtag in the bio can be a great idea, especially if you’re a band or project. Have a hot new album coming out called “Bills diner”? Maybe try the hashtag #ServedInBills and encourage people to share food pics with the hashtag. A fun novel hashtag that ties into what you're doing can be a great way to get your fans involved. Although if you don’t have a large audience, a simple hashtag which uses the project name can be more effective. The hashtag, along with @ names are the only devices you can use in your bio which can increase visibility when it comes to searches, so including a ‘keyword’ in it can really help. 

Effective bios are usually brief and utilise standard marketing ‘call to action’ language, like a verb that relates to what you want the audience to do, for example ‘stream the hit new single XYZ now!!!’. A format for a bio that works well is bullet points and emojis - emojis may not sound very professional but a picture can show a thousand words and bright colours draw attention. An example bio for my new Instagram session guitar page could be as follows: 

Although slightly tongue in cheek, it reads like a believable bio. Asking people to share videos is a call to action and the hashtag contains my name, a verb that is associated with the instrument and the instrument name, helping with visibility. Breaking up your bio with bullet points also allows you to have some fun and maybe start each line with an emoji or a word. Make it memorable. 

Designing your page 

Instagram is a crowded party, there’s a queue for the bathroom and people cluttering the stairs. Stats on the app show that around 200 million Instagram users visit or engage with at least one business account on there a day. So if we’re going to get noticed, let’s ditch that stained band T-shirt and go for the Gucci suit. When designing your page, it’s important to start with the aesthetics in mind from day one, choosing a theme for the account. A fun activity that can help is to decide your brand personality, this is especially important if you’re a band. Try making a bullet point list of personality traits or just elements you want to convey and think of the associated imagery. For example, let’s say you’re the next Norah Jones, a list could read as follows: 

Once you have some ideas on the personality, try to narrow down on the type of content posted. For example, Jens Larsen, the YouTube personality and gifted music educator has an organised and focused feed which is predominantly short videos of him playing guitar or images of notation showing what he played. Most of the videos have a very similar thumbnail and rarely contain any superfluous dialogue, with the camera almost never panning from the neck of his guitar. You know exactly what you’re getting with his posts and he’s carved a niche which his audience expect and engage with. If you’re a session musician posting casual content about what you get up to then keeping a theme with the type of content may be harder, but just look at some existing accounts and there are still themes. Someone like Robert Glasper posts more informal, fun content, Chris Dave does a weekly meme deluge on Sundays and Kerry 2 Smooth will share more personal information. Each has a style of content that they post regularly.  

Carrying on, to create a more memorable page it’s important to consider specific themes of the posts. Some good examples include McDonald’s, who use predominantly yellow posts or Cold Laundry whose page has a distinctly pastel mix of earthy tones or lilacs which are colours closely associated with the brand. The University of Loyola, Maryland did a study where they discovered that using colours can help increase brand recognition by as much as 80%, and a lot of bands or artists use this to their advantage. Think of when the 1975 released their first album, the band only wore black and white, the lead singers Instagram name is Truman Black (referencing his favourite author and his style) and even the lyrics to ‘Chocolate stated how the band dress in black from head to toe.  

When posting your content also think of how the images will look on the grid, for example Ezra Collective will split their merchandise images up so when posted the posts create a bigger picture that you can only see when viewing their feed. Other ideas could be alternating the posts, like Birkenstock who post product then model in product, row by row. So each of your rows could have a theme or make a rainbow effect, creating a rainbow when scrolling through your account. The possibilities are endless, although one rule often followed by content creators is to just use one filter, this helps the feed look congruent and professional. 

Using Instagram to push your music or profile  

Before you start posting or planning your angle on the platform, let’s discuss how we can use Instagram to push your product. A good initial starting point is to research your field and see what other artists are doing, look at what hashtags and style of content those creators are using and posting. Which posts from them get the most fan engagement? Which hashtags work the best and could you steal them? Obviously don’t use specific brand related hashtags, steal their captions or use their photos, but just looking for inspiration isn’t going to hurt. Related to this, also consider syncing your social media accounts. Although accounts treated as separate entities do generally perform better, for example hashtags in general are more for Instagram and content with more text is going to do better on Facebook, but sharing posts that concern gigs or show times can save time and help keep certain fans who engage more with certain platforms updated.  

If you’re a band then the style of content that you post when compared to a more personal, session musician type account will likely be more formal in style, although mixing it up can really help relate to your audience. Have a music education account? Post a casual ‘in-between’ lessons vid where you play your favourite standard or practice something ready for a lesson. Generally speaking, bigger acts or accounts are going to post more professional posts, but this isn’t a set rule, once again just see which posts get more fan engagement. A band like Hiatus Kaiyote posts a varied mix with members ‘Bender’ and ‘Nai Palm’ enjoying big personal followings.  

