Instagram is amping the ways music artists can directly make money on the platform.Redferns
First came all the surprise song drops. Then came the ocean of live activations that gave rise to everything from Verzuz artist battles to unique performances to casual hang-outs with fans.
Now Instagram wants to help music artists make money—through avenues that include tipping mechanisms and shoppable merchandise—plus ramp up their exposure to new audiences and even elevate their stature at streaming music services like Spotify and Pandora.
“What are your goals and what tools do we have available or coming—including driving streams—and what are the best practices around that? That’s a conversation we have all the time with artists,” says head of music Perry Bashkoff.
“It’s a lot of the same questions from different lenses: How do I gain followers, why am I losing followers, how do I drive streams, how do I break?”
Those questions are even more heightened this year as lockdown continues to send artists to virtual stages large and small. Instagram, which celebrated its 10th birthday in October, like many social sites experienced significant growth during 2020. More than 1 billion people use the site every month, including 140 million users in the US, an 8% increase over Q3 2020. Eighty-eight percent of the platform’s users are located outside the US.
The platform is late to the party on some of its efforts for musicians.
Facebook, which owns Instagram, began enabling artists to charge for livestreams back in April and expanded its Stars tipping system. Other platforms where musicians have flocked during lockdown, including Amazon AMZN-owned Twitch, incorporated fan tipping months ago, following music-centric services like Bandcamp, which to date has facilitated $653 million in direct fan payments to artists.
But Bashkoff says Instagram has been working to ensure its offerings play out in a way that’s authentic to the social site, which has been a haven for musicians who’ve embraced Instagram live posts and stories as a way to connect, perform and even deliver what Bashkoff calls live “press releases.”
For one, after being released from prison in September rapper 6ix9ine headed first to Instagram to livestream a 13-minute rant that was seen by an stunning 2 million people. DJ D-Nice spun to 100,000 virtual fans. Miley Cyrus interviewed Elton John and Sen. Elizabeth Warren on her Bright Minded IG show. Lizzo offered meditation moments.
“I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had conversations with artists about how important it is to post live moments,” he says. “And then we watched it happen before our eyes. Certain artists were able to jump right in, and for some we had to host sessions or one-on-ones so they had all the info to start connecting. Having the sheer foundation of the tools was the first thing.”
By all indications, those virtual bonds won’t be breaking once the world opens back up.
“A lot of artists are rethinking things. When they have the ability to go back to the live experience, is there an extended experience or a different angle that keeps them connected to all these new fans they’ve created around the world? The production team is absolutely thinking, What do we need to do to support our artists, the community, the fans… so we have them on deck or we have them built,” Bashkoff says.
Here’s what’s available or in the works at Instagram:
Direct Fan Payments
Badges, a way for fans to tip artists during live performances, began rolling out just before the end of the year among an initial 50,000 creators including primarily emerging artists and hip-hop acts.
Viewers can purchase a badge during a live video, and can then unlock additional features, including placement on a creator’s list of badge holders so performers can give supporters shout-outs during a livestream. Instagram launched with a plan to temporarily match badge earnings.
While Bashkoff says only a small percentage of artists have embraced the option thus far, “the hope is to get to a place in 2021 where this and other monetization business models will kick into play.”
The might happen as the option becomes more available. “It would’ve been a little tone deaf to the current situation to have an A lister going out asking for tips when people are trying to make rent,” he notes.
The Virtual Merch Table
Instagram has been steadily elevating its commerce embrace for some time. For artists, the focus now is on giving fans who want to purchase music and merchandise the same ease as those looking for loungewear during lockdown.
“We’ve started pivoting a lot of what we were doing in shopping to scalable solutions for these musicians who were living and dying by their gigs and their merch tables,” Bashkoff says.
“We changed the whole interface to have the shopping tab at the bottom, next to the Reels tab. We just added shopping to Reels and are planning to ad shopping into all of our interfaces. Those are going to be our two biggest focuses in 2021.”
The Rise of Reels
Reels is Instagram’s spin on the collaborative, creator-driven space that’s exploded at TikTok. “This surface was built to provide tool sets for people to create trends, find new songs, collaborate with each other,” Bashkoff says, noting Instagram is “getting dashboards and data in order so we can provide more information [to artists] on regular basis.”
From a music release announcement standpoint, he notes, “we’re definitely seeing more artists teasing new music out through Reels so that fans can only hear a snippet 24 or 48 hours in advance through Stories or Reels. We’ve done that a few times, everyone from Miley to the Black Keys.”
By design, he says, Reels holds particular promise for emerging acts. “Reels is our first ‘unconnected’ surface. This gives the ability for anyone who posts a Reel to be found by people who don’t follow them. We want to expose you to new, relevant things. The unconnected component is going to give us the opportunity as an industry to start finding new talent, new content, new songs and new trends.”
What it’s not, is a place for straight-up promotion. “You don’t want to put up clips of music videos, things that are consumable. This is about interactions,” he says. “Artists are trying to figure out how to differentiate their Reels feed from a TikTok or Snap so they’re not posting the same thing over and over. Those [artists] that have gotten it have seen 30%-50% or larger follower growths in a matter of weeks.”
More Music “Real Estate”
Instagram by design doesn’t have a landing page. But the platform is looking to develop ways for musicians to optimize “real estate” such as its @Instagram handle, which has 383 million followers, or other specific feeds.
“We’re kicking around ideas to amplify moments when they are happening. Do we create our own programming that we plug artists into? Do we leverage some of our owned and operated handles to do that? That is one thing I would love to be able to figure out in 2021, especially in first half,” Bashkoff says.
“Not only is that what the industry is used to—the Apple AAPL home page, the Spotify takeover, the YouTube playlist—but this kind of real estate moves the needle. I want to be able to speak to a developing artist and say, ‘Create these great things and I’m going to be able to give you a feature and here’s what you get out of it.’ We want to help build their followers and their core business and ultimately become a revenue line for them.”
The content featured on https://entertainment.directv.com/ is editorial content brought to you by AT&T. While some of the programming discussed may now or in the future be available by our or our affiliates distribution services, the companies and persons discussed and depicted, and the authors and publishers of licensed content, are not necessarily associated with and do not necessarily endorse AT&T. When you click on ads on this site you may be taken to AT&T marketing pages that display advertising content. Content sponsored or co-created by programmers is identified as "Sponsored Content" or "Promoted Content."