Tips for leveraging Instagram Reels and IGTV to push your music

Instagram is shifting from being a photo-sharing app to videos to keep up with TikTok. This article looks at how to use Reels, IGTV, and other features to promote your band's music.
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Few bands would disagree that social media is critical for pushing your music. Years ago, we had MySpace to connect with other artists and establish a fanbase. But since its demise, building a community for your music has flitted across various social media platforms. For dream pop bands, Instagram seems to be the place to call home. (Note: I don’t have data to back this statement, so it’s pure conjecture from what I’ve observed.)

“No longer a photo-sharing app…”

Recently, Instagram’s CEO, Adam Mosseri, announced that they are bringing fundamental changes to the platform. It will no longer be a photo app, he declared. Rather, they were going to shift toward an entertainment platform to keep up with TikTok‘s growth (and YouTube).

“We’re also going to be experimenting with how to embrace video more broadly — fullscreen, immersive, entertaining, mobile-first video. And so you’ll see us experiment with a number of things in this space over the coming months. We have an idea of where we want to end up, [but] this isn’t something that we can just do overnight. So you’ll see us iterate and try and be very public about what we’re doing and why with videos like this one.” Adam Mosseri (CEO of Instagram)

Instagram has shifted its game like this before when they copied Snapchat‘s stories. But why this change to keep up with TikTok’s growth?

Basically, Instagram doesn’t want to fall behind. They introduced Reels in August, 2020, to keep up. How are they doing? TikToks’s engagement rates have the Insta folks concerned. People are twice as likely to like a TikTok video than they are an Instagram Reel. And they’re almost three times as likely to comment on a TikTok video. So, Instagram is changing their game.

Instagram versus TikTok Statistics

TikTok has now been downloaded three billion times, and they currently have 732 million monthly active users. Instagram has over one billion monthly active users (500+ million use Instagram daily).

“We’re no longer a photo-sharing app. The number one reason that [people] say they use Instagram in research is to be entertained.” – Adam Mosseri (CEO of Instagram)

TikTok users are spending an average 45 minutes, while people are spending 30 minutes per day on Instagram. When you think about it, photos are faster to consume than videos. So…

You’ll soon see more video content (Reels and IGTV) in your feed, and fewer posts from people you follow. They want the feed to be a continuous stream of entertainment. However you feel about this, you and I can either move to another platform, or we can adjust our strategies.

Using Reels to your advantage

If you haven’t yet begun to post Reels videos, now is the time to experiment with them. To get started, we should assume that what Instagram suggests will also be pushed by their algorithms.

Instagram released six tips for creators. These are Instagrams tips for “getting discovered in the Reels tab.” Post Reels that:

  • Are entertaining and fun (i.e. delights people, grabs their attention, makes them laugh, or has a fun surprise or twist)
  • Are inspiring (i.e. starts a trend that others can easily participate in)
  • Use creative tools like text, filter, or camera effects
  • Use vertical video
  • Use music from the Instagram music library and/or original audio you create or find on Reels
  • Are experimental! Try something new, be yourself, and see what works for you

According to the same Instagram post, don’t share Reels that:

  • Are blurry due to low-resolution
  • Are visibly recycled from other apps (i.e, contains logos or watermarks)
  • Are uploaded with a border around them
  • Have the majority of the image covered by text
  • Do not meet Instagram’s Community Guidelines

Add Your Music from the Instagram Music Library

If your music is on streaming services, your songs will also be in the Instagram Music Library (unless you intentionally opted out). When your music is used in a video, you’ll receive royalties per view. So consider sharing your music video clips as a Reel and line up the audio from the Instagram music library.

Unlike TikTok which limits you to a 30 seconds to 1 minute clip of your song to use, you can use any part of your song on Instagram. This is true in Stories and Reels. Doing this will actually increase the likelihood of your video being seen (see the section about the Reels algorithm below).

Tips for IGTV Videos

Use IGTV to share the entire music video on Instagram. On IGTV, you can share up to 10 minutes. You can share a clip of your IGTV video, adding an option to swipe up to view more. Unfortunately, you can’t pay to promote an IGTV video (same is true for Reels). But considering that Instagram is beginning to push video content, you’ll want to be ahead of the game.

It gets tricky though. The traditional music video aspect ratio is 16:9. Yet, a Reels or IGTV video aspect ratio is 9:16. But you’ll likely want to provide a separate 9:16 version of your music videos. I would advise editing them outside of Instagram (keep in mind that iMovie doesn’t allow you to edit vertical videos, so you’ll want to use a different app). If you add a 16:9 video as a Reels or IGTV video and expand it to fill the screen, Instagram will force you to share whatever is centered in the music video; you can’t slide the video to the left or right. If your subject moves out of the center of the screen, you’ll want to edit it prior to bringing the video into Instagram.

Also keep in mind that you can do basic editing of videos in Reels, but IGTV videos post the video as is. The experience of adding the content is quite different. My suggestion is to take the time with both.

You can create Series for your IGTV content. So with this, you can link your content together (such as live videos, music videos, albums, etc.). Essentially, once they’ve watched one of your IGTV videos, it will by default play your next IGTV video in the same Series (this is quite different from the nature of Reels, which slips you into a continuous stream of Reels from other creators).

Obviously, music videos aren’t the only videos to share on IGTV. Be creative with your content and test ideas. Go live (it notifies your followers) and perform your songs, or hold a Q&A. You can post Live videos as IGTV videos when the live session is over.

What are the Instagram Algorithms?

