Instagram became a key, if underutilized, music marketing platform as it passed 500 million monthly users in just five years. But in the past six months it has taken a more active role in the industry, largely due to the hire of head of music partnerships Lauren Wirtzer-Seawood, from Beyoncé’s Parkwood Entertainment.
"Music is incredibly important to Instagram as a business," she says. "That's why they brought me here."
Wirtzer-Seawood's focus on bridging the gap between the company and the music industry has meant working with Radiohead, Taylor Swift and Beck to integrate Instagram’s tools into artists’ marketing campaigns. Posts by Beyoncé and Drake timed to recent album releases drove follower increases of 28 percent (up 16 million) and 16 percent (up 3 million), respectively. Since Beyoncé announced her "Formation" single in February on the platform -- as well as her Lemonade album and video special in April -- her posts have racked up 151 million interactions; Drake's meme-able campaign for his Views album amassed 52 million interactions since April 1.
And when Beck started brainstorming the release plan for his latest single, "Wow," his team turned to Instagram. "I worked with his team months in advance on this idea they had about how to use the community to tell the story of his creative vision," Wirtzer-Seawood says. The result was a day-long collaborative effort between Beck, Capitol Records and more than a dozen artists handpicked by Beck, each of whom released a short video with an exclusive song snippet; in total, the Instagram posts grabbed 4.5 million views to date.
But the inability to include direct links in Instagram captions limits effectiveness, and with other social networks competing for devotees -- Snapchat reported 7 billion daily views in January and has attracted fans from DJ Khaled to Lyor Cohen -- smartphone fame could be fleeting. Just ask Twitter, whose usage has fallen by one-third in the last two years.
Still, a Nielsen Music poll in March found that Instagram users spend 42 percent more than the general population on music-related items per year, and were more than twice as likely to pay for a streaming service. And Instagram is having a tangible effect on the charts, too; the viral Running Man Challenge that exploded on the platform earlier this year sparked a 2,258 percent increase in streams for Ghost Town DJs' 1996 single "My Boo," according to Spotify, and earned its highest-ever placement on the Billboard Hot 100 chart when it re-entered at No. 29 in the week ending May 5.
"Instagram realized how valuable artists are to the platform," says Wirtzer-Seawood. "[They] want to make sure we have solid relationships."
The Top-Viewed Video Posts on Instagram in 2016 Each Month Have All Come from Music Accounts
A version of this article was first published in the July 2 issue of Billboard.