How Much Do Music Videos Cost To Make? Independent To Mainstream

Thinking about making a music video? Not sure what the costs are going to be?

This is one of those cases where looking before leaping is in your best interest, especially if you’re an independent artist.

So, let’s look at the cost of independent and mainstream music videos, factors affecting the cost of music videos, as well as steps you can take to budget and reduce the cost of production.

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Independent Music Videos Cost

The estimated cost of an independent music video is in the $20,000 to $50,000 range. A single-day shoot should not cost more than $20,000 to $30,000.

That said, it is possible to spend considerably less. We’ll talk more about that later.

Mainstream Music Videos Cost

Record labels may spend upwards of $100,000 to $500,000 on a top artist’s video. In some cases, a music video for a signed artist may cost $50,000 or less, but costs can exceed $500,000 for the top echelon of artists.

Key Factors Affecting The Cost Of Creating A Music Video

The cost of a music video is largely determined by the following:

Length Of The Shoot

While most shoots last one to three days, each additional day ends up costing more due to fees for crew, rental equipment, and locations, if applicable.

Video Concept

Some music videos are simple. Others are more complex. The greater the complexity of the shoot, the more the video tends to cost. This means that additional camera angles, locations, choreography, and other aspects can factor into the final cost of a video.

Crew

Generally, the bigger the crew, the more expensive you can expect it to get. Grips, lighting techs, camera operators, assistants, producers, and others all must be paid a fair fee for their work.

Rentals

Rental equipment must also be factored into your budget – lighting, cameras, props, and anything else you might need to make the shoot a great one.

CGI & Effects

Animation, effects added in post-production, CGI, and anything involving a computer can boost the costs of a music video considerably.

Travel

If you want to shoot at specific destinations, you will need to travel and foot the bill for your team as well – not to mention lodging, food, and other related expenses.

Storytelling Elements

Performance-based music videos tend to be more cost-efficient than those featuring a narrative, which may include actors, wardrobe or costumes, additional sets, and the like.

The 3 Stages Of Production & Cost Breakdown

All music video expenses will fall under one of three categories – pre-production, production, and post-production. Here we’ll look at each.

Pre-Production

Pre-production includes brainstorming, planning, storyboarding, rehearsals, and anything else that might need to be done in preparation for the shoot.

The main costs for pre-production include:

  • Creative development: $1,000 to $5,000 for the director to narrow in on the vision and treatment for the project.
  • Crew: $3,000 to $10,000 for a capable crew.
  • Locations: $500 to $5,000. This includes scouting, as well as getting permits and permission.
  • Rentals: Pro-level equipment costs around $1,000 to $5,000 per day to rent.
  • Travel: $2,000+ for transportation and lodging assuming you are filming in multiple cities.

Production

All the details have been mapped out. The concept for the music video has been agreed upon. Your team is in order. You’re on set, on location. Now it’s time to shoot the video.

Costs for production may include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Crew: For a team of 10, one day of shooting will cost around $5,000 to $7,000.
  • Rentals: lenses, cameras, lighting, drones, and more. Equipment costs usually run around $3,000 to $5,000 per day.
  • Filming permits: Not all shoots require permits, but if your shoot does, they usually cost $250 to $1,000 per day.
  • Actors: You may not require actors for your shoot, but if you do, the standard day rate for an actor is about $1,000.
  • Catering: Cast and crew must be fed. This will cost about $50 to $100 per person. That means $500 to $1,000 for a 10-person team.
  • Security: Security will be required for filming in public spaces. This costs about $50 per hour.
  • Other: You may incur other costs like props, last-minute styling, other production equipment, fuel, and more. Miscellaneous expenses often add up to $2,000 to $5,000 per video.

Post-Production

Just because you’ve completed shooting doesn’t mean your music video is done! Now it’s time for editing.

Post-production costs may include:

  • Editing: Editing costs about $75 to $150 per hour depending on who you’re hiring. It would be best to set aside around $1,500 to $5,000 just in case.
  • Visual effects: Effects generally cost $300 or more per shot.
  • Color correction: It may seem like a small thing, but it can make a big difference. Professional color grading will cost $150 per hour.
  • Mixing: Audio mixing and sound design will cost about $6,000 per video.
  • Duplication: Preparing the files for distribution costs $500 to $1,500.

How To Reduce The Cost Of A Music Video

With the sheer number of people and factors involved, it’s no wonder a music video can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $100,000 or more!

That doesn’t mean there aren’t some ways to control costs. Here we’ll look at several items that should help you keep to a tighter budget.

Plan Well

The better prepared you are, the more you’ve thought about all the factors and variables, the less likely you are to incur unwanted expenses.

Focus on shooting what you need, and don’t spend too much time on the B-roll.

Reduce Shooting Time

A one-day shoot is going to be much less expensive than a two- or three-day shoot.

Pick Fewer Locations

Traveling between multiple locations, cities, or even countries will only add to the cost. If you keep it to one or two locations that are affordable and easy to access, you will save on some costs.

