How to use social media to discover new artists and get your music out there.
Before social media, musicians had few ways to promote their music without a record deal. Artists were reliant on their label for sales and production, and it was almost unheard of for an artist to handle everything all on their own. Now, as any musician well knows, it’s the other way around. If you can’t gain a following on your own, you’re in trouble. Social media and the digital world completely changed the game for musicians, and is continuing to grow and serve as the public’s number one outlet to discover and connect with new artists.
Why is social media such an alluring option for people to find new music?
Everybody is on it.
Your mom has a FaceBook account, your co-worker is constantly tweeting, all your friends are on Instagram, and the list goes on. The social media platform is so huge, and it’s become a huge part of every industry – especially music.
Musicians are releasing much more than just their music.
When you’re scrolling through a musician’s Instagram, you’re bound to see more than just music. It’s probable that songs or albums, or principle instruments, etc. will be the main focus of any musician’s page, but there’s usually much more. Take Anderson .Paak’s Instagram account. His feed is one giant ongoing picture. This creates an aesthetic matching the feel of .Paak’s albums. When clicking on .Paak’s video posts, you often get to hear some of his music. If it’s not his music, it’s something exclusive and “behind the scenes,” like footage from recent tours. Often times it’s both. This gives viewers a look into Anderson .Paak the musician, but more than that, Anderson .Paak the person.
Guitarist Nicholas Veinoglou is another example of a multi-focused Instagram account. Veinoglou’s page focuses on his guitar playing, but gives viewers a strong sense of his personality as well.
Looking at a photo of Veinoglou wearing a horse mask, there’s absolutely no way of telling he’s a musician. The photo is meant to showcase his fun, easygoing personality, and has a “humanizing” effect on viewers. Veinoglou’s musicianship and guitar playing are prominent of course, but his videos also include donut breaks, which come as no surprise to his not-so-new followers.
#TheDonutDoctor is linked in Veinoglou’s bio, and donuts have become a staple icon in Veinoglou’s posts, music, and his brand itself. The donut serves as an identification factor in Veinoglou’s social media presence, alongside Veinoglou’s blue hair. His entire Instagram feed has a blue “theme.” His guitar is blue, so is his strap, and obviously, so is his hair. All of this comes together to create what feels like a brand, a community, and a culture, all through one musician’s social media account.
How do people use social media to discover new music?
This can be instructive to both the musician (whose social media account is getting “discovered”) and the social media user (who’s discovering the musician’s account).
Start with what you already know.
For the social media user: Choose one of your favorite bands or artists. You may be trying to find new favorites, but building off of your old favorites can be a great first step. One of my all time favorite musicians is the wonderful Allen Stone. Stone is following about 500 people on Instagram. When scrolling through who Stone is following, you’ll see bigger names like Nai Palm, Daniel Caesar, Lianne La Havas, even Alessia Cara and DNCE. But beyond that, Stone is following many lesser known musicians like Moorea Masa, Trevor Davis, and Jessica Childress. I didn’t have to “discover” these artists… Allen Stone did the discovering for me.
For the musician: The flip side of this dynamic is perhaps self-explanatory, but growing a following of fellow musicians is crucial to gaining more “fan” followers.
Use music community platforms.
Communities and feature pages like PickUp promote new (often not wildly popular) musicians, and are arguably one of the main resources for musicians and non-musicians alike to find new favorites. Pages like this are easy to navigate and give you one-stop, immediate access to a multitude of talented musicians you’ve probably never heard. Getting featured on an account like this can be huge for a musician just starting out on social media, or even someone that’s already gained a substantial following. For someone looking to discover new musicians, music community platforms are often the first place they look.
Most of us have a love-hate relationship with social media. But it’s importance in discovering and marketing music cannot be overstated. Having a healthy relationship with social media can be difficult. But finding what works best for you, your music, and your brand is the fundamental goal. Being yourself, letting go, and conveying an honest, authentic persona through your account is one of the most important things a musician can do.
Molly Zucchet is a multi-instrumentalist based in San Diego, California. If she’s not playing music, she’s either writing or talking about it. Her musical style is hard to define, but she considers herself a lover of all things jazzy.
Photography: Veinoglou by Merrick Winter.