“One in four of the most-followed accounts on Instagram are musicians. Music is really core to the experience, and it’s not just the really big acts.”
Caroline Drucker should know: she heads up strategic partnerships for Instagram in the EMEA region, and a decent portion of her job involves working with musicians.
“Yes, we have Beyoncé and we have Bieber, but it’s also the long tail of music, from a violin maker in Scandinavia to the kid making beats in his basement. It’s that full spectrum of music-making, from the amateur to the professional. And then the world of fandom.”
The fandom aspect is key: Drucker talks about the impact of artists like Taylor Swift popping up in the comments on fans’ images, or FKA Twigs sharing fan art. That’s aided by the fact that younger artists are likely to be Instagram users themselves, rather than being told to do it by their label or management.
“We have over 400m active users, and 75% are outside the United States. We have a very broad audience but we do have a strength in the millennial area, and a lot of the artists up and coming are already on Instagram,” she says.
“A lot of the talent, especially the bigger names, use it themselves. It’s not something where their managers are getting in the way.”
Drucker gives the example of Miley Cyrus’ #InstaPride initiative in 2015, which was a partnership with Instagram that promised “to share stories of transgender and gender expansive people from around the country”.
“How much ownership did she have of the project, and how connected and really on it was she? It was 100% Miley. Those are the things that work best: when artists are showcasing their authentic selves,” says Drucker.
“That’s not necessarily the thing they’re eating for breakfast either. It’s the things that are making them laugh, the things they’re passionate about. For #InstaPride, Miley came up with the concept, and the way we supported it was helping get that story out there.”
Instagram is also trying to bring musicians together with other entities on its network, from brands to individual creators. Drucker says that “bringing worlds together” is one of the more creative aspects.
“When you have an amazing chef and a musician together, sharing their favourite recipes,” being one example. YouTube’s community has always featured “collabs” between creators, but it seems we can expect to see more of this – including musicians – in 2016.
Artists and brands? There’s a growing area of “influencer marketing” where popular Instagrammers strike deals to promote companies, products or services in their photo and videos, in return for being paid.
Drucker says musicians might be able to take part in this, whether it’s artists wearing clothes from their favourite brand, or playing at a specific showcase, or with sponsored posts. But she also has a warning that this should be handled carefully.
“People aren’t stupid. I had a cab ride recently and the driver spent 35 minutes complaining about people being obvious about sponsored content!” she says.
“What we know works best is authentic content. If someone is sitting in a really ridiculous pose because they’re trying to show off the watch they’re wearing, for example, it’s not going to come off. It’s going to feel really forced.”
For now, Instagram’s main way to showcase what’s happening with music on its service is its @music account, which launched in April 2015 “dedicated to exploring music around the globe, from those who create it to the community around it”.
The account now has 697k followers. “We saw there was so much fantastic music-focused content, and wanted to make sure those stories were coming to the forefront,” says Drucker.
She also praises artists for exploring new features on Instagram. For example, its standalone Boomerang app for creating GIF-like clips, as well as campaigns based around Instagram reveals – from Adele to Justin Bieber.
In the latter case, he launched What Do You Mean? he had selfies from his celebrity friends – Ariana Grande, Big Sean, Ed Sheeran, Carly Rae Jepsen, Tony Hawk, Shaquille O’Neal and Chris Martin among them – with the hashtag #WhatDoYouMean.
It’s a long time since the posting of a new Justin Bieber photo would place a massive strain on Instagram’s servers due to the volume of likes from fans – a problem faced by other social networks, like Twitter, in the past.
“Oh no, we’re Bieber-safe now!” says Drucker.