Whilst social media has brought incredible benefits to independent musicians, it’s also led to severe market oversaturation. With so much music being released every day, independent musicians are struggling to set themselves apart.
The best way to set yourself apart from the crowd is to create engaging, valuable social media content on a daily basis. Here are 8 of the best social media content ideas I’ve discovered through promoting my own projects:
Indie Panda’s Social Media Content Philosophy
Before diving into the ideas, we need to first-establish Indie Panda’s philosophy regarding social media content for musicians:
- You are owed nothing upfront: Many musicians mistakenly think that simply working hard on their music automatically entitles them to floods of engagement. The reality is that you are owed nothing unless you’ve already added value to someone’s life. People are not going to invest three minutes of their time listening to a song from an artist they’ve never heard of when there’s no promise of value. However, if they’ve already derived consistent, immense value from your social media content, they’ll be much-more-likely to check out what else you have to offer.
- It’s not about you: It’s all-too-easy to take an inherently self-centered approach to music marketing. Whilst audience engagement may mean a lot to you, the audience doesn’t care. They only care if you’ve already proved you can add value to their lives. A statement such as ‘it would mean the world to me if you checked out my latest single’ essentially translates as ‘I think you should stop what you’re doing and spend three minutes of your time feeding my ego’. Whilst this may not be the message you’re intending to portray, it’s exactly how it’s perceived by your audience. Make sure you keep your focus on providing value to your audience.
- Keep it subtle: A potential fan is much-more-likely to check out your music if their interest is first-peaked by valuable, engaging social media content. They probably won’t check it out if you’re trying to ram it down their throat.
- Consistency is key: In today’s throwaway social media culture, consumers expect a consistent stream of new, high-quality content. In order to stay relevant and retain your audience’s attention, make sure you’re posting top-notch content on a consistent basis.
- Never stop reflecting: Social media platforms change at an alarming pace; what works well today might not work at all tomorrow. You should consistently reflect on what’s working (and why) as well at what can be improved (and how).
In line with the above values, each of the following content ideas adhere to two criteria:
- Create instant, upfront value to a well-targeted audience
- Nurture existing relationships between artist, audience & industry
1. Like This And I’ll…
‘Like this and I’ll…’ is where you promise to provide some form of value to your audience in exchange for engagement. As established in the introduction, the best way to engage an audience and promote your music is to provide value upfront through your social media content. ‘Like this and I’ll…’ is hands-down the best way I’ve found to stand out from the crowd and encourage huge engagement.
Here are a few starter ideas for ‘like this and I’ll…’ type-content:
- Limericks: A limerick is a type of short, humorous poem. For everyone that ‘likes’ your initial post, write them a limerick based on their interests and/or personality. Whilst this takes quite a lot of effort, I can almost-guarantee that it’ll be a huge hit with your audience. There’s a very strong chance that your fans will share their limerick across their own social media channels, which essentially markets your project for free.
- Drawings: If you can draw or doodle to a good standard, you can offer to draw your audience members. Once again, it’s highly-likely that fans will share the drawing across their own social media channels.
- Playlists: Offer to make a custom Spotify playlist based on a fan’s music taste. I’d recommend asking your audience to post a comment listing their favorite artists, then making a killer playlist for them. Make sure you include a couple (key phrase, a couple) of your own tracks to take advantage of Spotify’s algorithm (which we’ll come to a little bit later in this article).
- Name cards: Buy a pack of scratch art cards from the dollar store and offer to create name cards for your audience. For each name card, I’d recommend writing the person’s name, then listing three unique qualities about them. If that person goes on to buy merch from you, you can include their name card with the order.
- Video messages: A video message (VM) is a short video where you greet the fan and thank them for their support. They’re easy to produce and effectively showcase your personality.
Recommended platform: Twitter is a great fit for this type of content due to the fact that’s it’s so shareable. Instead of encouraging users to ‘like’ the original post, you could even ask them to ‘retweet’ it for maximum exposure.
