Why you want a music video

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Don’t make a music video just because you think you should – make one to use as an asset for your music promotion and to establish yourself

Music videos never seemed like something I should pursue. In fact, I thought they were for serious rockers, famous artists, or singers with money to burn. I never understood how to make a music video that could translate into sales or revenue, and I certainly didn’t know how to come up with an idea that wasn’t a literal translation of my lyrics – “all I have to say is I love you” only invokes an image of two people running at each other in slow-mo, arms open for an embrace… cheese city.

For my last record, though, I wanted to pull out all the stops. And this is when I finally figured out what it means to make a music video that appropriately represents the song and will help push my music career forward, and how to go about doing it.

Here’s the video I made for my song, “Steaming Hearts,” and here’s what I learned:

Ask yourself why you want to make a music video. What is the result you are trying to produce?
For me, I wanted to show that this new record works well against picture, that the songs were made for licensing for TV shows, ads and films. The result would be not only more sales of the song, but placements. For others, it could be to clarify the song’s meaning, or even to show another interpretation of the lyrics. Other reasons to make a video are to further develop your brand, spice up your tour, give back to fans, or to show your fans what you look like in music-video makeup (kidding). No matter what it is, make sure you are clear on your reason and desired result and that this result will be something you can use in the future to propel your career.

Have someone come up with a story.
Don’t try to come up with the video’s concept yourself, unless you’ve had some divine intervention while asleep. Have someone else (ideally a creative type like a screen-writer, a producer friend, an author, someone who can create stories) listen to the tune, and come up with a few possible storylines. And of course, let this person know the “why” you figured out in #1. Discuss with them how you want to be portrayed. Figure out what is missing from your current branding or image. For me, I had done a lot of the “girl-next-door” type of tours, interviews, etc., and what was missing from my image (that was present in my music) was a darker side, with a little mystery and sexiness. That’s what we wanted to inject into my new video.

Modify the story to meet realistic costs.
The big orchestra scene I wanted was nixed due to the fact it would have cost thousands of dollars to shoot. I asked myself what did I want to convey with that big orchestra scene? The answer was “epic emotion.” So then I asked how else can we portray epic emotion? The answer was to shoot the whole story in big mountains (where I was going to be for part of the summer anyway). Cost crisis diverted.

Let the snowball effect happen, and budget for it.
Start small. Only because it’s inevitable that it will get bigger. My plan was to have my fiancé shoot most of the story with his GoPros. It was only when we ran into an acquaintance of his that we learned we had friends with nice cameras who offered to help out. Which leads me to…

Share about your video, and make requests everywhere you can!
I say this all the time, but the more people who know what you’re up to, the more likely you’ll get some offers to be involved, and even step up the production value of your video. Our acquaintance turned out to be a paraglider who shoots flying video, and he knew a guy with a remote controlled helicopter who also did a bunch of high-quality shooting. I straight up asked for their help, and these guys were interested in getting involved with something “artsy” and shot our WHOLE video for under $1,000. After we had rough footage that included a helicopter shot, we had no problem finding an editor to edit this high-quality footage, and then got a favor by a big NYC post production facility to color correct the footage (which is the video equivalent of mastering your record). All because the good energy from the beginning and the unreasonable requests I was making kept snowballing to create a more and more quality product.

Build up to the release!
Make a “making of” video for your video (here’s mine) to help keep fans updated, interested and curious about what’s to come. I personally love behind-the-scenes stuff and once I watch an artist’s sneak peak, I’m hooked until the video comes out!

Collaborate with your video’s products.
Are you featuring a drum set? Drinking in the video? Driving a car? Reach out to the makers of these products to see if they’d be interested in cross-promotion and supporting the production. In my video, I wanted to wear an innocent-looking dress. I reached out, over Twitter, to a vintage dress company named ModCloth. They were into the song and the concept and agreed to lend me a dress for the shoot. Now they are helping to cross-promote the video and song, and their clothing line gets to see some action (I am rock climbing in it, after all). Having them post about your video on Facebook, and retweet your video-related tweets on Twitter will get eyes on your music and also more followers, which you can then turn into loyal fans with your tweeting awesomeness.