I’ve mentioned the algorithms a lot in this post. An algorithm is a math equation that takes hundreds or thousands of data points into consideration in order to determine a result. Instagram has numerous algorithms that decides what will show in your Newsfeed, what Reels will appear next, what content will be in the Explore tab, what order your Stories appear in, etc. Gaining a basic understanding of how these work will help you know how to angle or create your content.

Instagram posted an article called Shedding More Light on How Instagram Works. There are thousands of “signals” that Instagram algorithms consider. These signals are pieces of data collected from your activity on Instagram (and elsewhere?), your friends activities, data tied to each content piece, etc. We can speculate what these data points are, but pay attention to what Instagram openly shares.

They wrote this about how they rank Reels content when determining what video to show next:

Your activity. We look at things like which reels you’ve liked, commented on, and engaged with recently. These signals help us to understand what content might be relevant to you.

Your history of interacting with the person who posted. Like in Explore, it’s likely the video was made by someone you’ve never heard of, but if you have interacted with them that gives us a sense of how interested you might be in what they shared.

Information about the reel. These are signals about the content within the video such as the audio track, video understanding based on pixels and whole frames, as well as popularity.

Information about the person who posted. We consider popularity to help find compelling content from a wide array of people and give everyone a chance to find their audience.

More Reels and IGTV pointers

Based off this, share videos using your music from the Instagram Music Library. If someone likes a video that is using your music, then your video will have a greater chance of being seen in their Reels feed.

Since the metadata is important (details such as caption, IGTV titles, etc.), be sure to:

  • Tag People, such as the people in the music video, and those involved in creating the video and/or song.
  • Rename Audio if you’re using the original audio in the video. This is important because it scrolls while people are watching the video. Add something like “Artist – Song (Album)”, so viewers know what they’re listening to (they’ll likely look for it on Spotify if they dig the song).
  • Write a great Caption with details you would want to know. IGTV videos have a Description in place of the Caption.
  • Hashtags in the caption links your content to other posts, increasing the likelihood of someone stumbling on it. Plus, we can bet that Instagram tracks this as a Signal.
  • Provide a Title for your IGTV video. Think in terms of what people would search for to find it. For a music video, provide the artist name and song title.
  • Comparing the algorithms three content types explained (actually four, but Feeds and Stories are grouped together), note that Your Activity and Your History of Interacting with Someone ranks higher in the Reels feed than the Information (these two types of signals are listed above the Information signals when compared to Feeds, Stories, and Explore).
  • Show Captions on your IGTV videos. This option is in the Advanced Options segment. These captions are automatically generated.

When creating Posts and Stories, add a Location, Tag People, and add Hashtags. These all increase discovery of your content. People follow hashtags, for example, and see posts from these hashtags in their feed. Each location (from towns to parks, stores, and nations) has an Instagram stream, and you might find your content receiving bursts of traffic.

The metadata you add to your Reels are still important, but getting people to interact with your Reels will greatly increase the chances of your Reels being seen by them the next time you post something. This plays a huge role in being heard by new people.

A few random thoughts

When you post a Reels or IGTV video, you have the option to share it on your news feed. Your followers will see 15 seconds of the video, with a link to see the full video. Unless you unselect the option, a clip will be posted in your feed. Since people will see your video in their feed, be sure to select a great cover photo (something blurry might be ignored by viewers and potentially the algorithms).

If you use humor or enjoy posting videos of you and your friends, you’ll be set. I’ve seen most bands use Stories for humorous content, but you may want to think about using Reels for this content so that it shows up in streams. Of course, the advantage of Stories that the content disappears after 24 hours. (TikTok is rumored to be adding Stories to their app soon.)

With all this said, don’t be surprised if your photos receive fewer likes. Don’t assume this is because your followers are tired of your music. But rather, Instagram is beginning to show them to fewer people.

Help Bands by Interacting with their Content

One of the best ways you can help a band out on any social media platform is by interacting with their content. Like their posts, leave a comment, and share it with your friends. While this is encouraging for the band, there are other reasons for doing this.

As you interact with a band’s content, Instagram (and other social media platforms) collect this data. By liking a Reel, you’re increasing the likelihood that your friends or other potential fans will see the Reel (thanks to the Signals that the algorithms consider). Sharing a Reel obviously puts it in front of your followers, but Instagram will be more likely to select the video for other watchers.

If you consistently engage with posts from bands, Instagram will seemingly fine-tune the content you see. So you’ll discover more music you’ll love. This is all based on patterns from millions of users. You’re not only helping yourself, you’re helping the bands that you interact with because it brings their content into this stream.


Instagram is shifting toward videos over photos. Push your music and your band with Reels and IGTV, along with Stories and Posts you’ve been creating. Add details with your content, and engage with other bands and artists.

It remains to be seen if Instagram will remain as the preferred home for bands we love. But as long as Instagram doesn’t hide our content from our followers as Facebook does, then consider adjusting your content so that it isn’t depreciated by the algorithms.

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Kevin Flick
Kevin Flick

Kevin Flick founded Puddlegum in 1997 and has been engaging in music journalism off and on since. He's also a recording/mixing engineer and loves to help bands work through the creative process. He has coproduced and mixed for artists such as Saeyers, Midi Memory, and Cathedral Bells.

Rumors are that he's a Brighton Hove & Albion FC fan. He's also obsessed with coffee. Kevin resides in the college community of Bloomington, Indiana, where he studied at Indiana University.

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    • My apologies for the spelling issues. I am my worst editor. This is something we’re working on, and making sure everything is corrected before we publish. Thank you for your input!

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