Frequency of posts is also a factor in growing your following, and Instagram statistics show that it’s quality over quantity. As opposed to Twitter or TikTok where posts have a very short life span, on Instagram (as long as the fan engages with your posts, views your stories and you use the right hashtags) then appearing on their feed isn’t too hard. Consider an artist like Harry Styles or Kendrick Lamar - one posts infrequently when worthwhile things happen, and the latter posts a story maybe every three months. Now obviously they’re mega famous and don’t need to post to keep a following, but when they do, the posts still show high in the feed, showing it’s engagement that’s key on this platform. Posting too much can also be detrimental so if you already run a daily series, like chord of the day or a weekly live stream, then keep this in mind with how much you post around it. 

Just like every social media platform, Instagram loves account interaction and engagement. A great way of growing your profile is to interact with similar accounts, turn rivals to friends. For example, say you’re a wedding band, search #WeddingBands and like and comment on other wedding bands who will hopefully follow or reply to you which helps grow your presence/visibility. This idea also relates to how you should handle your own followers, replying to them, engaging with their posts and following the super fans is a great way to reward them. For those who prefer statistics and analytics, here is a list of great apps you can download to help you manage your account; 

These apps are free and can help you manage and keep track of how well your posts perform and plan your future content. 

Future of Instagram and how you can use it 

As of 2020, Instagram has started enabling artists to start monetising their livestreams, helping them make money during lockdowns. Although using Instagram to push your fans towards bandcamp is still more profitable for artists. A new initiative rolled out by Instagram near the end of 2020 was allowing fans to buy badges during livestreams, a badge gave money to the artist and also allowed the fan to access exclusive content. Looking into 2021, Instagram also wishes to integrate shopping into more of the features, for example it has already been added to the main menu along the bottom and into Reels. Instagram wants to create a virtual merchandise table and although an exciting avenue for monetisation it will be interesting to see how this initiative ages as the world returns to embracing live shows and record shops. Reels lend themselves to teasing new music, so adding in the option of purchasing music there makes sense. To also cash in on a more loyal audiences during lockdowns, Instagram is planning on integrating some sort of musical landing page, theorised as a repurposed handle the company already own, like the @Instagram page, the idea would be to emulate the YouTube playlist, Spotify takeover or Apple home page. The idea of being able to get your music featured over videos or images on such a page, which currently boasts 383 million followers is tantalising, and it would be interesting so see how such real estate is allocated and what effect it would have for independent artists. 

At the end of the day, Instagram remains one of the biggest social media platforms out there, a party which is only growing and one that attracts the age groups with the most disposable income. It boils down to theme, presentation and finding a niche for your content. Whether you want to grow your bands following or share some videos and find new students, Instagram is definitely the most versatile platform.  

To find out more, check out our courses here.

Snapchat and Instagram’s child bathed in the ashes of Vine and arose as the viral behemoth that is TikTok. An app deeply associated with Generation Z, dance challenges and cute dogs, it has over half a billion users worldwide and nearly all the videos contain music. The platform has already been utilised by many famous artists to grow their fan base and get their music into your phone speakers, examples being Drake with ‘Toosie Slide’ and Doja Cat’s ‘Say So’ which have associated dances that users can recreate in videos. A by-product of its reliance/use of music in the videos can also give old songs a new lease of life, Paul Anka’s ‘Put your head on my shoulder’ is a great example and has even led to him releasing new versions of the song to cash in on its revival. 

Understanding the app

TikTok has a flexible format, with videos normally lasting around 15 seconds but can stretch to 60 and with an emphasis on authenticity over perfection, the videos can look as DIY as you’d like and doesn’t need a set length. Although I’d encourage at least enough lighting so people can make out an image without adjusting their phone brightness and just about long enough so it doesn’t sound like a jumping vinyl player.  

The app also offers great options when creating these videos; one feature allowing you to shoot incrementally, chaining short clips together to create a single video, great for outfit or instrument changes. Another intuitive feature is how it allows you to find the song first if you wish, so you can choose the snippet of the song you want and record video to that, in effect working backwards to how you’d edit a song into an Instagram story. Something to also keep in mind is the freedom TikTok gives the user in terms of uploading from other editing programs like Adobe Premiere as long as it’s a vertical video, opening the door to a greater level of visual tinkering. 

The #FYP and looking at the algorithm  

The main page users interact with on TikTok is the #FYP (or For You Page). It’s fundamentally a flowing feed of algorithmically generated content, and the more a user engages with certain types of video, the intelligence of the app shines and will start to tailor certain content to the user's interests. This feed is where popular songs become viral. Due to how simple it is to use another video’s audio, dance challenges, lip syncing videos or duet/play along videos are incredibly easy to create and upload.  

Mastering the #FYP is tricky as it follows a myriad of rules and algorithms, although here are few things to consider: 

It’s skewed locally 

The app is very smart, Liam Neeson levels of smart, and knows where you are. It is more likely to show you videos from local creators and in turn, show your videos to local users. So an idea on how to easily relate to your audience would be to utilise local landmarks or local trends. Is there a really famous local busker, artist or personality? A local venue? Or even local slang or an in-joke which will appeal to those in the know? Remember TikTok was made for very frequent posting, so don’t be afraid to hone certain posts to just locals. 

