Music marketers say Instagram's Reels can help record labels reach new audiences but that it lacks some key features that make TikTok the industry leader

  • After finding success promoting songs on TikTok, music artists and record labels have begun testing influencer-marketing campaigns on Instagram's Reels to see if the nascent platform can drive similar results.
  • Music marketers told Business Insider that Reels lacks some of the song discovery features that have led to tracks going viral on TikTok, and TikTok remains the first choice when it comes to deciding where to allocate budgets.
  • "If we have $10,000 to spend on influencer marketing for a song, they'll spend $7,000 on TikTok, $3,000 on Reels," said Johnny Cloherty, the CEO and cofounder at the music-marketing agency Songfluencer.
  • But marketers also said that early tests on Reels, while unpredictable, have shown promise and could help record labels reach a different audience than TikTok's.
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TikTok has become a key marketing tool for the music industry, and now record labels and artists are testing its competitor Instagram's Reels to see if it can similarly make songs take off.

Hiring influencers to add tracks to social-media posts has helped labels drive up streams on platforms like Spotify and YouTube and led to songs charting on the Billboard 100. TikTok in particular has become a music hub, with creators on the app getting paid thousands of dollars to add songs to their videos. 

But can Reels have that kind of impact?

Music marketers who have tested out Reels said they're still working out some of the kinks on strategy, but are hopeful that Reels will help their clients reach a new audience outside of TikTok. TikTok and Reels have a different set of stars with separate content styles (and disparate user experiences for discovering songs), which has required some finesse on the part of campaign managers.

"It was slightly harder to get the content right [on Reels] than a more well-trodden path like TikTok or Instagram main feed or Stories, and I think that is in part due to the fact that the influencers are still figuring out what they're doing and how they implement marketing," said Josh Brandon, the founding partner at We Generate, a marketing agency that runs influencer campaigns for record labels and artists.

We Generate recently hired around 10 influencers to do song promotions in Reels videos for tracks from Joji and Diplo and Calvin Harris and The Weekend from Columbia Records.

Unlike song campaigns on TikTok where the app's "For You" content recommendation page has made influencer-promoted tracks rise swiftly, Brandon said Reels videos don't appear to trigger the same waves of virality.

"The virality to it isn't the same and we basically honed in on trying to get the right interesting influencers," he said. "The numbers on it aren't massive waves yet, but it's an exceptionally useful tool and I think that it's certainly something that's going to become more important."

Marketers at the music agency Songfluencer noted that the lack of a clear song discovery page in Reels — a core feature on TikTok — has made it less likely that influencer videos on Reels will lead to the creation of user-generated videos using the same tracks.

"One of the biggest things is that there's just a lot of promotional friction that ultimately can impact our ability to give excellent results to the clients because the platform is not set up to win as much as TikTok," said Johnny Cloherty, the CEO and cofounder at Songfluencer. "[If] you want to search for [a song] in Reels because you want to create a Reels for it, you have to just stumble upon it. So those are some elements of that promotional friction that they have to cure in order for the music industry to bite on it."

Thus far, budgets for song promotions on Reels tend to be smaller than on TikTok, Cloherty said.

"If we have $10,000 to spend on influencer marketing for a song, they'll spend $7,000 on TikTok, $3,000 on Reels," Cloherty said. "Clients are going to spend add-on budget to their TikTok campaigns on Reels."

Because many Instagram users don't have accounts on TikTok, hiring influencers to post songs on Reels allows for "cross pollination" and the ability to spread music into different communities and to hit different demographics, Cloherty said. 

"Omitting [Reels] from your plan because you think TikTok is the only solution, there's air in that mindset," he said. "That said, it depends on your budget. If you only have $5,000 in your budget, I'd say I'm going to spend it on TikTok."

For more stories on how record labels, artists, and marketers are taking advantage of music trends on TikTok, check out these other Business Insider posts:

  • The 24 power players using TikTok to transform the music industry, from marketers and record execs to artists: Business Insider compiled a list of the music marketers, artists, digital creators, and record labels that are using TikTok to reshape popular music.
  • TikTok influencers are getting paid thousands of dollars to promote songs, as the app becomes a major force in the music industry: TikTok creators, talent managers, and music marketers shared how much influencers earn by promoting songs in videos on the app.
  • A Sony Music exec explains the label's TikTok strategy and how it responds when a song like 'Break My Stride' catches fire: Business Insider spoke with the marketing team at Sony Music's Legacy Recordings to learn about its strategy for promoting trending songs on TikTok.
  • The agency behind one of TikTok's top ad campaigns says brands can build a massive audience through original music and dance trends but the 'window is closing quickly': Business Insider spoke with the cofounders of Movers and Shakers to learn more about their TikTok strategy and how brands fit into the app's future.
  • Music artist Tiagz explains how he mastered TikTok's algorithm to score a major record deal, with help from Charli D'Amelio and a 1950s jazz classic: The Canadian rapper Tiagz (Tiago Garcia-Arenas) has built a career as a producer by strategically uploading songs to the short-form-video app TikTok.

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