Making music videos is difficult.
Video content is important, and it still seems to be one of the best ways to get your music in front of people.
The problem lies in coming up with a good idea and then having the financial and practical means to make that idea a reality.
If you don’t have a good idea, your video will not be good. It’s that simple.
You cannot rely on hiring a director or videographer and asking them to come up with an idea and then make it happen. That’s not their job.
I’ve done this several times, and each time the video didn't end up working out for me – which makes perfect sense. I didn’t come up with an idea that I liked, so someone else came up with another idea that I didn’t like.
In this guide, I want to give you some simple inspiration for different kinds of music videos and other video content.
My goal is to make these suggestions general enough that you can apply them to whatever music you are creating. But I also want to ensure my tips are simple and lo-fi enough that you can make a quality product for a reasonable price.
But first, if it's your aim to do music professionally, you'll want to check out our free ebook while it's still available:
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1. Simple One Shot Videos That Relate To The Story – Great Video Idea For Love Songs And Sad Songs
I love this video from Alessia Cara.
It was released three years ago when she wasn’t quite as famous as she is now, but nonetheless it garnered her 33 million views. So that’s something.
If you don’t have time to watch it – it’s literally just her holding a selfie stick, lip syncing a love song and running away from a guy trying to give her flowers.
This works. The video relates to the song. It keeps you engaged the whole time, because the song is great and the video is funny.
It plays to her personality, and makes her seem very approachable and down to earth. She is dressed like a normal person and it makes you feel a connection with her.
It also cost her potentially nothing at all. Which is awesome.
For a more artsy take on this concept, check out Lorde’s video for “Tennis Court”.
It’s stunningly shot. Lighting changes throughout the video. She lip syncs a few lines, but mostly just stares straight into the camera. It’s incredible.
If you’re brave enough to do something like this, it can create an impact. To me, this video is a perfect accompaniment to her overall image.
This video would have cost more than Alessia Cara’s, but nonetheless would not be too hard to create.
2. Take Advantage Of Good Editing Software & Stock Footage – Rap Song Video Idea
One of my favorite music videos from early Chance the Rapper is the video for “Everybody’s Something”.
The music has depth. The video is low-budget, but shows it’s possible to create a low budget song and video with the depth to match the music.
This wouldn’t have cost much more than a few hours of studio time to get the videos of him lip syncing and moving to the music, and then paying somebody to edit it together.
He used a bunch of stock news footage ranging from the civil rights movement to current news events. This takes nothing but time and research.
Then, with editing software, he superimposed that footage over his outline.
It’s super effective, creative, and not too expensive.
This video for popular rappers N.E.R.D’s “Life As A Fish” is a great example of what you can do with basic editing software, time, and footage.
They’ve put together a full video with videos from the industrial era, fishing and science documentaries, and more.
When you watch the whole thing, it feels like they’ve created a narrative. It’s an interesting visual and keeps you engaged.
It may not be as effective as a video featuring your face or image, but it’s still a good piece of content, and literally anyone can make a video like this.
There are lots of stock footage and archival footage websites on the web. Go take a peak around and see if you can find anything good.
Note that while you can find footage for free, what you’ll more commonly find is “royalty free” footage. This is footage that you don’t need to repeatedly pay to use, but you will need to pay once to use it wherever you want.
When using any footage that's not your own, make sure you’re aware of what you’re spending and any potential copyright issues.
3. Making Low Budget Live Video
Live video is becoming increasingly important and effective.
People want to know what to expect at a live show, and live video can help people feel connected to the artist.
You get to be real with people, talk to the camera if you want to, etc.
You don’t need a lot of money to make a live video. Vulfpeck is my favorite example of this.
Vulf films most of their content live, in their home studio, on iPhones.
Some of their videos have a couple cameras going, and most of them make use of the corny, grainy, digital zoom available in most editing software.
I’ve made a couple videos like this, and it worked well.
The only downside is that all of your videos look like Vulfpeck videos. Oh well.
Louis Cole has been making slightly higher production but very funny and effective live videos for a while as well. Check out this video of him with his huge band in a house.
All of this was filmed on iPhones. It doesn’t matter, because the video is so weird and creative, and the audio is great.
Focus on getting a great performance, good audio, and don’t overthink the rest.
On the other hand, my local friends at BNB Studios make absolutely stunning looking live videos, that are also done on a budget.
One nice room microphone, and two talented camera operators with beautiful lenses. This content is super effective and engaging, simply because of how beautiful it looks and sounds.
4. The Classic Band In A Room Video
I know it’s been done before, but I still think the “band in a room” look can be cool if it’s done right.