Hashtags 

This one has already been hammered into us by nearly every other platform, but just like the rest, TikTok uses hashtags. Use a mix of hashtags for the best results, so for example if you’ve posted an in-pocket Dilla drum cover, try using a hashtag that relates to ‘slum village’ as well as a broader ‘drums’ one. 

Collaborate and engage with other creators/users 

Collaborating with more established creators has a variety of obvious benefits and advantages including increasing the chances of your own solo videos appearing on the feeds of your collaborators. Engaging with posts which relate to your content, in terms of commenting or sharing on to other platforms, is a great way of getting your profile onto the screens of others and increase your fan base. To expand on this idea, sharing your own posts onto other platforms may feel narcissistic, but it’s a great way of trying to get your fans to follow you cross platform and rack up your views.  

Look at the time of your post uploads 

Study your audience and where they live, targeting your uploads to high online traffic times. Below are some of the best general posting times for TikTok, they work by considering when people will first wake and check their phones, scroll in downtime and before bed etc. Although always remember to double check for country specific ones to fully maximise your market: 

It’s important to also engage and learn where your audience is based, and their location may surprise you. TikTok has dominated Thailand where 1 in 7 people have the app downloaded, 20 million users in India and 140 million in China, dwarfing America’s 14 million. With all these users, your audience may be more global than you think… 

Uploading music and sharing original material  

Using CD Baby or Vydia is a quick and easy way to get your music into the TikTok library, allowing your music to be found and used in videos on the app and more importantly get you income. What could also be important to note is that due to TikTok having a relationship with CD baby, you won’t need to separately opt in for social video monetisation. The music will also be automatically uploaded to Resso along with TikTok. Resso is an affiliate of TikTok and is currently only available in a handful of territories, like Indonesia for example (a country boasting 3.5% of the world’s population), but will still generate you income when your hit meme themed single breaks the app. 

Using TikTok to promote original music is easy and fun to do, considering the tips above, let’s look at some ways we can advertise your music: 

Participate in trends or challenges 

Watch your own feed and research similar artists, look out for current trends in video ideas or themes. Is there a certain dance challenge you could participate in (or maybe utilise a more athletic friend if just the thought gives you a minor heart attack)? Is there a challenge like the ‘Bow Wow’ or ‘Ice Bucket’ challenge that you could do and soundtrack with your song? Is there a new trend developing in people's videos, like filming content in the ‘golden hour’ that your song would suit? 

Film fun skits 

The video starts following a busker on a busy high street, the audio is just background noise, the busker thanks the crowd and counts into the next song, as the busker starts singing the audio switches to that of your song dubbed over the video, the video quickly jumps to running crowds from an apocalypse movie. However cheesy such an idea sounds, it might make a few chuckles and would only require some (even fake) busking footage. Would your music be amusing over cats chasing laser pens or staring longingly out of windows? Funny animal clips are low effort and serves as great filler content. 

Perform your music live 

Maybe slightly harder to do in shorter videos, fans would still love to watch a raw clip which captures an earlier version of the track with alternate lyrics or a vocal run you only normally do live. What is going to make this 15 second live clip special? 

Selling yourself as a general musician  

Maybe writing the next ‘Careless Whisper’ isn’t your calling in life, maybe being an insanely gifted educator, session aficionado or influencer personality who just so happens to shred a mean panpipe is? In this case, let’s look at some ways you can sell your talent: 

Duet/Jam videos 

Post a cover of a track, maybe with a tricky run in it, then encourage users to duet - following your lead or harmonising your lines, then comment or re-share them to engage with the fans. Another idea, especially for instruments, is to play along to a backing track or play an accompaniment (if taking this route, possibly using a tricky progression) and asking fans to trade lines with you over the track or play over the changes of your comping.  

Post covers or videos of you playing 

The classic Instagram style video, now on TikTok. Aim for current trending songs with the right hashtags for more exposure. 

Fun re-harmonisations or gimmicky ideas 

Want to hear what ‘God is a woman’ sounds like to the changes of ‘Giant Steps’? If ‘Roxanne’ modulated up a half step every time Sting sung the name? Or if ‘Watermelon Sugar’ had been produced by J Dilla? Well, someone does and tying this to a meme or a funny video which draws on artist stereotypes is only going to help.  

Lessons 

Maybe break simple ideas down into mini tutorials. Ruben Wan is a master of this on his platforms, check out his Instagram for some very smart ways of condensing theory or big ideas into very short inspiring videos. These videos may be better suited as the juicy main course 60 second content considering they’ll be slightly longer, with the 15 second appetisers luring the users in. 

Closing thoughts 

Some final aspects to consider are: 

In conclusion, TikTok is a relatively new, yet invaluable platform to utilise when looking to gain a wider audience. Great for harnessing a younger audience and for using in tandem with Instagram, it offers a way to gain a viral hit fast. You might already have the perfect song to kick off a dance challenge. 

To find out more, check out our courses here.

