October 26

Instagram for DJs and Producers: Blessing or Curse?


The role of Instagram for DJs and electronic music producers these days cannot be underestimated. Yet, the very insightful documentary INSTA DJ by Pioneer DJ is raising some important questions. Have we come to the point where Instagram is killing the vibe on dancefloors worldwide? Are we as electronic music artists dependent on this platform to build a successful career? And how does social media influence our behavior behind the decks and in the studio? After last week’s episode on a meaningful social media strategy for DJs and electronic music producers, I now want to share some thoughts on the role and future of Instagram. I’m going to share five hypotheses that I believe will help you do a better job of serving your audience.

Beyond Instagram Tips and Tricks for DJs and producers

For the last years, articles and blog posts about Instagram for musicians have revolved around tips and tricks to help you build an audience on the platform. You could find suggestions for great DJ hashtags as well as how-to guides on the use of Instagram Stories as an artist. After this first euphoria of “hell yeah, another great channel to promote my music” the discussion is now taking an interesting turn. 

Artists are starting to feel the pressure of having to be visible on Instagram. DJs and electronic music live acts are starting to get distracted by all the smartphone lenses around them. The once sacred and intimate environment of techno clubs is being invaded by clubbers who feel the need to share these private moments with their followers. More and more signs of addictive behavior are surfacing and we’re being more distracted than ever before while we’re in the studio.

Without a doubt, we’ve reached a critical point at which we have to question how we can use social media in a beneficial way. As artists, we’re important content creators in the “distraction-factory” that is Instagram. Therefore, we have a certain responsibility to our audience and this discussion can ultimately lead to positive change. Pioneer DJ recently published an interesting documentary called INSTA DJ – Social Media and the New Age Dancefloor. I highly recommend watching it as it raises some very important questions:


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Five hypotheses on the future of Instagram for DJs and electronic music producers

Pioneer DJ’s INSTA DJ documentary is a great starting point but it doesn’t help you figure out a way of how to deal with Instagram as an artist. My goal with this episode of Pick Yourself is to provide some guidance. I’m going to share five hypotheses with you that I believe will make a difference for you.

1. Instagram won’t stay the number one social media network for musicians forever

Even if it sounds ridiculous to you right now, I’m dead sure that Instagram will be replaced sooner or later by another social media platform. That one will be replaced by another one and so on and so forth. This is the nature of evolving technology as well as social change. When I was 16, Myspace seemed irreplaceable. When I was 26, Facebook seemed irreplaceable. And today (being 31 in 2019), Instagram is the number one tool for artists. 

But that’s about to change. Thousands of innovators around the globe are working on small “Davids” that are designed to kill the “Goliath” that is Instagram. 99.9% of them are going to fail. But 0.1% of them are going to revolutionize the social media landscape. They are more agile and brave, they think outside the box, and they create something that resonates deeply with tomorrow’s 16-29-year-old target group. They are going to use technology differently than we do and they are going to interact in different ways than we’re used to right now. The question is not if Instagram will be replaced or not but how soon it will be replaced.

The consequences for you as an electronic music artist

So what does that mean for you as an upcoming artist? I believe this way of thinking helps you stress out a bit less about your current Instagram activities. Sure, right now it’s very beneficial to be active on Instagram as a DJ or electronic music producer. But will it make a massive difference in the grand scheme of things? I believe that it’s more important to find your unique voice as an artist and try to stand out musically as well as personally. This is important no matter what channel you are promoting your music on. I’m not saying you should forget about Instagram, but it should probably not be on your top list of priorities just because every scammy growth-hacking blog tells you to do so.

You can build and grow your artist brand in many different ways. Instagram is a great amplifier, but it’s not your only channel. We sometimes underestimate the influence of great music blogs and YouTube channels that promote underground electronic music. Some of the most-streamed songs on these channels are by producers who don’t have a massive Instagram following. Then there’s the DJ-promo aspect. I’ve seen people with less than 200 followers on Instagram send their unreleased tracks to successful DJs and suddenly, these songs become super popular and are being played in clubs all over the world. If you then count in all the “track ID” requests and Shazams by other DJs, you can imagine what an impact this can have on your artist career.

2. Focus and productivity are going to be game-changing meta-skills

I’m admitting it here: Smartphones in general but especially social media are my nemeses. My brain falls into this addictive trap all the time so I have to work hard adjusting my habits so they don’t work against me. If you can answer one or more of the following questions with yes, you most likely have the same problem:

  • Do you always reach for your phone when you’re waiting for the train or in a queue?
  • Do you check your phone first thing in the morning?
  • Are you experiencing “phantom vibrations” in your pocket?
  • Does it make you feel uncomfortable when you’re in an area with no mobile internet connection for a longer time?

The big issue here is that this type of addictive behavior has a negative impact on our productivity in the studio or on stage. We’re easily distracted and can’t fully “immerse” ourselves in the music anymore. Finishing a song is difficult enough already. How the hell do you want to do this while constantly reaching for your phone and scrolling through your Instagram feed?

Fighting distractions, gaining clarity

The good news is: You’re not alone with this problem. Moreover, there are a lot of things you can do that will help you be more productive and focused again. A good starting point is practicing some form of mindfulness exercise or meditation every day. You can start with the free version of Headspace or simply put on some relaxing music and try to focus on your breath for some time. I suggest starting with five minutes to create a daily habit and then slowly move your way up to ten minutes or more.

