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Overcoming Lockdown: Instagram’s Head of Music Partnerships on artist adaptation

Perry Bashkoff is the Head of Music Partnerships at Instagram. After almost 20 years at Warner Music Group, his experience in the digital evolution of music delivery and marketing was a vital asset in creating opportunities for artists and music lovers on one of our favourite social media platforms.

From his home quarantine in New York, Bashkoff discusses how artists can tell their stories using the platform, how artists are using Instagram during quarantine to connect with their fans, and what social media giants are doing to support the music industry in this unprecedented global downturn.

“We work with artists, music label partners and a variety of other music business partners to provide them with tools and a guide to best practice to enable them to use our platform to meet whatever their goals are,” he says. “To connect with fans about one of their passions, philanthropy causes, promoting a new album, whatever it is.”

Instagram is expected to reach 112.5 million US users in 2020. It can boast over 1 billion monthly users, over 500 million daily users and over 50 billion photos shared. With over 100 million photos and videos uploaded daily, how can artists connect meaningfully with their fans? How can we, as music lovers, discover the artists we’re going to love and in the current conditions, as tours and live events have all been cancelled, how can we support the artists we have loved for years?

Typically, artists and labels reach out to Bashkoff and his colleagues with their intentions, but sometimes the Instagram team reach out to their partners. This is particularly the case with the “Stay At Home” campaign Instagram has been running during COVID-19.

“A lot of our community is asking for donations to charities and organisations doing good, so we’re trying to figure out how to make it easier for people to donate in a simple way.”

“I was one of the first guys at Warner back when Apple launched mp3s. I saw things go from digital downloads to ringtones and streaming. Then there was YouTube, Soundcloud and social media. I started as an intern there almost 20 years ago, so I was able to observe the digital evolution of music,” recalls Bashkoff.

Bashkoff worked in marketing on the label side. The difference in moving into his role at Instagram was shifting to the artist side. His big focus is storytelling. Rather than sales, sales, sales, his focus with artists is their passion, their personal lives and the connection between artists and fans on more than a product level.

“If you’re a tattoo person, if you’re a vegan, connect with people on that level. What is the story you want to tell? How often are you going to tell it? How are you going to make your fans fall in love with you, and connect with you beyond going to your shows and listening to your album?”

In the current conditions, where tours, festivals and launches have all been cancelled and live performances are sorely missed by music lovers globally, it would be ideal for artists to be able to directly make an income from performances and online production.

“Direct monetisation is something we’re exploring at the moment,” Bashkoff says. “From our product teams to marketing, we’re looking at tools that might provide a solution for artists. For now, we’re encouraging artists to use IGTV, stories and news. Miley and Demi Lovato are just talking to their fans, sometimes for an hour. A lot of our community is asking for donations to charities and organisations doing good, so we’re trying to figure out how to make it easier for people to donate in a simple way.”

The strength of the Instagram creative team is that they can provide tools and guidance around how to collaborate or get on board with campaigns Instagram runs at particular times of the year or for events like International Women’s Day or World Environment Day.

“This is not just about making money. Stay authentic on Instagram, keep posting…”

“I love what Miley Cyrus is doing. She’s bringing in other artists, even her therapist. John Mayer who uses IGTV in a great way with regular programming. John Legend goes live, playing piano and hanging out with his wife. The breakout is DJ D-Nice, really,” he says.

Bashkoff, more than ever now that he’s working from home, is listening to his playlists top to bottom. He’s loving the DJ D-Nice Homeschool playlist (literally a DJ delivering his sets from his loungeroom), jazz and whatever his 10 year old son wants to listen to. As for his own Instagram game? It’s strong. Wednesdays have become “Dress-Up Wednesdays”, involving crazy costumes and wacky outfits that spice up conference calls and neighbourhood walks.

“You are not forgotten,” says Bashkoff as an address to Australian artists. “We want to keep you connected to your fans, other artists and songwriters, and in the coming weeks and months we’re delivering tools and means for you to do that in new ways. This is not just about making money. Stay authentic on Instagram, keep posting, use IG Live, IGTV, Stories.”

Find and follow Perry at @justperry1

Tips For Artists To Maximise Their Instagram Game:

  • Posts with a location get 79% more engagement
  • Photos with faces get 38% more likes
  • Posts with at least one hashtag get 12.6% more engagement
  • Instagram videos get almost double the engagement of photos

Information supplied by Omnicore Agency.