Faced with younger, cooler, and hipper competition, Instagram saw its engagement levels plateau by early 2016. After six years of constant growth, users had found ways to achieve optimal exposure on Instagram with minimal effort. As a result, they were suddenly spending fewer hours on the platform each day. For powers that be, this was a clear signal that something had to change – and change it did.
The introduction of Instagram Stories in August 2016 transformed the way people shared events from their daily lives with their followers and helped Instagram grow its user base even further. Earlier this year, just as the platform crossed the one-billion-user mark globally, it was announced that more than 400,000 people use Instagram Stories every day to share life updates. To celebrate this, Instagram started rolling out its new feature that allows users to add their favorite songs to their Instagram stories.
Finding the Perfect Soundtrack for Your Story
Over the past two years, Instagram Stories have evolved from raw, unpolished 15-second clips to short-form works of art with film-like production values. Regular users, influencers, and marketers alike have all started putting a lot of thought into their stories in an attempt to create high-quality content that will engage their followers. With this new feature, they can now complement the visuals and the audio with a song from Instagram’s library to create a perfect soundtrack that will capture the mood of their story.
This addition of music to Instagram Stories has been in the works for a while. In late 2017, Instagram’s parent company Facebook introduced its Sound Collection, a library of royalty-free songs and sound effects designed specifically for video creators. A few months later, news broke that they had also signed a major licensing deal with all three major recording companies – Universal, Sony, and Warner – for the use of their copyrighted music in user-created videos shared on Facebook and Instagram.
With the royalty-free sound collection and contracts with major labels in place, Facebook and Instagram have built a library that currently comprises thousands of songs from some of the world’s most popular artists. Rather than allowing users to upload their own songs, Instagram allows them to choose one from this library by searching for its artist or title. This way, users can post stories freely without the risk of infringing on someone else’s copyright.
How to Add Music to Your Stories
As with all other in-app features on Instagram, adding music to your stories is fairly simple and doesn’t require advanced tech skills. You can add music to both video and photo-based stories. Before you start, you should know that songs are added via a sticker. Although not too obtrusive, this sticker will still be visible in your story so that the people watching it can easily identify the song and artist.
If you’re ready to add a soundtrack to your Instagram story, here’s what you need to do:
Step 1 (Android)
On Android, record the video or capture the photo for your story like you normally would and then tap on the “Stickers” button. From the pop-up menu with all your sticker options, tap on the one labeled “Music”.
Step 1 (iOS)
On iOS, you can choose to record your story before or after adding music to it. If you opt for the former, tap on “Stickers” and then “Music” like on Android. If you opt for the latter, swipe right-to-left on the bottom of your screen and select “Music” from the menu.
Find the song you want to add to your story by typing the artist name and/or the song title in the search box at the top of the screen. If you’re unsure about what song to use, you can also browse Instagram’s music library. Tapping on “Popular” will open a list of songs other users are adding to their stories most often. You can also browse the catalog by moods like “Party”, “Dreamy”, and “Upbeat”. Finally, there’s the option to browse the collection by genre.
Once you’ve found the song you want to use, tap on it. In the next window, you can rewind and fast-forward through the song to the exact part you want to use in your story. You can also leave the slider where it is, as Instagram’s algorithm automatically selects the part of the song it thinks is best suited for stories. Tap on the “Play” button to hear if it works for you.
Step 4 (iOS Only)
If you decided to record your story after you chose the soundtrack to it, now is the time to do it. Simply capture the video or capture a photo that you want your chosen song to play on top of and proceed to the next step.
When you’re done, the music sticker will appear on top of your video. As with all other stickers, you can tap on it to customize its appearance, as well as to resize, move, and rotate it so that it doesn’t obscure important parts of the image.
Finally, you can further tweak your story by adding more stickers, hashtags, questions, or animated GIFs. Once done, publish your story – and that’s it. The song will start playing automatically as soon as your followers open the story to view it.
What Songs Will You Find in Instagram’s Music Library?
Although this is undeniably a great feature, the choice of songs available in Instagram’s music library might not be to everyone’s liking. Rather than paying to license the entire digital catalogs of the three major US labels, Facebook and Instagram chose to focus on popular artists who have had chart-topping hits in recent years, such as Bruno Mars, Dua Lipa, Drake, Taylor Swift, and Rihanna.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, seeing as the feature (like Instagram itself) is tailored primarily to young audiences. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you won’t find a strong selection of chart hits from the 1980s or grunge classics of the 1990s. However, the catalog is nowhere near as comprehensive as it is on music streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal. Instagram claims that there are “thousands of artists and songs” available right now and this number will likely continue to grow.
The Availability of the Feature
This feature is available to all Android and iOS users who have the latest version of the Instagram app installed on their phone. Users on both platforms can add music to their stories as stickers, but the ability to choose songs before capturing a video is only available on iOS for the time being.
Due to licensing agreements, the service is only available in select countries. The list is currently limited to the US, the UK, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, France, and Sweden. There are plans to expand the feature to other markets in the coming months.
The Final Word
Instagram places a lot of value on user feedback and it shows. The ability to add music to Stories is one of a handful of useful functions that the platform has introduced in recent months. Combined with their other new features and services like Instagram TV, Boomerang, and shoppable stickers for businesses, it gives users even more power to create engaging content that speaks to their target audiences.