2. Video Diaries
A video diary is a fantastic way of showcasing your personality and taking your audience behind the scenes of your project. Also, with video being one of the most engaging forms of online content, it’s a great way to capture and subsequently retain your audience’s attention. I’d recommend producing three different types of video diaries:
- ‘Day in the life’: If you’re in a band, have each member make an individual ‘day in the life’ video diary. This is essentially a vlog that shows what you get up to in an average day. This might include your day job, leisure time and time spent working on your project (for example, writing new songs or practicing your instrument). This builds trust between you and your audience, whilst allowing fans to warm up to your personality.
- Tour diary: Film everything from commuting to the venue, to soundcheck, to the show itself. After the show, take the most entertaining parts and compile them into a comprehensive tour diary. Tour diaries often get strong engagement from those who actually attended the show (in the form of ‘likes’ and comments). This strengthens your relationships with those who attended the show, whilst also encouraging newer fans to see you play live.
- Studio diary: Many music fans would love to know how their favorite tracks were created. Producing a studio diary helps break down the individual components, whilst showcasing the work it took to produce the track. It’s also a fantastic way of using engaging, valuable content to promote your latest release.
It’s worth enforcing that you don’t have to invest in expensive equipment to produce video diaries; any modern smartphone will do just fine. What I would recommend buying is a cheap selfie stick such as this one I found on Amazon. They steady the camera and allow for much smoother movement, which adds a significant level of professionalism to the footage. When it comes to editing, the stock editing software on your Mac or PC will do just fine.
Recommended platform: YouTube is perfect for this type of content. Remember that YouTube takes the overall watch-time into account as a ranking factor; therefore, I’d recommend making each video diary between seven and ten minutes long. This ensures your video is concise, whilst maximizing your potential watch-time. If possible, I’d recommend producing one video diary every 2 weeks.
3. Spotify Playlists
Spotify is by far the most popular streaming platform, with over 100 million premium subscribers worldwide. Whilst many upcoming bands and artists are quick to disregard Spotify, it’s actually a crucial component of attracting and engaging an audience.
Playlists serve as the heart and soul of the Spotify community, being the go-to method of consumption for many users. In addition, Spotify relies on user-generated playlists to collect data for its algorithmic playlists (‘Discover Weekly’ and ‘Release Radar’), which introduce your music to new users on a weekly basis. Therefore, it’s in your best interests to create playlists as frequently as possible to engage your current audience (via social media) and attract new fans (via algorithmic data).
Here are some playlists I’d recommend making:
- Simply *Your Project*: A playlist consisting solely of your own music that can be promoted to your existing audience.
- Influences: A playlist featuring your biggest musical influences, with some of your own tracks thrown in for comparison.
- Unsigned *Your Genre*: A playlist featuring independent bands and artists who play a similar style of music to you. When featuring other independent artists, it’s likely they’ll share the playlist across their social media; this allows everyone featured on the playlist to take advantage of each other’s audiences. Additionally, it builds and strengthens your relationships with the artists you’ve featured.
- Unsigned Scene *Your City*: A playlist comprised of bands and artists from your local unsigned scene. Once again, this strengthens your reputation amongst other independent musicians and allows everyone to take advantage of each other’s audiences.
- Pre-Show: Have you got a playlist you listen to whilst commuting to a venue or waiting backstage? If so, make it available to your audience! You can also encourage engagement by asking fans to suggest songs for the playlist.
- Post-Show: A playlist curated after a show consisting of music from everyone on the lineup. This serves as a great follow-up for those who attended the show and once again strengthens your relationships with other independent musicians.
BONUS TIP: You can seriously increase the number of streams on your Spotify playlists by creating attractive-looking cover art. I’d recommend modelling your artwork off of Spotify’s editorial playlist art, like we’ve done here:
Recommended platform: Whilst you’ll obviously be creating your playlists within the Spotify platform, I’d recommend sharing them on Instagram Stories. Instagram Stories have Spotify as an integrated feature, allowing users to quickly access the playlist.