For music artists and bands looking to grow their fan base, a great website remains an important tool. It’s an exciting time when producing a website as it’s your “home”. It’s a place where fans can easily discover you and your music, and then hopefully go on to be paying customers and superfans who champion your work. 

 But getting website traffic isn’t easy. Competition for your fans' time is highly competitive.  

 If you want to get more people visiting your website, try implementing these eight tips: 

Create share-worthy content 

By creating amazing content that attracts fans, they could feel compelled to share on social media and expose you to a wider audience. 

If you’re not creating content that emotionally connects with your fans, you risk being lost in the millions of pieces of content published each month. You will need to create unique, attractive, inherently valuable, share-worthy content that speaks for itself. 

Learn More: https://www.waterbear.org.uk/your-social-media-survive-or-thrive/ 

Share your website content on social media 

With a productive social media strategy, whenever you create a piece of content, share it multiple times across your social media profiles in different ways.  

Repurposing is a great way to refresh content without repeating yourself. 

When you share your content on social media, understand which format works best for each platform you choose to work with. 

Learn More: https://optinmonster.com/40-ways-to-repurpose-blog-content/ 

Build your email list with lead magnets

Each time you publish something valuable on your website, you can send a link out to your email list which will organically bring visitors to your site. 

The bigger your email list, the more people you’ll get to your website.   

One of the most effective ways to build your list is by giving away something in exchange for an email address. The giveaway, called a ‘lead magnet’, is valuable content that people can get once they hand over their email address. For example: exclusive music, downloads, blogs, live streams, premium content which is unavailable anywhere else.   

Learn More:  https://optinmonster.com/9-lead-magnets-to-increase-subscribers/ 

Guest posting

Guest posting on someone else’s website or social media allows you to tap into a new audience. 

If you have something valuable to offer, that will be of interest to others, research other websites that relate to your subject matter. It doesn’t necessarily always need to be just about music. Consider popular culture, trending topics, and current news. 

If you want to stand out and have the opportunity to post on someone else’s platform, you’ll need to be unique in your pitch. It’s not just about you getting in front of the audience, it’s also about you adding value to their audience.  

 Learn More: https://www.convinceandconvert.com/content-marketing/9-tips-to-perfectly-pitch-your-guest-blog-post/ 

Participate in online forums 

Forums and Facebook groups can be great sources of traffic for your website if you know what you’re doing. 

These platforms will want you to participate in the conversation that’s happening in the group itself, not simply spamming the group with your music links. You’ll need to answer people's questions, contribute your thoughts, ask questions, and add something significant to the conversation. 

If you’re an active member then you can share the occasional link to relevant content on your site. But only share a link to your website when it’s relevant to the conversation. Don’t force your music on people.  

Learn More: https://www.socialmediatoday.com/news/how-to-sell-on-social-media-without-being-too-salesy/563845/ 

Reference influencers 

If you can get an influencer with a large social media audience to share your content with their audience, it can be a huge boost for your website traffic. 

One of the most effective strategies for getting others to share your content is to quote or reference them via social media tagging. Be sure to make sure your social media content is really easy to understand, fast. Asking a question is a great starting point. This could begin the journey of building a relationship and having your content shared to a wider audience.  

Learn More: https://referralrock.com/blog/successful-influencer-marketing/ 

Collaboration

Always be on the lookout for ways to collaborate with other people who also have their own audience. The obvious collaboration is releasing music with another artist. However, there are many other methods to explore. 

For example, collaboration is very common in the YouTube world and one way creators build up their subscriber base. Instead of trying to build an audience all by yourself, you can team up with others and mutually benefit each other. 

Learn More: https://influencermatchmaker.co.uk/blog/top-tips-creating-authentic-brand-collaborations 

Advertise

Advertising on the likes of Facebook and Instagram is a cost effective way to get traffic directly to your website. Yes, it does cost money (unlike the other strategies listed so far).  

But if you’re willing to spend a little bit of cash on content that’s already proven to be successful, you can get a lot of specific traffic to your site and not pay loads doing it. 

Learn more: https://www.facebook.com/facebookmedia/blog/facebook-ads-strategy-for-musicians 

The good news is that you can start implementing the above tactics immediately and get more website traffic. Always be sure to start small and work smart. Begin with one tactic, focus on it, and learn how to do it effectively. Then move onto the next only when you’re ready to. 

If you start implementing these strategies one by one, at the right time, you’ll begin to see an increase in your website traffic.  

If you interested in learning more and are serious about progressing in your career as a musician,  Order a Prospectus or Apply Now.

Creating and publishing social media content on a regular basis can sometimes feel like an endless line of tasks with little reward. While it’s no secret that social media usage continues to grow, for artists and bands looking to stand out in a crowded market tapping into your creativity should be seen as an ace up your sleeve. 

When it comes to new music releases, thinking outside the boundaries of simply promoting products is crucial to success, especially if you’re hoping to build your fanbase. The rise of social media and the accessibility of a vast array of entertainment means that musicians should consider that it’s not just other music artists and bands competing for people's time. 

Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime, podcasts, blogs and many other on demand digital platforms are consumed at a highly rapid rate and, with streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music offering “all you can eat sonic buffets”, it can seem like a daunting challenge when preparing social media content for publication vs the outcome. 

The good news is that with a healthy dose of imagination, creativity, preparation and knowhow, there are plenty of ways for musicians to differentiate themselves with their social and digital online presence.  Reaching wider audiences who, as a result  become new fans is a gamechanger for musicians looking to build and sustain a career in music. 

Two starting points when approaching a different social media content process is to look at the big brand media platforms I’ve mentioned previously and embrace what media actually is. For example: 

Your social media is a TV station 

Consider your social media platform to be a television station.  TV uses a variety of informative, entertaining, and educational programming. Advertising makes up a smaller part of the schedule. Consider your music products as the advertising arm of your media presence and then look at your current social media content. If the majority of your output is “ Watch this new music video”, “stream our new song”, “pre-order the new ep / album” etc, essentially your social media is predominantly made up of advertising. These types of posts might serve to inform your audience about your music but if you’re not allowing for engaging posts that encourage fans to participate, it’s likely social media algorithms are squeezing the reach on the visibility of your posts.  

Take the time to research resources such as tv channels and on-demand services like Netflix, and consider how you could adopt different ways to produce and deliver unique, interesting content that might resonate with a wider audience. 

The recipe to success 

Here are six key ingredients to help make your social media pop out: 

R = RECREATIONAL: Funny, popular culture, films, tv, music, jokes, memes, gifs, holidays. 

E = EDUCATIONAL: Trivia, facts, tips, tricks, hacks, trends, research, case studies, history, on this day. 

C = CONVERSATIONAL: Surveys, polls, fill in the blanks, Ask a question, this vs that, featured of the week/month. 

I = INSPIRATIONAL: Quotes, reviews, success stories, achievements, before and after, images of people and events that inspire your music. 

P = PROMOTIONAL: Discounts, buy one get one free, customer reviews, FB/IG Live, webinars, workshops, playthroughs. 

E = ENTREPRENEURIAL: Behind the scenes stories about your music, featured band members, personal life, mission and vision statements, values, story of the band and people involved with it. Involve your fans and their stories. 

Slice the pie 

Make sure your social media bio, header, avatar and website clearly showcase your latest music, as well as how to buy it. Divide your content into percentages. Remember to give your audience value and variety, this will be gamechanger for you and your music releases: 

Informative = 30% 

Entertainment = 30% 

Educational = 30% 

Advertising = 10% 

If you use the above points as a new foundation for your social media strategy, there are a number of options available to produce high quality content. While getting your music noticed is the primary concern, consider other popular cultures and hobbies that you can tap into via different media platforms that makes your audience want to get involved in. 

Ten suggestions

Try exploring the ten suggestions below and find ways to blend these seamlessly into your social media management. (Tip: devise a social media calendar for your media delivery to optimise productivity and regularity so that your audience are notified in advance).

1.  Podcasting

2. Blogging

3. Vlogging

4. Online Live Events (tip: find ways to get your band members and fans involved)

5. Virtual ‘Pub style’ Quiz (tip: get your fans involved with popular culture)

6. Tik Tok (tip: check out ‘Duets’)

7. Embrace Scarcity

8. Instagram/Facebook Stories

9. Engage Fans in Comments and Turn Them into Superfans

10. FB Advertising

There is no magic formula when it comes to achieving high reach with every post. Research your social media options and diversify your content accordingly. Because of this change in formula you will be noticed and reach a wider audience.

Try something different today and embrace your creativity. Don’t be afraid to try new things, even if they don’t always work.

If you interested in learning more and are serious about progressing in your career as a musician,  Order a Prospectus or Apply Now.

I’m a social media music industry specialist and in this blog, I want to share ideas on how to improve your social media and increase the reach of your brand.

I’ve been involved with the guys at Waterbear for a long time, and believe it or not Bruce Dickinson was my mentor when I was a student. Bruce is the most influential person I’ve been involved with throughout my career, and due to his mentorship I’ve learned about work ethic, best practice, and the music industry. I’m a firm believer that the team at Waterbear are some of the best educators in the entire country.

This blog is about using social media to grow your audience and build your brand online. Now, most of us are social media consumers, but, before we go diving into a social media strategy and becoming a marketeer, we need to appreciate the overview of social marketing. And answer the question “What is it that we are trying to achieve with our social media?”

An overview of social media

Traditionally the music industry had barriers to entry in the form of record labels. They would advance you the money needed to create a record and subsequently distribute it. However, that’s all changed due to advancements in technology, not only can we make music for little money, but we can also distribute our music for next to no cost.

If you can build an audience that engages with you, and embarks on your journey, you have the ultimate control. No matter whether you want to go on tour, sell merchandise or put your music out there, you have full reign and no longer need the middle man or gatekeeper. This gives you control over your art and allows you to build a community that will invest time, money and become part of your tribe.