I also encourage you to put your phone away and block Instagram on your computer while you’re creating music. If you want to post about it, you have to use it intentionally as a tool for this very specific moment and then put it away again. Do you think I could write a 2.000-word blog post or record a podcast episode if my phone was next to me? Hell no! The same goes for my mixing and mastering projects. If you see pictures on Instagram of me working in the studio, I’ve taken my phone out of my bag, deactivated flight mode, shot and uploaded the picture, and then… I put it back to where it doesn’t get in my way anymore. 

All in all, I believe that Instagram for DJs and electronic music artists is way less important than the meta-skill of focus and productivity. If you’re among the very few artists who reduce distractions and use social media only on purpose, you’re unlocking super-powers. You are going to finish more music, get more things done, and feel way healthier mentally.

3. The “Berlin model” of photo-free clubbing is going to be adopted globally

If you haven’t been to one of the legendary Berlin clubs like Berghain, Tresor, or Sisyphos yet, let me quickly describe what to expect. First of all, the bouncers will (most of the time) do a very good job of selecting clubbers who come for the experience rather than the Instagram-story. Yes, you will see lots of pictures from people standing in the queue, but once you’re inside, other things become more important than your phone. This also has to do with a strict “no photo” policy on the dancefloor. 

As soon as you’re entering the club, you get little stickers that you have to put on your smartphone lenses. These clubs have staff members inside the club that make sure you follow this policy. They remain invisible, but once you pull your sticker off and try to take a picture, they will appear out of nowhere.

This strict policy creates a magical experience and is one of the reasons why clubs here in Berlin are so successful. It feels like entering a safe space where your privacy is being respected and you can do whatever you want and be whoever you want to be. The only rule is that you respect the personal boundaries of other people. 

First-hand experiences over Instagram posts

Since this type of experience is getting very rare these days, I’m convinced that there’s going to be an even higher demand for it in the future. The more pervasive technologies we will use in our daily lives, the more we’re going to crave ways to escape them, even if it’s just for a club night.

I’ve seen clubs all over the world starting to adopt this policy. We won’t see it on mainstream festivals and huge stages, but I feel that at least the bigger underground venues are starting to implement these measures to create a more special experience for people.

4. We’re going to see a strong decrease in Instagram engagement very soon

Facebook is kind of dead for artists. Well, not entirely, but mostly. The reason is that the engagement rates are so low that it doesn’t even make sense to put in the time to create content there. The main reason why artists are still present on Facebook is that it offers great paid ad tools and event features that still seem to work for a lot of people. 

Instagram is now at a stage where more and more ads are showing up and the available space on people’s newsfeeds and stories is shrinking for organic content. This is going to result in even less engagement with your audience. It’s the natural life cycle every social media platform has to go through. For you as an artist, it means that your return on investment (mostly time) is going to shrink as well. You will have to make a decision: How much time do you want to invest in a platform that doesn’t bring you the desired engagement?

In the end, other channels are going to get more important again. Another solution would be to invest more into sponsored posts to get the desired engagement, but I doubt many upcoming artists will have the necessary funds (and knowledge) to keep up with it. 

5. Being remarkable by opening up is going to win the INSTA DJ game

The game of Instagram for DJs and electronic music producers is getting tougher. The usual video snippets of you behind the decks is not going to give you much attention anymore. People have seen this too many times already. If you’ve managed to create a solid foundation with your artist brand, things are going to work out better for you on Instagram in the future.

You will have to figure out creative ways to tell a different story from everybody else. If everybody zigs, zag! At least sometimes… As I’ve mentioned in the last episode, inspiration and storytelling are the key ingredients of a successful social media strategy. This is going to become more important on Instagram in the near future. Shallow, superficial posts will simply not make it to your fans’ newsfeeds. 

What does that mean for you now? I’m convinced that we’re going to see a swing towards less frequent posting but with more relevant and engaging content. If this doesn’t happen, the fail videos and cat compilations are going to win the war for attention and Instagram is going to collapse faster than I would have thought. 

Moreover, I think that if you want to play the Instagram game more successfully in the future, you will have to be more personal, more direct, and more polarizing than now. All the “me-too” artists will have a really hard time on social media. If you manage to open yourself up and share deep thoughts and honest emotions, you’re going to be more remarkable than most other artists. This will naturally lead to more engagement and a deeper connection with your audience. Whether you want to go down that route or not is your choice. But if you decide that Instagram will remain one of your main pillars, I believe that this is going to be the only sustainable way for you.

Putting it into action: Instagram for DJs and electronic music producers

This time, I have some questions I want you to ask yourself instead of clear action steps. I’d like you to develop a broader view on the subject and explore ways out of the INSTA-DJ dilemma that feel right to you.

1. What would your artist-career look like if Instagram didn’t exist?

  • How would you invest your time?
  • Where would you put your focus?
  • How would people find out about you?

2. Which benefits do you get from Instagram as an artist and where does it hold you back or distract you?

  • Have you seen a lot of traction and engagement on this platform?
  • What other good things have happened thanks to it?
  • Does it create a lot of pressure for you?
  • Is it distracting your studio workflow`?
  • Does it have another detrimental effect on your creativity or health?

3. What can you do to get the best 20% out of Instagram while removing 80% of the negative effects?

  • Have you tried out mindfulness techniques as a daily habit?
  • Have you experimented with blocking yourself from Instagram while you’re being in the studio?
  • How can you add meaningful value to your audience and stand out from all the other “me-too” DJ and producer profiles?

Okay, that’s it for this episode. I’d love to hear from you: What are your thoughts on the future of Instagram for DJs and electronic music producers? 

Let me know in the comments, I read everything!


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