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Social platforms like Instagram and Spotify are changing the way musical artists promote themselves

“Everyone’s on social media right now. We’re linked in.”

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Twenty-year-old Pittsburgh hip-hop artist Flatline Nizzy has 15,000 Instagram followers. His posts include everyday snaps of his life, music videos and virtual flyers for upcoming shows. He has fans in cities like Detroit and Atlanta. 

Social-media sites like Instagram have replaced traditional advertising methods, like a show flyer on the telephone poll. Today, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify are how many artists are promoting their work and gaining popularity.

“I promote concerts on social media. I’m going to make sure the people who follow me are going to show up,” Nizzy says. “Everyone’s on social media right now. We’re linked in. It’s not like back in the day. If you wanna know anything you have to go through social media.”

Nizzy hasn’t been a player in Pittsburgh’s hip-hop scene for very long. He released his first single on Spotify last year, and a 12-track album just last month. But he’s already collaborating with Pittsburgh hip-hop heavy hitters like Jimmy Wopo and Hardo, whose song “Today’s a Good Day,” featuring Wiz Khalifa, has more than five million Spotify listens.

“I use social media to look for artists to collab with,” says Nizzy. “If you’re doing your thing and I’m doing my thing, why not try to come up together?”

Spotify has been a boon to 21-year-old Amir Miles. The social network features curated playlists, and inclusion on one of Spotify’s coveted playlists can promote your music to millions of subscribers. That’s what happened to Miles.

“This is a big thing for people who are unknown like me,” Miles says. “Spotify has these playlists that people follow ,and some of them have two million followers. Because of my presence online, this playlist called Fresh Finds found me.”

Miles’ new single, “Bad Habits,” got 60,000 listens on Spotify in one day after it was added to the Fresh Finds playlist. Before that, it had 800 listens.

“It’s kind of lucky that Fresh Finds found me, but your name being on the internet and circulating just helps your chances,” says Miles.

Miles started out using other tools like SoundCloud, a site that lets anyone post and listen to audio files for free. Then his music got picked up by popular YouTube channels. 

Today he boasts 115,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, and “Bad Habits” has more than 320,000 listens. 

But there are downsides to social media. Thanks to the megaphone social media gives to every artist, some say it’s easy to get lost in all the noise. 

Scotty Sabatasso, also known as DJ Spillz, is a member of the music collective RARE (Revitalizing Art Reimagining Emotion) Nation. While he believes in the power of social media, and its power in the music industry, he says it’s becoming oversaturated.

“It makes it tough when you’re trying to go somewhere and become something, and there’s so many other DJs out there who are sending their music out,” Sabatasso says. “If I don’t make a personal connection, then I most likely won’t get my music heard.”

Still, Sabatasso sees social media’s role in music as mostly positive; it’s great for networking, for example. 

“We started really using social media to help us gain avenues and started networking with different artists,” Sabatasso says. “We’ve built a network of people and we all share each other’s fans, and it’s really been all because of social media.”

Last summer, Sabatasso and other members of RARE embarked on a five-city East Coast tour. Sabatasso says social media was a big part of ensuring those shows weren’t empty. They’re planning on doing it again this year.

“Because of social media, we were able to reach out to the popular artists in those cities and get them to do the show with us,” Sabatasso says. “Then they bring their fan base and it turns out to be a good show and we’re not performing in front of nobody because no one there knows us yet. Now their fans are our fans.”


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