Platforms of discovery

Once we have our purpose and know what we are trying to achieve, we can start to question where we are going to house our content. You have many options to consider; Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, Snapchat, Twitter, LinkedIn, the list goes on and on. You need to judge what is the best platform for your project and consider whether you should be on all of them or only use a few.

The answer to this depends on your skillset, you may be a fantastic creative writer, or, like myself, you may not mind being on camera. However, it’s possible that you may have a camera phobia and prefer to use audio for your content creation, this is also completely fine.

Most new bands set up on every platform under the sun to get their message out there. Unfortunately, this is setting yourself up for a fall, effectively managing one social media platform at a high level is testing, let alone managing four to five platforms. If you go down the path of using them all, there is the potential that you will let down your audience as you are spread too thin.

It’s 2019 and I do not know where social media will go in 2020, however, I can tell you that Youtube is the most under-utilised social media platform there is for art, music, and bands. It’s an absolute monster when it comes to the search engine capability it is only second to google, and google owns youtube. When it comes to the “Evergreen content”, the entertainment factor and how many people are consuming content on this platform, Youtube is perfect. It excels at long-form content which can then be broken down and inserted into other platforms. My advice is to use youtube and find a way of making it a central part of your social media campaign.

And then there is Facebook, it’s still a monster, and yes, the algorithm has changed, however when it comes to distributing your content and creating a community, Facebook is second to none. You can throw text, pictures, video’s at it and have conversations with your audience, it’s an absolute giant when it comes to social media. The advertising behind facebook is the best structure in the entire world.

What sort of content should I produce?

So, what sort of content should you put out on your social media? Well, here is something you’ll see me write time and time again, this is about how you look after your audience! Try and avoid advertising, your audience is not there to be promoted to every five minutes. The push media I see; “Buy our tickets” “watch our video” and “listen to our music” are just demands. The audience wants to come with you on a journey and they do not want to be pushed around all the time.

As for the content you should create, it’s up to you, it can range from vlogs, performances, updates and many more. It’s up to your skill set and how much time you have to put into your project. However always remember this, it's about the audience first and how you look after them.

Final tips

Whether you are starting your social media journey or have been doing it for a while, I would say don’t make social marketing a bigger deal than it needs to be. You need to make social media a part of your routine and look after your audience. Use your skills, your strengths and the opportunities around you to tell these stories.

Let me give you an example, most of you reading this will be musicians, you have the ability to pick up an instrument and trigger emotion. Whether its sadness, happiness or anger, you have the potential to make an audience stop what they are doing and give you their attention. Therefore that's the content you need to start off with.

Your job is to build an audience, or more importantly a community and to do that you need to bring value and say hello. “Hello” is the most important word when starting a relationship and from there you can grow your numbers from one to one million, it all starts with one person and one word and that is hello.

A quick word on mentorship

Before I close this blog, I want to tell you about an amazing aspect of Waterbear. And that's the 1-2-1 mentorships schemes that’s offered through their BA and MA courses. This was a life changing process for me and it’s positive to see it being brought into the college. No one makes these plans on their own and every plan is slightly different, having one to one guidance is specific to you and will translate into real goals for your career.

If you are interested in learning more and are serious about progressing in your career as a musician please join us at WateBear HQ for an Open Day or Order a Prospectus

There is little doubt that starting a YouTube channel and becoming an online guitar teacher changed my life for the better. In this article, I hope to show you how it could have a similar impact on your life.

Remember, many principles of success on YouTube also apply to any platform or creative project. I could use the same principles I have learned to grow the next new app or break a band. Therefore, I hope this article will appeal to a wide variety of hope and aspirations you may have for your online world. But of course, I’m slightly biased towards musicians and teachers, because we’re the best :).

My story in short

I started uploading guitar lessons to YouTube in 2009, the same time as I began being a part time self-employed guitar teacher. I had multiple jobs at this time to make ends meet, as is often the case with musicians. I was the singer/ guitarist in a three piece cover band playing indie music at weddings; I was the in house tech at venues such as 02 Academy Leeds and The Leadmill in Sheffield; and I taught guitar lessons 1 to 1 from my home studio (aka spare room).

The best thing that could have happened

These jobs actually worked well together and for a number of years, I thought this would be my lot in life and I was pretty satisfied with it. However, at the start of 2013, I made a video called ‘Play TEN songs with two EASY chords’ which went over 100,000 views within a couple of months. In hindsight, there is no better video to advertise what I stood for. Had any other video I made around this time gone viral, things might not have gone as they have, but more on this later.

Having pretty much waited all my life for any opportunity to make a living as a musician on my own terms, I saw even this blip on the YouTube stats graph as my golden ticket. I promptly handed in my notice and left all other jobs on good terms and aimed to capitalise on the opportunity I saw by making more videos that anyone worldwide could follow. I then focussed on building an online syllabus of guitar, along with becoming fully booked with 1 to 1 private guitar students.

