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Instagram and TikTok for Independent Artists: Pros and Cons

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How and when artists should use the two apps

Instagram and TikTok are some of the most popular social media platforms. This makes them a valuable tool for independent artists to promote their music and grow their audience. Both apps come with tools and functions you can use in many different ways. For musicians, they come with advantages, disadvantages, benefits, and limitations.

In this article, we aim to look at the pros and cons of the two apps. We will try to teach aspiring artists how to use them in a way that will ideally help them reach their audience faster and with more ease.

Pros and cons of Instagram

Instagram has been around since 2010 and continues to remain one of the most widely used apps in the world. Over recent years, it has been receiving lots of criticism for the changes made to its algorithm and the increase in sponsored posts and ads. Additionally, many users complain about the recent implementation of reels as they remind them too much of TikTok, an app with an entirely different purpose and unique selling point. Regardless of the complaints, Instagram remains a valuable platform for artists across all genres.

Benefits of Instagram for musicians

Portfolio-like function

One of the best ways to use Instagram as an artist is to treat it like a digital portfolio. You can use the bio to briefly introduce yourself, the feed to showcase your music to the world, and story highlights to turn a glimpse in your everyday life or your projects into content that stays on your page. In this way, people who are curious about you can get acquainted with you and your music with little to no effort.

Interacting with fans

Compared to other apps, the arguably biggest advantage of Instagram is its somewhat more personal character. While apps such as TikTok are primarily made for endless scrolling, Instagram centers on connecting with others by following their profiles. The app allows artists to interact with their fans in many ways: responding to comments and messages, sharing the stories their fans tag them in, and maybe even following some of the most loyal and active ones back. They can also reach out to their listeners to inform them about a new release, especially when their audience is still small.

Interacting with other artists

Instagram is also a great networking tool for artists to connect with other musicians they met online or in person. They can do so by following each other, responding to their posts, sharing their art on their own stories, and reaching out to ask for collaborations. Instagram allows artists to collaborate on posts, which leads to simultaneous visibility on their fanbase’s feeds. This tool can help both artists find new fans and more people to collaborate with.

Instagram for branding

Since Instagram is primarily a photo (and video) app, it can be utilized for branding purposes. Artists can use the app to communicate a visual identity and present their brand in a more personal, accessible way. They can also use smart links in their bios to direct fans to further content, such as their Spotify channels or artist pages like ours.

Disadvantages of Instagram for independent artists

Too many ads and sponsored content

Instagram has changed a lot over recent years. As a result, people tend to see more ads and sponsored content than organic posts, which makes the app less engaging. Reaching more people and growing one’s audience organically has become challenging, time-consuming, and effortful. Sponsored posts tend to be more visible than organic ones, burying the content of those one chooses to follow. Additionally, the constant exposure to (sometimes irrelevant) ads makes people less attentive to them, which might negatively affect your efforts to market yourself on a paid level. Fortunately, Instagram has introduced a separate “Following” timeline where you can find more content posted by people you follow.

Constantly changing algorithm

Users have been complaining about the constantly changing algorithm, naming the prioritization of sponsored posts over content posted by the people they follow as the main issue that takes away from the Instagram experience. While IG will not disappear anytime soon, people are starting to have less fun on the app, which makes it challenging for artists to capitalize on it and connect with others.

Less authenticity

For a long time, Instagram has been widely known for its strong focus on influencers and cohesive, high-quality feeds. This tends to impact authenticity and creativity as content that does not match certain “professional” guidelines does not perform as well as content that does. Although, at this point, many people choose to make their feeds look “ugly” on purpose, Instagram continues prioritizing users who post “high quality” content. This can easily become more stressful and less fun for artists, especially for those who do not have access to tools that can improve the quality of their content.

Pros and cons of TikTok

Benefits of TikTok

Over recent years, TikTok has become one of the most popular social media platforms and is especially popular among young people whose perceptions shape the future of the creative industry. While heavily criticized by users (and even by governments), it cannot be denied that many consider the platform both entertaining and full of potential. Artists can capitalize on its benefits but should remain aware of its disadvantages to optimize their strategies.

Music based and niche oriented

Before TikTok became TikTok, it used to be a lip-syncing platform called Musical.ly. Although today, it consists of all kinds of videos, its origins emphasize its strong focus on music. This makes the app highly beneficial for artists as they can make use of the music-centered features and trends to promote themselves and their art. Since TikTok has a niche for almost anything, artists of all genres can gain from it.

Getting discovered

Compared to Instagram, TikTok makes it much easier to get discovered regardless of the number of followers someone has. The app has many different features and functions, such as trending songs or filters, that go hand in hand with the algorithm. In this way, artists can reach more people and capture their attention quicker, especially if they focus on entertainment. Additionally, TikTok is working towards publishing its own music streaming service “TikTok Music”, which has many benefits and will make it easier for artists to get discovered. If you haven’t uploaded your songs to streaming platforms yet, we can help you.

TikTok’s character is more about fun, authenticity, and entertainment, which makes it easier to come up with engaging and creative content. To reach more people, artists can participate in trends such as popular formats, filters, songs, or dances. You can also collaborate with other creators by stitching their videos and allowing others to stitch yours.

Disadvantages of TikTok

Extremely low attention spans

TikTok is designed to be a never-ending stream of videos — users tend to scroll through their “for you pages” without consciously paying attention to what they are seeing, and if a video is too long or not engaging enough, they tend to skip over it. This makes reaching people and growing one’s audience more challenging.

Less interactive

TikTok centers a lot more on consumption than other platforms such as Instagram. As a consequence, even if one of your videos receives a lot of views, people might like and even save it but may decide to not follow you. Thus, it can be challenging to establish long-term connections and grow your audience in a way that goes beyond one-time interaction. Fortunately, the algorithm tends to expose audiences to the same content creators every now and then, even if they don’t follow them just yet.

Less control over posts

TikTok offers many features that allow users to interact with and use other people’s content. Although this can be very advantageous, it can also create problems and misunderstandings, such as having a song you worked on for months turned into a meme or trend that has nothing to do with your brand. While this cannot be avoided, it is something that artists should keep in mind when posting on TikTok. Users should also pay attention to topics such as reputation management and remain conscious of what they post.

Conclusion: should I use Instagram or TikTok?

Both Instagram and TikTok come with many different advantages and disadvantages for artists. While IG allows you to focus more on connecting and staying in touch with others, TikTok can be more beneficial for being seen, getting discovered, and maybe even going viral. Ultimately, it makes sense to use both platforms.

If social media on a larger scale is not your cup of tea, you can also look into other platforms that can be just as useful as the “big players.” You can also learn about different marketing strategies we consider useful for independent artists on our blog.

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