Don’t Hire Actors

Instead, do everything yourself – bring the band and bring your fans or friends as extras.

Do Your Styling

Professional stylists can be costly, and as nice as it is to think about all the wild and amazing possibilities that exist, including hairstyles and costumes, if you keep it simple and do it yourself, you will reduce costs.

Make Your Props

Although it may not seem like much, the cost of props can add up depending on the sophistication of your video concept. Make your own, raid the dollar store, or borrow from your high school drama team, and you will keep costs down.

Don’t Rent Any Gear

Check to see what you’ve got in your inventory. Ask your friends and see if they have the cameras or lighting you need. Or get the crew to bring their equipment.

This can limit the quality of your production, but if budget is a concern, equipment is an area where you can significantly reduce overhead.

Simplify Editing

Avoid the use of visual effects, complicated editing techniques, unnecessary fades, and so on. Instead, have your editing team simply cut from one scene to the next.

How To Budget For A Music Video

As you’ve already seen, the cost of a music video can be significant. So, how is one expected to raise the funds necessary to film one, especially if they are independent and don’t have backing from labels or investors?

Here are some tips to help you save and prepare for the creation of a music video.

Research

Explore other artists’ videos. If you aren’t sure what you like yet, then look broadly. If you have a good idea of what your style is, then find videos that are like what you have in mind. You can reach out and ask for recommendations in terms of equipment rentals, crew, locations, etc.

Also, look up production rates and get a sense of what they cost in your locality.

Save A Percentage Of Your Revenue

Any time you get paid as an artist or band (gigs, merch sales, royalty checks, sessions, licensing and placements, etc.), set something aside. It could be 10%, it could even be 50% if you’re on a more aggressive schedule.

Keep adding to your lump sum as you get paid and lock it away until you’ve saved enough for your video!

Save More Than You Think You’ll Need

For better or for worse, unexpected expenses can come up. It’s better to have more than you need than to be a little shy because then you might end up having to dig in your own pockets for funds.

Crowdfund

From Kickstarter to Indiegogo, there are many fantastic services out there that can help you launch a campaign and gain visibility for it.

Of course, you do need to set realistic expectations. You may not be able to raise your entire production budget with crowdfunding, especially if you’re aiming for $50,000 or more. But you should be able to raise at least a portion of what’s required.

Either way, getting your fans involved and letting them be a part of your creative process can be a very exciting and rewarding thing.

Is It Possible To Spend Less On A Music Video?

I don’t want to get your hopes up too much, but yes! A great DIY music video doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg. Think of it this way – you’ve seen poorly put-together mainstream productions, haven’t you? And how much of a budget did they have?

Nowadays, if you’ve got your props and costumes, a location scouted (with permissions, if applicable), and extras willing to join the fun for pizza and beer, the only thing you need is an iPhone to film. Just pray that the weather cooperates (if filming outdoors).

You can find many examples of music videos that have been filmed using just an iPhone on YouTube, and you may be amazed at the quality!

Even if you do beg a friend who has a couple of DSLRs and some lighting equipment to come and film for a day on a shoestring, the video should not end up costing you $20,000, even with editing.

Should you expect to get the same quality as a mainstream music video? No. But free and low-cost tools have gotten so good that you might just be amazed by what you wind up with.

Keep in mind, though, that It will still be a lot of work. Most music videos require a full day of shooting just to get three and a half minutes of usable footage.

Creative Ideas For Low-Budget Videos

What follows are a few music videos that were done guerrilla style or completed on a low budget.

Ultimately, we’re not sure how cheap they were, because the money still went somewhere.

But these music videos may spark some ideas for you, so let’s explore.

“Here It Goes Again” by OK Go

OK Go practically made a name for themselves with this treadmill dancing classic. Reportedly, it took 17 takes to get it right. The video has 63 million views to date, and it doesn’t hurt that the song gets stuck in your head.

“Praise You” by Fatboy Slim

This video is famous for having a shoestring budget. Fortunately, Spike Jonze decided to dance outside of the cinema with his fictional dancing troupe like his career depended on it. Watching it feels like witnessing a guerrilla performance that you don’t know what to make of, and that’s because it is.

“Short Skirt/Long Jacket” by Cake

In discussions concerning low-budget music videos, this one inevitably comes up. To be fair, it is brilliant. The band Cake went around asking people to listen to their song, and asked for reviews. The result is a funny video because some people didn’t care for the song all that much and the band left those negative reviews in!

Final Thoughts

Do you have a better idea of what a music video costs now? Were you surprised at how much it costs? Or was it basically what you expected?

Whether you’re researching for the future, or you’re planning to create a video soon, we hope you have everything you need to plan for your project. Best of luck!

P.S. Remember though, none of what you've learned will matter if you don't know how to get your music out there and earn from it. Want to learn how to do that? Then get our free ‘5 Steps To Profitable Youtube Music Career' ebook emailed directly to you!

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