Even if you’re an all-original band, covers serve as an immensely powerful marketing tool. Covers have two distinct advantages:
- Your target audience has a pre-established connection with the material: When a music consumer comes across a new band, they’re much more-likely to engage with something they have a pre-established connection with (such as a cover of their favorite song) rather than something they’ve never heard before. Furthermore, they’ll be more-inclined to give their full attention to the cover by listening/watching all the way through. This increases the chances of them connecting to your sound and checking your original material out.
- They’re searchable: I’d strongly recommend uploading your covers to searchable platforms. A searchable platform is a platform that requires users to use some form of search engine in order to find content (as opposed to scrolling through a feed). In the music industry, the go-to searchable platforms are Spotify and YouTube; if users are searching for their favorite tracks on either of these platforms, there’s a good chance your cover version will pop up.
Here’s a quick guide for choosing a suitable cover:
- Choose a song from an artist with a similar target audience: This will maximize the conversion rate to your original music and social media channels. Whilst the song you’re covering can be in a similar genre to your own, it doesn’t have to be. Regardless of the genre, you’ll want to add your own spin on the track in order to maximize engagement and showcase your identity.
- Choose a song that’s popular, but low-competition: Whilst you’ll want to choose a popular song, you should also make sure that few other bands and artists have covered it. If you choose a song that’s already been covered a million times over, you’re fighting a losing battle.
BONUS TIP: When uploading your cover to YouTube, make sure you front-load the song name (i.e. instead of titling it ‘My Awesome Band – Sandstorm (Darude)’, title it ‘Sandstorm (Darude) – My Awesome Band’).This makes it easy on both the search engine and the user.
Recommended platform: I’d recommend posting covers on both YouTube and Spotify. For YouTube, consider producing some pro-shot live covers. For Spotify, record a studio version.
Love them or hate them, memes are one of the most popular and attention-grabbing forms of online content. As a musician, memes have two distinct advantages over more-traditional forms of content:
- They’re relatable: Relatable musicians are successful musicians. Whilst your music might be highly-relatable to your target audience, you’ll struggle to get a complete stranger to invest three minutes of their time listening to it. However, a meme can spark a strong sense of relatability in a split-second. Once you’ve captured that initial sense of relatability, a potential fan will have a valid reason to dive deeper into your project.
- They’re sharable: Once someone sees a witty and relatable meme, they simply can’t keep it to themselves. A good-quality meme stands a strong chance of going viral across social media, which could market your project to thousands of new people.
When creating memes for your project, it’s imperative that it represents your visual identity (the identity derived from the cultural and personable aspects of your project). Something that many independent musicians don’t realize is that fans connect to a musician’s visual identity just as much as their music. Therefore, it’s important to make sure it’s well-represented within your content. For example, if you’re a skate punk band, consider making memes about skateboarding and flying in the face of authority. In order to maximize the meme’s chances of going viral, make sure it doesn’t contain anything that could cause offence or be misconstrued.
Here’s a fantastic example from chart-topping artist Lewis Capaldi, who has grown a huge social media following from this type of content:
A common concern amongst independent musicians is that they don’t want to be perceived as a ‘gimmick’ on social media. However, I firmly believe this type of content is far better at attracting and retaining an audience than relentlessly plugging your single with every post. Lewis Capaldi serves as perfect proof, having previously spent almost two months at the top of the UK charts (largely off the back of his social media content).
A fantastic way of getting engagement with your memes is to get your audience to make them for you. Try posting a funny picture (preferably of you or one of your band members) and asking your audience to caption it. When doing this, make sure you reply to each comment and use it to start a conversation with each person.
Recommended platform: Twitter is great for memes due to the fact people will likely ‘retweet’ something they find relatable or humorous. Similarly, Instagram Stories are fantastic for ‘caption this’ type-content, provided you attach a ‘questions’ sticker to the original post.
Contests are a phenomenal way of getting masses of engagement with little upfront effort or cost. As a musician, there are two primary contests you can run:
- ‘Choose something’: This is where you give your audience a say in the direction of the band. You could either present a set of options (such as 3 different potential names for a song) or allow the audience to come up with something from scratch. This is usually done to nurture the relationships with your existing fans.