Get a marketing team behind your video.
If you can, spend a little money to have a few months of someone pushing the video, getting it exclusively premiered on a great website, and to be your video’s cheer leaders. I love working with The Outlet Collective, as they are priced well, get who I am as an artist, and know how to fill in what’s missing. If the money is tight and hiring a company is a no-go, gather a small group of fans or friends and enlist them to be your video’s champion team, having assignments for sharing on social networking sites, blasting out emails, and reaching out to media about the video. P.S. I would do this in addition to a hired marketing team, just make sure the outreach to media doesn’t overlap!

In the end, you don’t want to make a video because you think you should, you want to make one if you can use it as an asset to open doors in the future and to further establish yourself as the artist you want to be.

Video Frame image via ShutterStock.com.

Cheryl B. Engelhardt is a singer/songwriter and composer. Her website is www.cbemusic.com and you can follow her on Twitter @CBE. She authored the killer eCourse, In The Key Of Success: The 5 Week Jump Start Strategy which will get your career moving in the direction you want (go get it now). Her new epic video, complete with rock climbing and helicopter shots, lives at YouTube.

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27 thoughts on “Why you want a music video

  1. For those of you who have not realized it yet, digital and internet technology is revolutionizing the music industry in favor of independent musicians in a major way, so much that, anymore, with a little tech savvy, indies are limited by only their imaginations.

    What I have found is that you do not need to be, “serious rockers, famous artists, or singers with money to burn,” in order to make a music video. In fact I have over 32 of them on my youtube channel and did not spend a single dime making any one of them. Of course, most of them are lo-fi as I only recently acquired an HD video camera, but still, they are imaginative, fun, and a good way to add dimension and interest to my music.

    Before the internet and affordable, user-friendly, compact, professional recording hardware, most of us Indie musicians spent our days (and mostly nights) playing bars and parties, dreaming of being discovered and signed to a major label, and maybe scraping up enough cash to cut a few tracks or print up a few posters in order to effect a tiny fraction of publicity that the internet provides for free.

    On the internet, indie musicians have at their fingertips music publishing, A&R development, radio play, fund raising, video/audio broadcasting, merchandising, fan newsletters, copyright management, CD/Vinyl manufacturing services, music lessons, band networking, music stores to sell your music, and all kinds of other related services that are being added to every day. What is more, utilizing online promotional tools and streaming media, musicians are reaching out to potential fans all over the world 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year without doing anything but uploading their music. Welcome to the age of independent music. We have finally arrived.

  2. Hey Cheryl and the blog readers,

    My band recently released our first music video as well. I wanted to share my experiences here and hopefully it’ll be valuable to some of you who are about to attempt this endeavor.

    I definitely agree about determining the goal of the music video ahead of time. But after that, I don’t want anyone to get discouraged if they can’t collaborate with others on the video in any way! Our goal was extremely simple: show people how we looked and sounded. That’s it! Just trying to capture our “image/brand.” Just nice shots edited in a nice way of the singer singing and the band jamming. We’re from South Louisiana, so we took advantage of the scenery fully. All the shots are outdoors: from the singing, to the jamming, to the b-roll footage.

    There was no money needed to get any of these shots. Just use what you already have in the most creative way. (Like the mountain climbing scene in the music video in this article) Other people will find where you’re from interesting, no matter where that is!

    Other points I agree with is the marketing and building up to the release! This point cannot be stressed enough!! We posted a different thumbnail from the video footage with how many days were left until the release date each day on our Facebook. This was an interesting way to build up hype and provide multimedia content for our fans. After the release date, you must still non-stop promote that shite! This is something I’m still learning in particular. No one else is going to market for you if you are just starting out. We got a group of our most loyal friends and fans (our marketing team), and stormed Facebook with news about the release for days. Now, use common sense, and do this in a tasteful and relevant manner. Planning for the future, this is one area that I’m going to specifically pay more attention to.