The worst thing that could have happened…

In late 2013, 6 months after my biggest video had started going viral, I had an RSI type hand injury out of nowhere; no accident, no event. It just hurt one day, and it hurt for the next 2 years. I had meetings with doctors and surgeons, but they couldn’t work out what was wrong. Perhaps a trapped nerve they said, but they couldn’t find it and couldn’t offer treatment. From there, I spend £1000s over those couple of years on acupuncture, myofascial release, you name it. I travelled from Leeds or Manchester or London every couple of weeks for months at a time seeing anyone from chiropractors to physical therapists. I was desperate to capitalise on the opportunity that YouTube was showing, but I couldn’t. I was desperate and tried everything. Honestly, the best thing that helped? This https://scenarworld.co.uk/ They are magic.

However, even when I was injured, I still kept on teaching 1 to 1 (you can teach guitar by talking alone easily, especially to beginners) and my youtube stats kept growing, even if I couldn’t make new videos. Forget income protection insurance, youtube was still providing income and security even while I was out of action! Had I been a full time live working musician, I would have had zero income for these two years.

TOP TIP: YouTube and online content can not only be a side income, but can be essential support income for if you are ever injured, out of work or take time away from touring etc.

In 2015, when I eventually could play guitar again without pain, I picked up like I’d never been away. I had tonnes of ideas for videos and couldn’t wait to film them. I’ve since created courses, guitar lesson apps and even started a piano lessons YouTube. I’m now able to work from home or anywhere in the world with internet access, all on my own terms, and the stats are still growing daily. With all that has happened over the past 10 years, it is my opinion that you can’t afford NOT to attempt to grow a following. I shared many of the tips I share below with Damien Keyes 2 years ago, and he has recently proved that in 2 years you can be earning a real part time income with YouTube.

I’d love to help you reading this to use the same tools that worked for me to achieve whatever goals you have, so let’s get stuck in!

Part 1 – what worked for me 

There are essentially two ways to build your following on all the big social media platforms;

- Appear in search results for key phrases e.g. in my case ‘ Guitar Lessons’ etc (this includes search results for hashtags these days)

- Become an ‘influencer’ where your content becomes a ‘must watch’ for your subscribers

The fact that I earn a full time income from a purely internet based business is down to a knack for popping up in online search results. My top guitar lessons on YouTube and my website rank highly on google and YouTube (owned by google) and that was my intention when I made them.  My Andy Guitar APP currently ranks in the top 4 results for ‘Guitar Lessons’ on the Google Play store. I don’t have as many followers on instagram or facebook as they are not as search orientated, but this is fine. I learn lessons from what I see on those platforms, but as long as google and youtube are rocking, then all is good in my world.

I choose to make beginner based lessons because this is what I always did best when teaching 1 to 1.

TOP TIP: Whatever works for you in the real world, try and put this online in your videos, blogs and content.

Now let’s get stuck in to some things I’ve seen work on YouTube specifically.

Key qualities of a popular YouTube channel

Title and image/ thumbnail are key

Amazingly, if a youtube video has great image and title that makes people want to click, and people click on it!

This strays into ‘click bait’ territory. In my opinion, click bait style tactics are fine – the thing that makes your video NOT click bait is making sure your video fulfills the promise of the title and thumbnail for the viewer.


Have a gambit/ a strong reason for people to watch, read or listen

All my most popular videos have a strong gambit element ‘Play ten songs with..’, ‘Learn guitar in 10 days’, ‘Electric Guitar Lesson 1’ etc all rank higher than more standard ‘tutorial’ titles.

 

Represent an audience; speak to them and for them

I represent beginners, especially those that have struggled with learning guitar in the past. If I can make something easier, I often will. As an example, I also don’t expect my audience to all practice guitar for an hour a day, so I often choose to film content that they can do even if they haven’t practiced in a while. Many teacher just dismiss students like this, I embrace them and give them something they can do. And a YouTube channel to subscribe to…

 

Find you’re niche, but don’t discount mass appeal

On the face of it, my channel is for people that play guitar (for arguments sake, let’s say 25% of adults) Actually, my most watched lessons are all intended for people thinking about starting guitar, or who always wanted to but never really started. This means the potential audience interested in my flagship videos is arguably much bigger than a regular guitar lessons channel.

Topical content vs evergreen content (aka legacy videos)

- Topical videos good for instant views but will fade over time and become irrelevant

- Evergreen content or ‘Legacy videos’ GROW over time, creating expediential growth

- A mixture of the two is key, but know which your video is before creating

Video titles

You do you in the video – but the title and thumbnail will likely be the determining factor to whether people click to watch or don’t (people often do judge a book by the cover…)

TOP TIP - Use the ‘auto complete’ feature on YouTube and google to find the most search for terms, phrases and key words

The order for SEO style youtube titles should go in the following order;

Searchable item > qualifier > series name if needed

e.g.  Guitar Lesson 1 - Absolute Beginner? Start Here! [Free 10 Day Starter Course] currently at 3 million+ views

“Guitar Lesson 1” – searchable item

“Absolute Beginner? Start Here!”  - qualifier, says who the video is intended for

“[Free 10 Day Starter Course]” Series name

OK, but where does the money come from?