I’ve always loved this video of “Shiver” from early Coldplay.
You could make something cool today using this exact concept, whether it's by using a cool old camera, filming the entire video on a camcorder, or something like that.
I think the video shows the character of the band, lit ooks cool, and while there’s no story line or anything, it’s still interesting enough to keep me engaged.
On top of that, I like that it’s genuine, simple and honest. It doesn’t come across forced in any way, and it isn’t trying to make them look “cooler” or more famous than they were.
5. Lyric Videos
I’ll be honest – I do not like most lyric videos. I don’t usually find them very interesting.
But I like this one from Sure Sure:
It’s got tons of personality, it suits the songs, and it's just good.
I find most lyric videos just look like… lyric videos. And that does not excite me.
If you can create something like this Sure Sure video, go for it. I think the difference is that it features the band, has lots of cuts to keep it interesting, and doesn’t look like they paid some random dude online $300 to make a lame lyric video.
But that’s just like… my opinion, man.
General Tips To Make Your Music Video Awesome
Here are a few things you can do to ensure that your music video turns out awesome. Some of these tips will probably be a little less relevant to you depending on what you’re trying to achieve, but in general these are good things to keep in mind when you’re filming.
Now, I’m not trying to over-complicate things, so if I’m giving you too much homework here, don't worry about it. Just keep it simple. Simple is best.
Film Plenty Of B-Roll Video Footage
What is B-roll?
Well, it’s basically where you randomly film anything in the surrounding environment. It could be as simple as filming the nearby wall as you’re walking or capturing that bird that’s perched on a tree branch. Stuff that you may or may not include in the final video, but footage that may nevertheless be compelling.
This type of footage can come in quite handy. The average song is about three minutes, but you’d be amazed at how much that time is to fill onscreen. Unless you're doing lots of cuts, things can get boring fast.
As I’ve already shared, “band in a room” style videos can be quite compelling and unpretentious if done right. But the B-roll footage could spice up what might otherwise be relatively ordinary.
Arguably, there are plenty of modern-day rap videos that are composed of a lot of B-roll footage in between the rapping and singing. Even if there isn’t a whole lot going on in your video, the B-roll can help set the tone and add some interest to the video.
Don’t Forget About Lighting
Lorde’s “Tennis Court” video is cool in a haunting kind of way.
But filming against a black wall or in a dark room isn’t exactly going to be a walk in the park unless you’ve got a bit of lighting.
Amazon has plenty of affordable lighting kits, so that’s not a bad place to start. If you’re on a tight budget and you just can’t pick up extra gear, then you can always rent, borrow or just make do with what you’ve got. There are no rules saying you can’t use household lamps with different bulbs in them.
If you’re filming in daylight, lighting shouldn’t be a problem. Actually, you could have the opposite problem with filming in broad daylight, as your video could end up being overexposed. Filming on a cloudy day, in a shady location or a couple of hours before sunset is ideal.
Get A Little Help
Now, I’m sure you don’t want to go over-budget with your video. But having a little help can make a big difference, especially during the filming process.
Sure, you could set up a bunch of tripod stands and throw your phones on there at different angles. But it can be cool to get some “roaming” footage too, and you probably can’t do that without a little help from friends, especially if you’re filming a “band in a room” style video. It’s not hard to see that this is how Louis Cole’s “Thinking” came together.
Having a dedicated cameraperson isn’t essential. But it can add a lot.
Have Fun & Get Creative
At the end of the day, a music video doesn’t count for much if it isn’t fun and engaging.
Now, I know that there are all manner of genres and moods in music. So, you should always fit the video to the song.
But what I’m saying is that your passion should come across. The message and emotion of the song should be the spotlight of the video.
If your song has a fun, party vibe, then ensure your video reflects that.
If you’re promoting a somber ballad about lost love, then make sure your video evokes those feelings.
People love music because it’s entertaining. So, don’t forget to engage your fans with your videos.
And, don’t be afraid to get creative. There are so many music videos out there, and practically everything has been done. If there’s anything you can learn from this, it’s that music can make just about anything seem compelling (just think of Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You”).
Now, that isn’t to say there aren’t bad music videos, because there certainly are. You might want to do a quick search on YouTube just to see what’s out there, so you don’t make the same mistake others have (you can easily find videos by searching up “worst music videos”).
Music Video Ideas For Sad Songs, Rap And Love Songs Conclusion
The main thing with low-budget music videos is just to have an idea that you’re excited about and do it.
Don’t overthink it. If the idea is good and you are being honest and genuine to your music, then the music video will turn out great.