    Since this was our first music video, we were okay about having a simple goal of just showing the band. But before we even filmed this last one, we had future plans of getting more and more creative with our videos as time goes on and we get better and more ambitious. We recently shot the footage for our next video with more of a storyline this time. Our goal with this next one is to get more people involved and be more quirky/creative.

    Now, I know not everyone has a great computer to edit with, and a great camera to take HD footage. I’m lucky in that video and multimedia has been a hobby of mine since middle school. I had a few of the tools already, and saved up to buy the rest. Just intelligently and realistically look at the capabilities of each band member. That is how you will do it. If it makes more sense to get someone else to film and edit, do that. If you can handle doing it yourselves, then do that. In the end, whatever makes the best songs, and whatever makes the best videos – go with that!

    (And as a reply to some of the comments, some people have definitely had their lives changed from YouTube alone. But as a common sense approach, use the music video and YouTube as just one more awesome tool for your band.)

    Our first video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8LnBpQfDmo
    “Jester” by Autumn High


  3. I think this is good advice, and I would like to offer an alternative view;
    use the $1,000 to get set up with a mac & imovie – learn how to edit on your own, shoot with whatever you have – even low level consumer cameras shoot video these days (or your phone for that matter)
    get college students that are hungry and in high experimental mode to write & conceive, craigslist for actors and actresses in talent section that want to help…if you want to you will find a way – granted – my videos are quite different, and I don’t have the $$ look, but a thousand bucks is a lotta ching for a video…I was once in a band that was signed to a major label, and they hired a company from CA that flew out and spent $95,000.000 (I kid you not) on a sweeping cinematic video that…quite frankly was not worth it.

    1. Thanks Drhill, great advice. Learning to produce your own is totally another option that works too, and working with new talented folks looking to build a reel is super great! Wow ($95k!!???) Crazy!

  4. P.S. @Gee Notes
    YOU must be an awful artist, because
    If you have the “Talent” this is basically
    Motivating structure to your business model
    In order to gain MORE exposure. #STOP HATING

  5. You make it sound oh-so-simple. Too bad 98% of the time it doesn’t work out that way ALL. Don’t mislead the readers, please.

  6. Yes, but just remember two other things. First, anytime you place a music video on YouTube, Dailymotion, or any other social site you have just given that song away to the world for free. There are many programs that allow users to copy the music right off of of the video for free, or they can just log in anytime and listen without buying a download. Music videos can actually hurt sales. This is why we no longer place full length versions of our artists songs online, only samples. Secondly, if you are posting music videos in hopes of getting a serious placement, think again. Trust me, agents don’t spend hours perusing countless videos (or music for that matter) looking for songs to use in movies, TV or advertising. They don’t have that kind of time. If you want to go after sync deals you have to go through agencies that specialize in that. They have the connections and accounts to do that. Don’t plan on getting “discovered” on YouTube.

    1. Ask that girl with that stupid song “Friday” if youtube didn’t help… ask Justin… a lot of companies do see when a video is getting ridicoulous amounts of views.. just saying… if ppl with not such great talent were able to utilize you tube then why not someone very talented!!!

    2. Great points Adrian. And by no means is making a video the ONLY means to an end- especially these days, artists have to be a lot more than artists. A video is just one aspect of branding, of who the artist is, and a treat for their fans. Getting “found”, going viral, or any other biproducts of having a killer video start with actually having a video. A video can help round an artist out. And it is a shame music is so easily ripped these days, hopefully in the end, that person will show up at a live show, or refer others who will buy the song. Here’s hoping!

  7. Thank you very much for still senfing me info.on the bizz merry xmas and I will be using youre …experiance in cds in purchace first of the year…..thankyou lenny moran

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