Frankly, this is always what everyone wants to know.  “But how do you get paid for this?”, “You can’t afford to do this full time, can you?”.

Well, you can these days. Even as little as a few thousand views a month can lead to a real part time income. Here’s where the money comes from, in order from most to least for me personally;

- Selling digital guitar courses, which are available from my website and Andy Guitar app

- Youtube ad revenue

- Selling books and DVDs of my courses

- Affiliate income (amazon affiliate among others)

- Brand deals

- I don’t currently offer any private 1 to 1 or group lessons, but I can go back to this at any time

Part 2 – what works for others 

Success leaves clues. Online success leaves clues that you can easily look back at a trace what works for others. Most of my top videos were actually inspired by the titles and concepts used in fitness videos. But remember, online success is usually platform specific – meaning if you get big on Facebook, that doesn’t guarantee you’ll get big on any other platform.

Listed below are a handful of amazing creators that are knocking it out of the park in terms of their unique mix of original music output and great YouTube and Instagram content. As much of what worked for me 10 years ago is not as effective anymore, I have chosen creators who have grown a substantial following in very recent years;

Mary Spender

For any musician studying at college, degree or masters level today – please check out Mary Spenders YouTube channel. In my eyes, it is the best example of maintaining original music output and live gigs along with growing a YouTube and Instagram following and working with brands.

Mary often releases original songs, music videos and performs live. She also has a regular show Tuesday Talks where she travels to interview other musicians and creatives, along with general travel vlogs of touring, or just a rant on a topic she has a strong opinion on. This balance of original music and touring along with having a regular YouTube ‘Show’ is what I think all studying musicians can learn from this. And she’s based in Brighton these days.

Along a similar lines, check out Rob Scallon and Andrew Huang, who are also phenomenal creators who have been doing a similar thing for many more years.

Paul Davids (guitar lessons) and Peter McKinnon (photography)

I’m grouping these two legends together as both went from seemingly nowhere to 1 million YouTube subscribers in relatively little time over the past couple of years. Both took their love and talent for guitar and photography respectively along with learning cinematic film techniques to make their videos and vlogs look more like short movies than YouTube videos.

This isn’t for everyone, not everyone can learn to make YouTube videos look like Edgar Wright movies. However, I’d also point out that both of these guys might not have made it had they not been allowed to make their own videos. With someone else doing the filming and editing, their videos may not have stood out from the crowd and their success may not have happened.

Part 3: what can work for you 

In summary, there are really only two methods to grow a YouTube following. These can happen separately or alongside each other;

Method 1 – SEO

All the techniques used to rank your website via google are exactly the same way video gets found on YouTube (which is owned by google…). Try to get your videos to rank for the keywords that people search for in your niche, and create engaging videos that live up to these search terms.

Method 2 – Influencer

This method uses techniques more akin to email marketing and brand development than SEO.

Method 2 becomes even more important on Instagram (and facebook) where search results aren’t the way things get found. You need the algorithm to put you in the feeds of users, rather than people searching for something and finding you.

A rant about Instagram, and what we can learn from it

Instagram is the biggest new social media platform. Most people who 3 years ago thought it was just for photographers or models have now made an account and scroll it daily.

At the time of writing, I have 7,260 instagram followers, so I really can’t tell you diddly squat about how to get a million followers on this platform that you couldn’t find on any other internet blog. However, the Instagram influence has been massively felt all across the internet, especially on YouTube.

The instagram effect is that we now expect everything to look cinematic and beautiful. You yourself don’t have to be model good looking in any way, but there is not excuse these days for you content not to look as good as possible!

Here’s a few other FAQs and misc points I’d like to add

You don’t have the be ‘the best’

- Be wary of needing to be a better player or better cinematographer before feeling like you deserve to start

- Posting something imperfect is better than never posting

 

What you can do versus what an audience will want from you

- Usually a very narrow crossover between what an audience wants and what you do

 

Gear advice from all the pros

- Get the most from the gear you have

- £1000s camera equipment does not equal views

- Lighting is everything. Good lighting with bad cameras is better than vice-verse

- More expensive equipment is usually harder to use and harder to get good results than with cheaper gear. Spending 1000s can initially lead to worse results if you don’t know how to use the

 

You don’t need to talk on camera

- Jam track videos/ ambient music for relaxation, asmr or sleep are all massively popular these days

- Gear reviews, unboxing or music lessons do not need your face in the video for success.

 

Should you make a website?

- Making a website alongside a YouTube channel has been key for me

- Website / apps drain time and resources, so this is NOT for everyone

- Consider a simple blog if you like writing or prefer photos

- Consider a podcast (on both YouTube and podcast platforms) if you’re a talker but don’t want to appear on camera.

Remember - many principles of success on YouTube apply to any platform or project

- Title and thumbnail are key

- Have a gambit or strong reason for people to watch, read or listen

- Represent an audience

Recommended further reading

Gary Vee YouTube channel and ‘Crushing it’ book. Essential if you’re new to all this and trying to figure out where to start.

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