Is Instagram About to Eclipse Spotify, YouTube, and Apple Music for Artist Discovery?

Artists are increasingly using Instagram Stories as a mega-tool for promoting their songs.  Is that already casting a shadow on streaming platforms?

In fact, Instagram’s recent music enhancements are only fueling a pre-existing behavior towards sharing and discovering music.  The exact impact of Instagram’s music expansion is difficult to gauge at this stage, though early indicators suggest that a serious music platform is emerging.

Artists have already gotten the memo.  Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” gained overnight popularity after Justin Bieber shared an Instagram Story of the song.  19-year-old pop artist Maude Latour released her summer song “Superfruit” and encouraged fans to share the song on their Stories.  Drake and Future used the platform to announce What A Time to Be Alive.

Stories like these — pardon the pun — are becoming more commonplace.  Now, Instagram and Facebook are hoping to fan the flames and assume a dominant position in music.

Instagram included album covers and Spotify links to music in Stories last year. The feature has grown increasingly popular since its introduction, making Instagram a place of discovery for younger people.  In one familiar use case, fans are exposed to new music through browsing their friends’ Stories, seeking out more music from the same artist or album through other streaming services.

Of course, no platform is an island.  The story on ‘Old Town Road’ can’t be told without TikTok, for example.  And fans routinely hover between platforms like Instagram, YouTube, and Spotify.  Once there’s a fire, it usually spreads everywhere, though Instagram is aiming to become the critical spark.

With more young people discovering new artists through Instagram, it’s no wonder the network is focusing on music. Devi Narasimhan, a spokesperson for Instagram, declined to share statistics on music sharing with DMN.  But she does say the company hopes to find more ways people can “share their moments and interact using music.”

Anecdotally, Instagram seems to be rapidly gaining ground on this front.  Mashable recently ran a piece discussing how many high school and university students prefer Instagram as a music discovery platform. But even before the inclusion of music in Stories, Instagram’s growth was fueled by music lovers.

In a 2015 study, Nielsen surveyed 3,500 Instagram users to ask why they use the service and for what type of content. That survey determined that Instagram users are 42% more likely to spend money on music in a year, compared to the general population.

People on Instagram who follow their favorite artists and bands spend twice as much on music as the general population, the report concluded. Instagram users also spend 30% more time listening to music weekly, compared to the general U.S. population.

And the most popular genre for Instagram users? Pop tops the charts, with hip-hop and R&B taking a close second. That’s slightly different than Spotify, though if tracks like ‘Old Town Road’ have taught us anything, genre distinctions are oftentimes unimportant to music fans.