Snapchat for musicians: a beginner’s guide
If you’ve been on the planet for more than a quarter century, you could be forgiven for not really knowing much about Snapchat. Though the social platform has been around for years, its primary users are in their teens and twenties. “Snapchat is for teen sexting,” the cliche goes.
But with 77% of college students using the app daily, and over 400 millions “snaps” a day (and a valuation of $16 billion) Snapchat can’t really be ignored anymore.
So let’s ask the question: do you need to be on Snapchat as a musician?
[For my honest opinion, scroll to the bottom.]
Like everything in this industry, there’s no one answer that will apply to all artists.
Currently Snapchat’s main user base is 13-25 years old, and 70% of those users are female.
If you perform Renaissance madrigals with newly penned lyrics about Medicare Part D in the style of 1950’s Rockabilly, you might not need to waste your time on Snapchat. Then again, young people listen to all kinds of music these days, so maybe that’s exactly where you need to be!
Let’s back up for a second, though.
What is Snapchat?
Put most simply, Snapchat is a messaging app where the messages self destruct after a certain period of time (or after viewing).
According to Wikipedia:
Using the application, users can take photos, record videos, add text and drawings, and send them to a controlled list of recipients. These sent photographs and videos are known as “Snaps”. Users set a time limit for how long recipients can view their Snaps (from 1 to 10 seconds), after which Snapchat claims they will be deleted from the company’s servers.
Unlike your band’s Facebook Page, YouTube channel, blog, Twitter feed, and almost everything else on the Internet, Snapchat is not about archiving or preservation. Because the messages self destruct, users can get creative and imbue their “Snaps” with a sense of immediacy, secrecy, or ultra-honesty — and there’s less pressure on the content to be super high-quality since it won’t be around long anyway.
Snaps don’t usually feel like they’re created for the eyes of the whole world. They feel more… personal and ephemeral. Which, of course, is the beauty of Snapchat as a music marketing tool. You can communicate with your fans in a way that doesn’t come off as obvious promotion. Not only that, but studies have show that Snapchat users are more engaged with brand messaging than on competing social media services. One survey even showed that nearly half the users they spoke with would open a Snap from a brand (or band) they hadn’t heard of before.
But before you answer the question for yourself about whether or not you should be using the app,…
How to promote your music on Snapchat
… let’s look at some ways you can use Snapchat to communicate with fans:
Tell them how you’re feeling – Make a confession. Jump for joy. Go on a (short) rant. Again, because Snaps don’t last forever — unless someone is being tricky on the other end of the message — you can be as real as you want to be in the moment. In fact, it’s probably best to think of these kinds of Snaps as the most important you create, because the more personal they feel, and the more frequently you make them, the more your followers will be amenable to Snaps that are more obviously promotional.
Share info about discounts – This is probably the most common commercial usage of Snapchat that I see, from the Chinese restaurant down the street letting customers know what their daily specials are, to a band giving fans a 15%-off coupon code on merch for the day.
Preview new clips – Want to tease a new track you’re working on while you’re still in the studio? Or share 10-second clips of every song on your album in the days leading up to its release? Do it with Snapchat, and add some text or info about where fans can go to pre-order (like PledgeMusic).
Give your fans a behind the scenes glimpse – Recording. Backstage. Driving between gigs. Whatever. Get personal. Get silly. It’ll all be a distant memory in 24 hours anyway!
Announce a new record or merch item – Show us. Or tell us. Or both.
Ask fans to create their own snaps about your music – It could be them at one of your shows, or modelling your t-shirt, or lip-syncing to one of your songs.
You could also snap snippets of lyrics, an album cover with one of the tracks playing, and lots more.
Making your snaps more interesting
Okay, if you’re saying woah, hold on, back up, easy there, I don’t even know how to snap in the first place, check out this video below:
In that video, she talks about adding emojis, geofilters, drawings, time of day, text, and even your speed in MPH to your snaps. But there are a few other ways to spice things up on Snapchat, including:
Hidden colors — You can drag your finger across the screen to unlock a wider color palette that can be used in your drawings.
Stories — This feature puts different video and text elements together to create a larger narrative.
Adding music to Snaps — Just what it sounds like. This is done by running an audio app (such as Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, etc.) at the same time as you’re creating a Snapchat video. The tutorial below shows you an easy way to do this using Spotify:
While we’re on the subject, there’s another benefit to letting Snapchat users record audio from their phones while shooting videos: user-generated content, or its Snapchat equivalent (fan-created Snaps that use your music). So make sure your fans know that you encourage them to share your music on Snapchat.
Want some Snapchat inspiration? Check out these 10 bands who are doing interesting things on the platform. Also, take a look at this music video, which was created by compiling a bunch of Snaps.
So after all that, do you think you should be using Snapchat as a musician?
Here’s what I think…
You should definitely try it out if:
* You’re already on Snapchat and love the platform
* Your core audience is using Snapchat, meaning they’re ages 13-25
* You have the resources — budget, time, or team member assistance — to build another social media community (because if you do, Snapchat and Instagram are growing every day)
If the criteria above doesn’t apply to you, you’re probably better off spending your energies elsewhere.
The way I see it, if you only have so many hours or minutes a day for online music promotion, you should be spending that time sharing songs, videos, photos, and blog posts that can KEEP working for you over the long haul — because they’re archived, permanently searchable and accessible on your website, newfeed, or photo gallery.
Everything you do on Snapchat will eventually be erased, deleted, gone. That’s great for all the reasons I mentioned earlier, but it’s not helpful if it distracts you from your goal of making things you hope will last forever.
Let me know your thoughts. Do you use Snapchat? If so, how? What do you love about it? What do you hate about? Sound off below.