Instagram Reels: How Are Musicians Using Them?

Instagram introduced a new feature called Reels to create and discover short, entertaining videos. Learn how artists can utilize it.

10 mins read

Last month, Instagram introduced a new feature called Reels, which they describe as, “a new way to create and discover short, entertaining videos.” They are 15-second video clips that live under their own section and users can edit them in-app with music, text, effects, and different speeds.

The New Kid in Town

It all sounds pretty short and sweet, but with every new feature comes a slew of questions. Some have even argued that Reels are TikTok’s clone, which is causing some understandable skepticism. It’s normal to have a couple of questions floating around in your head: How do Reels differ from IGTV and Stories? What’s the difference between Reels and TikTok? And how can this new feature benefit my brand?

Portrait of an Early Adopter

Los Angeles musician Chloe Chaidez is best-known for her bands Nasty Cherry and Kitten. Not-so-coincidentally, she has also been taking Instagram by storm. “Honestly, [Reels are] very similar to TikTok, a platform that has been growing for Kitten since mid-lockdown. What’s connected for us on that app has done the same on Reels. Our live videos seem to be the most popular,” Chaidez says. “Stoked that even though we can’t play shows, our performances can translate on the internet!”

Chaidez’s short-form videos range from her recording in the studio to skateboarding and dancing. They have all garnered thousands of views and comments. This makes sense. With 31.9k Instagram followers, Chaidez is pretty certain she’s found the answer. “Reels is the best tool to do that in the current moment.”

"My camera is always rolling. You never know when you’re gonna find gold. That leaves me with a lot of content options."
-Chloe Chaidez

Options and More Options

Using social media as a tool for promoting your music can be daunting for artists. Yet, Chaidez is a perfect example of how to get curious and creative without judgment. She’s consistently posting videos. Whether entertaining or educational, she’s having fun and showcasing her personality. In the end, that’s what resonates most with fans.

“I have been full-on Joe Exotica-mode with my filming for quite some time,” Chaidez jokes. “My camera is always rolling. You never know when you’re gonna find gold. That leaves me with a lot of content options.”

When Inspiration Strikes

When it comes down to it, if you’re being your genuine self, that will come through and give followers a better sense of who you are. Hopefully, that will lead to a connection with you which makes them stick around to hear the music. Artist Liam Killen does that with engaging clips highlighting his musical chops in a variety of settings. 

“When an idea hits for a video, even if I’m alone, I try and see it through. For example, one time I thought it’d be funny to do the worm at the airport. So, I asked security to film the stunt. I’m pretty impulsive and I like making new friends, so it works out,” Chaidez adds.

“Let us into the process of writing a song, playing an instrument, mixing a track. Let us into the excitement of inspiration."
-Jera Foster-Fell

An Influencer Speaks

Content creator and social media coach Jera Foster-Fell, who has been building a strong presence on Instagram (175k+ followers) since 2015 and on TikTok (698.2K followers) since late 2019, tells us that she’s a big fan of both platforms. She also stresses how important it is to understand the way we use Instagram versus the way we use TikTok.

“We are always wondering how to get our content in front of new people on Instagram,” explains Foster-Fell. “The bulk of the way we interact on the app is through our main feed which displays only people that we have chosen to follow.”

There are exceptions. “Yes, there’s the Explore tab, but for the most part, people spend their time on their feeds or watching Stories,” Foster-Fell says.

With this in mind, we dive deeper into the specific difference between Reels and TikTok. “There are some obvious differences. TikTok allows up to 60 seconds, there’s way more music to use, and there are also a lot more effects,” Foster-Fell says. She adds that she doesn’t have access to any music on Reels yet, for reasons unknown. 

Foster-Fell has noticed an increase in followers per day compared to weeks prior. Her Reels also seem to be getting higher views than video posts on her feed. Some view counts don’t pick up until a few days after posting. This means one shouldn’t feel discouraged if a clip doesn’t gain traction right away. Compelling content will find eyes in time.

The Perfect Reel? No Such Thing

Foster-Fell argues that artists should give Reels a shot. “Be an early adopter,” she urges. “Right now, there are way more people doing in-feed posts and way fewer people are doing Reels.” 

A savvy content creator like Foster-Fell sees immense opportunity in this discrepancy. “This means there is less competition in the Reels space and more chance for people to see your content.” The benefits are clear. She believes artists can, “get exposure in a way we can’t otherwise on Instagram. No one has this figured out yet.”

Foster-Fell adds, “There is no such thing as the perfect Reel. No one gives a crap about what your Reel feed looks like—so go.” To her, this is the beauty of the platform’s newness. “Experiment, get curious, create without judging yourself. That way you can get yourself in front of new people and grow on Instagram in a way that hasn’t been possible for quite some time.”

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Where We’re Going: The Future of Content

“The future is in video content, and there is a lot of freedom in that for performers,” Chaidez says. “You don’t have to be a super-hot, aesthetically-pleasing artist anymore. You can let your personality rip. People will respond if you’re being authentic.”

She isn’t wrong. Foster-Fell also tells artists that the more they pull back the curtain and be themselves, the better.

“Let us into the process of writing a song, playing an instrument, mixing a track,” Foster-Fell says decisively. “Let us into the excitement of inspiration, and the frustration of creative blocks. The more you can think of social media as documenting and taking your community along for the ride, the easier it’s going to be to show up consistently. This is an integral part of building an online presence.”

Kirsten Spruch

Kirsten Spruch is a New York-based music journalist who has written for Billboard, The Wild Honey Pie, and more. Formerly, she was the managing editor at Baeble Music. When she's not writing about music, she is making her own under the alias Kirsten Izer.