The great Italian composer, Claudio Monteverdi declared, "Music is spiritual. The music business is not". This was way back in the 16th century!
We frequently encounter musicians who're great at the music part, but struggle when it comes to the business end of things. Unfortunately, unless you're a musician who's content to simply enjoy the process of making music, getting a handle on the business aspects is essential. You need to understand and implement branding, distribution, promotion, and revenue-sharing strategies for your music to get the attention and recognition it deserves.
Fortunately, in the age of social media, you don’t have to figure everything out by yourself. There are many musicians and industry experts out there sharing invaluable insights and expertise on what it takes to run a successful music business. And Instagram is without a doubt, one of the platforms with the best knowledge-sharing among musicians.
In this post, we shortlist our top picks for the most value-packed Insta accounts that up-and-coming musicians would do well to follow, for the different facets of success as a musician.
Staying on top of the business side of music
From the marketing to the operations, finance, and legal aspects of making it as a pro musician, these accounts have the best tips and secrets.
As a musician-turned-music promoter, Elliot Tousley has the rare advantage of being able to combine a musician's priorities with a businessman's outlook. This unique ability to bridge the gap between artistic ideals and real-world pressures makes his Instagram posts hard-hitting and actionable for those who are serious about succeeding.
Elliot's posts, reels, and videos tackle the entire spectrum of concerns facing upcoming musicians, from basic questions like how to improve an artist's Spotify profile to operational issues like booking venues for live performances, to long-term strategies prioritizing musical skill vs. fan base development.
Rooted firmly in the real world music business, his Insta content reflects the very views underlying the success of Elliot's De Novo Agency at pivoting hundreds of musicians' careers towards greater popularity and financial reward. Putting musicians first is also the philosophy behind the innovative music distribution platform, Songflowr, that Elliot co-created with James Landry.
James Landry, aka 'The Music Esquire', specializes in helping musicians and other entertainers understand the legal nitty-gritties of the entertainment industry. James' commitment to the cause of musicians is mirrored by his Instagram account, which provides a gold mine of free legal advice as well as technical insights into the music industry. This 'value for free' ethos is aligned with James' other ventures including the De Novo Agency and Songflwr, both of which aim to put artists back in control of their musical careers and their earnings.
Through his posts, James helps musicians understand basic, yet important distinctions (such as the differences among copyrights, trademarks, and patents). He highlights the importance of legal documentation of all aspects of the music business and explains critical precautions to keep in mind while navigating the 'legalese' of music contracts. Additionally, James offers eye-opening music industry statistics, such as the monetary value of streams, the economics of albums, and the goal-specificity of merchandise.
The journey from artist to professional
Even when musicians are exposed to important insights on music as a business, their receptiveness to these ideas is sometimes limited by their lack of a connection with what they feel is the 'commercial' mindset of a non-musician. Hearing successful musicians share their perspectives can be transformational in helping musicians take the key step forward in their journey from dreamy artist to creative professional.
Through his Instagram posts and reels, Ari Herstand offers fellow musicians nuggets of hard-won wisdom that enabled him to achieve success as an indie artist, by steering clear of bondage to major record labels, prioritizing fan loyalty over chart-topping fads, and developing effective strategies for live touring, merchandising and crowd-funding.
Musicians following Ari can get help in answering questions that haunt them, like, "Should I release my own music or hold out for a record label signing?", but more importantly, they can derive inspiration from the strong network of vibrant artists whom Ari acknowledges, references and interviews regularly. Ari's strong activism and community involvement also mean that musicians can stay updated on important legal issues like the AB5, as well as on inspiring musical events like shows and festivals across the USA.
The phenomenally successful Kato (aka Kato on the Track) epitomizes indie - artists who prioritize entrepreneurial savvy just as much as creative spirit. Following Kato on Instagram is a great way for musicians on the make to get inputs on striking a balance between creative consistency and commercial viability.
Kato offers priceless tips to rookie musicians on the importance of long-term vision, summed up in his own words, "play the long game", and the necessity of thinking like, "an entrepreneur who just so happens to make music". His reels and videos use examples from his own music career, as well as those of other musicians, making his advice very relatable to musicians across the spectrum.
Production hacks from the pros
Musicians everywhere acknowledge that the music industry, already complex to begin with, is growing increasingly challenging to understand and keep pace with. In the fast-changing landscape of the music industry, individual artists can use all the help they can get from the pros paving the way for new artists to make a mark.
This Instagram account is run by Maddy Raven and Alex Jobling, the co-founders of Burstimo, the UK-based music marketing agency. Drawing on their years of industry experience, Maddy and Alex give their Instagram followers invaluable advice on music production and promotion.
Burstimo posts, reels, and videos address a diverse array of questions, from universal concerns like perfectionism among artists to more specific doubts on the timing of music releases during the holiday season. Their interviews with music industry insiders are a great source of info on make-or-break factors that drive success, and a special bonus are the 'guides' that burstimo offers musicians on topics like increasing the visibility of an artist, understanding how streams work, gaining attention, and building a following through TikTok.
Damian Keyes' DK-MBA program needs no introduction to most musicians, who're already familiar with this program's ridiculously good reputation for launching or accelerating its trainees' music careers. On Instagram, Damian generously offers advice and shares how-tos for musicians keen on propelling their career growth.
Damian's reels address stereotypes about success in music, including those related to age, such as being, "too old to make it" or "too young to be taken seriously". He also gives away great ideas for musicians looking to build their online presence with quality content (for example, through his, "musicians steal this..." idealists for online content), as well as advice to musicians on strategic marketing and merchandising.