Instagram Subscriptions Could Be the Platform the Arts Have Been Waiting for

Streaming cultural performance on social media

How Arts and Culture Organizations Can Monetize Social Media With Premium Content Subscriptions

As much as we would all love the budget — or the tech grant — to create a digital content platform to rival the Berliner Philharmoniker’s Digital Concert Hall, that’s not always the reality. Yet there are increasingly more options for content creators to monetize their work. These options don’t only exist in the metaverse, but are also becoming increasingly prevalent Web 2.0, most recently in the form of Meta’s Instagram Subscriptions.

What are Instagram Subscriptions?

Instagram Subscriptions are the latest feature release from Meta which allows influencers to monetize their content — directly through the platform. Users are now able to “subscribe” to creator channels (in addition to “following”) while creators serve up premium content, such as live streams and stories for personalized and engaged audiences paying a subscription fee.

Currently, the feature is in testing and only available to a select number of Instagram creators, however, Meta has said they plan to roll out Instagram Subscriptions to ALL users in the next few months. Additionally, Meta has pledged to not take commissions from creators “until 2023 at the earliest,” which sweetens the deal for content creators and should help drum up support in the community.

To put the commissions in perspective, YouTube, which also offers a subscription model for premium content, takes around 45% of ad sales associated with its creator content.

How Arts and Cultural Centers Use Premium Content?

For arts and culture organizations with an Instagram presence, this new feature poses a unique opportunity to expand digital audiences and monetize premium digital content through subscriptions. Much like museums, zoos, and cultural centers already offer free in-person visits as membership incentives, digital content subscriptions can offer access to exclusive content. Organizations can also expand audiences through subscriptions, offering digital experiences for users outside of the typical geographic radius — and expand revenue streams at the same time.

[Read: It’s Time for Museums to Start Thinking Less Like Nonprofits and More Like Businesses]

Although not all arts and culture organizations are content creators, many are expert curators. Arts and culture organizations already have a a plethora of galleries, archives, exhibits, libraries, and canons to choose from. Museums and performing arts centers should lean into this when planning a digital monetization strategy.

They can make use of Instagram Subscriptions and similar paid content features on YouTube, and Vimeo to feature little-known insights from museum docents, behind-the-scenes looks at exhibitions from program directors, or even special, subscriber-only performances.

The Importance of Production Quality for Premium Content

Creating content that’s actually engaging can be the hardest part of a content strategy, but so many museums, cultural centers and performing arts centers have already done the heavy lift. They’ve identified interesting content through the creation and planning of the exhibitions and performances for in-person audiences.

Yet, just because they have interesting content doesn’t mean that organizations upload their raw content, subscribers flock to their accounts, and the work stops there.

[Read: 3 Ways to Integrate Content Marketing With Your Digital Strategy]

Arts and culture organizations are uniquely positioned to capitalize on premium content subscriptions — if and when they adapt their storytelling for social media platforms and invest in digital production.

That last line — digital production — is key. Few digital platforms are as unforgiving as social media, which makes it paramount for arts and culture organizations to invest in quality production services for their live streams and premium content.

Plan live streams as if you were broadcasting on live TV, using the same type of production experts. Create premium content with the help of a documentarian, videographer, or other visual storyteller. Design experiences that users will want to subscribe to — and spread the word.

A New Era of Online Content

Although Instagram isn’t the first social media platform to offer a paid model, the fact that one of the biggest names in social media has set aside $1 billion to pay content creators signals a new era for online content. In fact, TikTok, in an almost immediate response to Instagram Subscriptions, announced it will now be testing a paid subscriptions model.

No matter the platform, the shift to pay content creators and monetize premium content across social platforms bodes well for organizations ripe with content, especially in organizations that have access to content as engaging as that of the arts and culture sector.


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