How to make a music video
The Buggles told us video killed the radio star, but they didn’t know about YouTube back then.
These days, it’s easier than ever to make a music video, even if you are an indie artist and only have a shoestring budget.
However, it still takes time, planning, and a lot of elbow grease to create a video that resonates with your audience and advances your music career.
In this guide, we’ll show you how to make a music video that suits your style and appeals to your fans, with plenty of examples along the way.
When and why you should make a music video
Before we get into the steps you’ll need to take to make your first music video, let’s look at the reasons why you might make one, and when you should consider doing so.
First, it’s of course absolutely fine to make a music video just for fun. But for the purposes of this article, let’s assume you want your video to help advance your music career.
If this is your goal, then consider these benefits of making music videos:
- It puts a face to your band. People who have only heard your music will get a better idea of what you and your bandmates look like when you perform.
- It helps establish your “band brand.” To be a successful musician, you need to have a recognizable aesthetic. A music video is a great way to establish your look and feel.
- Music videos are a promotional strategy. Promoting your music is a big part of a professional musician’s job, especially when you’re starting out. Video content is one of the best ways to reach new audiences and delight your current fans.
In terms of timing, there are a few key moments when you might want to consider creating a video.
In particular, videos are a good way to further the promotion of a new release—either a single track or the best song from an album.
You can also use videos to promote an upcoming performance or tour, as people often like to see what a band looks like when they perform before they purchase tickets.
Finally, a music video can breathe life into a song that isn’t performing as well as you’d hoped. If you want to revive an old song that never made a splash or boost a song that you know fans will love, then a music video can give your tune that extra push it needs to succeed.
If you think you’re ready to create your first music video, here are the steps you can take to pull it all together.
Step 1. Conceptualizing your video
Though you may be eager to get out a camera and start shooting, you’ll be much better off if you take your time planning out your creative concept first.
In fact, the more planning you do, the easier it will be to put together the video you’re envisioning. Here’s how to go about it:
Listen to the song
Once you’ve decided which song you want to use as a video, sit down and listen to it a few times. Even if you wrote or performed the song, it’s still a good idea to give it a few listens while you’re in the video-making mindset.
As you listen, take notes about the song. What are the lyrics about? What is the tone of the song? What kind of imagery does it conjure up? Keep these notes on hand, as you’ll need them later.
Determine your budget
Knowing what budget you’re working with will make it a lot easier to come up with a concept that is realistic.
How much you spend on your music video can vary greatly. You can easily spend thousands of dollars on a video if you have the funds, but it’s also possible to make a good-looking, simpler video on a budget of a few hundred dollars or less.
Once you have a figure in mind, you can start figuring out how much you have to spend on the various expenses that come with creating a music video:
- Filming equipment purchase or rental
- Booking out a location
- Actor fees
- Film crew fees
- Post-production fees
- Promotion fees
To get a better idea of how much you’ll spend, you can reach out to musicians who have put out music videos similar to the quality and scope you want for your track. Alternatively, you can reach out to freelancers who provide the services above to start comparing their rates.
Brainstorm different styles of video
Now that you know the tone and feel of the music video, as well as how much you can spend, it’s time to start brainstorming music video ideas. If you’re in a band or working with a producer/creative team, be sure to include them in this step, as having various people give their input can help you think outside the box.
To get started, let’s look at some of the common types of videos out there. We’ve listed them in order of budget, starting with the most affordable types of music video.
Artists have been featuring their lyrics in their music videos for a long time, but the concept of a “lyric video” didn’t really take off until 2010, when Cee Lo Green released the iconic video for his song “Fuck You.”
This type of video is a great option for a low-budget music video, because you won’t have to worry about hiring actors, booking a location, or high-value music video production.
You’ll still need to either learn how to animate text on your own, or hire someone to help, but this is far more affordable than some of the other options on this list.
Performance-based music videos
If you’re working on a limited budget, your best bet may be to use footage of your band performing. Often, venues record their artists anyway, and if not, you can use your own equipment or hire a freelance videographer to film you in your recording studio (or garage, if that’s more your style).
Again, this type of video will help you save on costs, as you won’t need to hire actors or a venue, and it should be pretty easy to edit the footage without paying a fortune.
Simple dancing video
If you want something a little more showy than just your band performing, you can still make a creative music video on a low budget by focusing on a single person or group of people dancing/acting things out to your song.
This will save you from having to pay multiple actors, purchase a bunch of expensive props, or rent out a pricey venue.
Take this example from Robyn’s smash hit “Call Your Girlfriend.” The music video was immensely popular, even though it only features the singer dancing in a large empty room, with some unique lighting:
Story-based music videos
If you have some budget to play with and want to create a music video that will make a big impact, then you can go all out and create a story-based music video.