- Giveaway: As you might’ve guessed, this is where you give away a prize in return for some form of engagement. This is usually done to market your project to new fans.
Here are a few ideas for a ‘choose something’ competition:
- Song title (from scratch)
- Lyrics to the chorus of a new song (from 3 options)
- Album art (from 3 options)
- Main promo picture (from 3 options)
- The next song you’ll cover (from scratch)
In many cases, a ‘choose something’ contest will be decided by majority vote. Once the contest has ended, I’d recommend messaging everybody who took part and thanking them for their participation.
Here are a few ideas you might base a giveaway around:
- Pre-ordering your next single (to generate revenue)
- Adding your latest single to a Spotify playlist (to feed algorithmic data to Spotify)
- Voting for you in a competition (i.e. to play at a festival)
- Sharing one of your posts on their own social media pages (to market a specific piece of content)
- Following you on social media (to grow your social media numbers)
Here are a few recommended prizes for a giveaway:
- A coupon for your merch store (minimum 50%)
- Free gig tickets
- Old/unused equipment (drum skins, pedals etc.)
In order to ensure the giveaway markets your project to new people, always make it a requirement to share the original giveaway post in order to be entered. Once the giveaway has ended, you can simply allocate a number to each person and pick a winner by using a random number generator. If you’re using the giveaway to grow your presence on Spotify or other social media platforms, there’s a risk that those who don’t win will either unfollow you or remove your songs from their catalogue after the giveaway. There are three ways you can prevent this from happening:
- Make sure your giveaway is geared towards your target audience
- Make sure you continue to provide valuable, engaging content on a regular basis
- Offer a participation price to those who took part (such as a 15% discount to your merch store; this also has the added benefit of increasing your merch sales)
7. ‘Journey Of A Song’
This is where you document the entire process of writing and recording a song, from initial idea to finished recording. It’s one of my all-time favorite pieces of social media for the following three reasons:
- It provides insight into your creative process: As previously mentioned, music fans often wonder how their favorite tracks were created. Letting them in on your creative process will give them an overview of how the individual components of the track came about, as well as what changes were made along the way. Furthermore, each artist’s creative process is slightly different, meaning the content will be unique to you.
- It involves your audience in the creative process: A great trick is to present several different ideas for a song, then ask your audience which one they like best. People love giving their opinion and providing influence…so let them!
- It builds anticipation and hype: If you’ve been documenting the song’s journey over a period of several weeks, it’s likely your audience will already be invested in the song before the release (especially if they’ve had a say in the direction of the material). Therefore, it’s likely they’ll be eager to hear the final product.
Here are a few different ideas for ‘journey of a song’ content:
- Voice memo of your initial idea
- Video of you writing further sections
- Photo of three different versions of the lyrics for the chorus, asking your audience which one they like the best
- Video of the band rehearsing and arranging the song
- Photo gallery of your day at the studio recording the song
- Spotify link to the finished product
Recommended platform: Instagram works well for this sort of content due to its strong focus on video. You could even start a unique hashtag in order to categorize the content and encourage audience interaction.
8. Shared Content From Other Relevant Creators
By now, you should have figured out that going above and beyond for your fans is the key to engagement. Similarly, going above and beyond for other creators is key to forming strong connections within the industry. By taking a selfless and supportive approach to industry networking, you’ll be planting seeds that are bound to flourish over time.
The best way to do this is to simply share their content across your own social media channels. This might be in the form of:
- New music from another local artist
- An announcement from a larger band in your scene
- An catch-up stream of an independent radio show
- Album reviews from an unsigned music blog
- The article you’re reading right now (providing you’ve found it helpful!)
As a general guide, 30% of your social media content should be shared content. When sharing relevant content, it’s important that you don’t expect anything return. Whilst the aim is to form and nurture connections with other industry operators (and their audiences), you should also have the intention of helping others out in order to strengthen the independent scene. If you come off as self-centered, people will see straight through you.
Recommended platform: Any platform can be used for shared content. However, it makes sense to promote shared content on the same platform you found it on.