How to Make a Music Video
For decades, music videos were a vital piece of any marketing plan when it came to pushing a song or an album from artists with aspirations of reaching the top of the charts. MTV and the networks that followed played them non-stop, and the visuals attached to various singles helped turn them into true smashes.
Then, after TRL’s popularity faded and MTV focused more on reality than true art, it seemed like the age of the music video was over…but this is no longer the case. YouTube has helped usher in a new golden era, and now, the right production can once again take a single from obscurity to No. 1. If everything goes perfectly, everyone will want to share your cut across their social platforms, and things can take off in no time from there, changing your career forever.
But when it comes to doing so, where does one even begin? These steps will help detail how to make a music video.
Choose A Song
This has to be your first step when it comes to making a music video for obvious reasons, and while sometimes it’s the easiest, at other times, it can require some work before you can move on to step two. If you and your band are only releasing one song as a standalone single (or perhaps as the first taste of an album that isn’t ready quite yet), congrats! You already know what your song choice will be.
If you already have your full album ready to go and you’re just starting to roll things out, or perhaps if it’s already out in the world and you’re selecting the next tune to help promote it and keep things running, you could probably use some input when it comes to selecting the perfect tune.
If your album is out, it might be your best bet to stick with whatever song is performing the best in terms of sales and streams. Those are clear indications fans are interested in the cut, and if you can create a video to go along with something they already like and push it properly, you might see it take off in all the right ways.
If your album isn’t out yet and you’re trying to choose what might make the biggest splash upon arrival and set your fans up with a smash single (or at least one that performs well), you’ll have to take a different tack. Ask your friends, people you know in the industry, and perhaps even a select group of fans who have proven themselves to be diehard supporters. These people will all be able to give you honest feedback and help you make an informed choice.
In addition to saying something important (or perhaps nothing at all, if that’s the direction you want to go in), your video should have something within it Music Journalists want to cover and the plugged-in masses can make go viral.
Set A Budget
Sure, this isn’t the most enjoyable part of the process, but without it, you could end up going into incredible debt, or potentially spending too much money and not even ending up with anything at all.
If you’ve never done it before, start by dedicating a fair amount of time to doing the research necessary to understand what making a music video, even an extremely low-budget one, can cost. There are plenty of examples of templates and previously-used budgets online (such as this and this), but you might want to dig a little bit deeper. This is your money, after all.
Once you come up with a list of everything you may need (in terms of crew, distribution funds, cameras, and the like), compare it to your bank account. Is this something you can actually afford? If not, can you cut corners anywhere? It’s not ideal to lose crew members or technical effects, but what must happen must happen. It’s also worth thinking about how much money this song, and its accompanying video, may make you in revenue. Sometimes you need to spend more than you’ll make in the beginning to get your name out there, but the ratio of spending to money coming in from streams, purchases, and video streams shouldn’t be enormously uneven.
Once you have a general sense of the cost (you won’t always end up with an exact dollar figure, but perhaps a range), you can move on to coming up with concepts, which can depend heavily on your available funds.
This is perhaps the most enjoyable part of the entire music video creation process, though it can be creatively exhausting! Sit down with your team, which might include a Manager, other band members, perhaps a publicity team…or maybe it’s just you if that’s where you are in your career. Watch videos you love from other artists, movies and TV shows you enjoy, look at art, and think about what message you want your fans to take away from a short video clip.
Your music video should be smart, eye-catching, and the sort of thing people can’t wait to share with their friends and watch several times over. In addition to saying something important (or perhaps nothing at all, if that’s the direction you want to go in), your video should have something within it Music Journalists want to cover and the plugged-in masses can make go viral. I can’t tell you what that is, as the options are truly endless, but think less dancing in a club (something we’ve all seen one too many times before) and more OK Go’s “Here It Goes Again,” which launched the group to another level of fame and won them a Grammy, despite the fact the video was decidedly low-budget.
The only thing that should potentially restrain your brilliance is your bank account, which might, unfortunately, end up nixing a number of ideas.
Hire A Crew
You have an idea, you have a song in mind as your next proper single, and you know how much you can spend…now you just need to actually hire people to turn your dream into reality, and this is where your budget may expand a bit. Depending on how much cash you have to burn through, your crew might change in size. You need someone to actually hold the camera and understand what angles will work for your art and those who will edit what the Director captures.
This list contains simply the bare bones, and truly great videos typically feature many more hands helping out. Big budget productions also hire Producers, Hairstylists, makeup people, lighting people, special effects experts, Actors, and potentially even those who will build sets. Who you end up hiring depends entirely on how much you have to invest in this project and what your idea calls for. If your video is just you sitting in a room playing guitar, you probably don’t need special effects and hairstyling, but if you are trying to make a much bigger splash, you may need to dig a bit deeper.
You may be able to save a bit of money by hiring those just starting out or working with friends who aren’t necessarily professionals, but who know how to put an outfit together or make you look camera-ready. However, scrimping will likely only help you keep a few dollars in your pocket, so keep all of these expenses (oh, and they will likely charge you for the use of any equipment as well) in mind when you’re putting your budget together.
If you have a video you know has the power to do amazing things, you may be able to have a PR person pitch it to blogs and magazines for potential coverage, and though they also charge several hundred dollars for a typical entry-level campaign, it could be just what you need to go viral and earn the recognition you deserve.
You’ve found a team, come up with a wonderful idea that will have the entire world watching, and you’ve somehow funded it…so it’s finally time to actually film the damn thing! Depending on your concept and the team you have with you, it should probably only take you a day or so to film your video, but this doesn’t mean it will be ready for public viewing after just 24 hours. The footage still needs to be treated and edited by professionals, and then you may have additional thoughts on editing when you see a rough cut. It may be days, weeks, or maybe even months before your video is finalized and you feel comfortable sharing it with your fans. More often than not at the beginning of your career, it will be ready after just a few days, but it’s good to be prepared for a long wait.
While you may be trying to finish the shoot as quickly as possible (especially if you’re paying those helping you out by the hour), make sure you have fun during your time “on set,” as you may only get to film a few music videos in your life. It’s a rare experience, and while there’s a lot to be taken seriously, it should also be a truly wonderful time.
Once you have worked with your Editors and you are thrilled with the final product, it’s time to finally gift your masterpiece to the world. By this point, you should hopefully feel it is a masterpiece, and you should have every confidence that it will spread across the globe and reach millions of people who might not even know who you are yet. You’ll need to make sure the song is available on all digital storefronts and streaming platforms, and you will probably want to monetize the clip on YouTube so you can possibly make back a few dollars.
Just in case, you should already have a plan of attack when it comes to promoting it, which may or may not cost you even more cash. You can do a lot of the legwork when it comes to pushing the visual to your fans via social media and newsletters, but you may also consider working with a publicity company to grow your audience. If you have a video you know has the power to do amazing things, you may be able to have a PR person pitch it to blogs and magazines for potential coverage, and though they also charge several hundred dollars for a typical entry-level campaign, it could be just what you need to go viral and earn the recognition you deserve.
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