These types of videos enhance the story behind a song, and with the right actors and filming techniques, you can make a piece of art that really captures your audience’s attention.
Step 2. Select your idea and create a storyboard
Once you have a music video idea you like, it’s time to start fleshing it out into a full storyboard concept.
You can think of a storyboard like a rough sketch of what your music video will look like. You can draw it out by hand, showing the basics of each shot/scene you want to include in your video.
This may seem like an unnecessary step, but you’ll be saving yourself time and money on the day of the shoot, as you’ll be able to move through the video much faster. Many videographers require a storyboard as well, and they will charge extra if you don’t have one.
To get a good idea of what a storyboard looks like, check out this side-by-side comparison for the song “Write in the Sky”:
Step 3. Scout your location and begin finding the talent
With the concept of your video done and dusted, it’s time to prepare for the day of the shoot. You still have some legwork to do to make sure you’re ready for lights, camera, action.
Choosing a location
Before you can set a date for when you’ll shoot the video, you need to decide on the location(s) where you’ll film.
If you’re looking to keep it simple, you may find that using your own home, a friend’s place or a local business is the cheapest option. You can also look into filming in a public park if you want something outdoors, but you’ll need to ask permission before you show up with your equipment.
Once you’ve chosen the location, you’ll be able to set a date for filming, but be sure to give yourself time to get prepared with the equipment and talent you need.
Finding talent and equipment
Unless you plan to film the entire video yourself using your phone or rented equipment, you’re going to want to find the additional talent you’re hiring before you set a firm date for shooting.
First, decide who will be filming the video, recording the sound, acting and performing in the video, and working on post-production.
If you’re working on a budget, try using websites like Fiver, or freelance Facebook groups to fill in any of the roles you and your bandmates aren’t able to take on yourselves.
Remember that you can save on money by asking friends to help out as well, whether they act as extras in the video or are just on hand to help carry equipment.
Step 4. Shooting the footage
Finally, the day has arrived! You’ve planned everything, hired the talent and equipment you need, and now it’s time to shoot the video.
How the day of your shoot goes will depend largely on what kind of video you’re making, but here are a few tips to help everything run smoothly:
- Get an early start. Make sure everyone knows what time to arrive, and give yourself plenty of time to film everything—especially if you’re filming outdoors, so that you have natural light for as long as possible!
- Make sure everyone knows their job. Before the shoot, decide what tasks everyone on your team will take on. Be clear about who will be leading the shoot, who is working with the freelancers and talent you’ve hired, and who is responsible for transportation to and from the shoot.
- Make plans for post-production. On the day of the shoot, you’ll be gathering the raw footage, but before you break for the day, make a plan for when you’ll regroup to work on post-production.
Step 5. Putting together the post-production
You’ve captured the footage, but now comes the tricky part—turning what you captured on film into a succinct music video that captures your vision.
Depending on the complexity of the video and your experience with video-editing software, you may be able to do some or all of the post-production work on your own. If not, you’ll again need to rely on freelancers or professionals in your network to help.
Post-production isn’t just about editing the footage together—you’ll also need to work on sound mixing, special effects, and any text or logos you plan to put over the video footage.
This step can take time, so don’t schedule your release date too soon after you’ve wrapped up filming. Rushing this step can put the entire project in jeopardy, so take your time and leave space for multiple revisions.
Step 6. Promoting your music video
Finally, you have a music video you’re proud of and ready to show the world. But don’t lose steam yet—you still need to put in some work to make sure the video makes it to your audience.
Here are some basic promotion tactics to make sure your video racks up views:
Creating a teaser
It’s a good idea to generate some buzz about your video before you release the full thing. You can do this by cutting short snippets of your video for an early release on your social media pages, website, or mailing lists.
Uploading to social media
First and foremost, you’ll want to promote the video on your social media channels.
YouTube is the most important channel, as that’s where people expect to see your content. However, beyond YouTube, you should also upload the page to your Facebook and Instagram accounts.
Reach out to music bloggers
There are many, many music bloggers out there, and they’re often happy to share new music videos on their site.
Stick with blogs that fall within your genre. Start by checking out our list of indie music blogs, or you can run a simple Google search like: “R&B music blogs.”
If you still have some money left over in your budget, it’s not a bad idea to put it toward an enhanced promotion strategy.
You can promote a music video on Facebook or Instagram, putting a bit of money behind it to help it circulate among audiences who may be interested in your style. However, this strategy should be used in addition to those listed above, as you’ll get far more reach with more than one promotion tactic.
That’s a wrap!
Hopefully now that you’ve finished this article, you’re feeling ready to make your first music video.
The most important thing to remember is that your music video is part of your brand as a musician. You want the video to reflect you and your sound, so let your creativity run wild and put your heart into it. Your fans will thank you!