Video is of ever increasing importance when marketing your music. The rise of YouTube has forever changed the way people discover new music and the power of social media gives artists a chance at having their big video breakthrough.
One can pay big money and make a professional music video that might (read: probably won’t) stack up to the ones released by artists on major labels. Or, more likely, you will create a low budget video, mostly DIY-style.
Here’s how to make the most of a low budget video!
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Use Low Budget To Your Advantage
A professional music video costs upwards of $40,000, and the fact is that seemingly outrageous amount of money will likely end up looking cheap next to the hundreds of thousands that big labels spend on their music videos.
Here’s the thing: you don’t need to spend $40,000, $10,000, or even $2,500 on your next music video. A great music video simply does not need to be expensive. It just has to be unique and honest. Oh, and the song also has to be great.
What do I mean by honest? Well, if your video has a budget of $500, don’t pretend like it has a $10,000 budget. Make the most of your low budget, and actually highlight what makes it low budget. For example, check out this legendary video from OK Go:
There’s nothing fancy going on here. One shot. Not super HD video. But it’s undeniably awesome because it’s so creative! It’s not pretending to be something it’s not, it looks low-budget because it is.
Similarly, this video from Vulfpeck (and most of the other Vulfpeck videos) is primarily shot with one or more iPhones, and then uses some clever, hilariously “bad” editing to make it work.
They had some funny ideas, they are funny guys, and they have branded themselves as a band with a sense of humour, so this works for them.
Finally, this video by Vintage Trouble was shot entirely on an iPhone 4, and it’s awesome. To be fair, the director of the video is Emmy award winning. But the takeaway here is that he knew how to take advantage of the less-than-perfect FPS of an iPhone by making it look vintage.
Get Creative With The Music Video Concept
The the common thread between all of the above videos is a great concept.
Do you have a great idea for some choreography? A unique story? A great location in mind?
Think of the video as an extension of your artistic vision; what do you want the song to say? Do you want the video to say the same thing, or bring something new to the table?
It’s helpful to use the song structure when creating the framework for your video. This will allow you to break the video into smaller, more manageable pieces. Consider repeating events or shots in your video when a theme recurs in the song!
The key is to not make your concept too overwhelming. It’s wise to avoid having resolutions, character development, or anything that would make it too difficult to edit together a convincing story with your limited budget and editing experience.
Make A Storyboard For Your Music Video
It seems obvious, but this is huge. It makes the shots you need easier to realize, and editing becomes nearly automatic.
Taking the time to draw out each scene will also force your creative mind to work double time. Committing to ideas can be difficult, but putting them down on paper is an important part of the creative process.
You can use our music video storyboard template here to make this easier.
Prioritize How Your Manage Your Shoot
If you only have $500 in your budget, you need to know how you’re going to spend it. Consider what is going to matter most for this video.
Is it a live video? You’ll probably want to prioritize a good audio engineer and mixer.
If it’s not, think about location. Do you want to rent an ultra-cool location? What about lights? Will great lighting be a deciding factor in the video? Maybe you want your video to be in super high-def. Consider renting a great camera!
Prioritizing your spending will keep your costs down while improving the overall production of the video.
Choose Your Location Wisely
Sometimes all you need is a great set. If you’re stuck for an idea, consider making something really simple. Perhaps just you playing the song, but someplace really strange. On the street, in the laundry room, on a roof, etc. Think outside the box!
When you’re considering setting, make sure you know how much light is available. Lighting can end up being a big expense, but it's worth investing in if the location is cool enough. Often, shooting outside can be an interesting and inexpensive option, considering that the sun provides free, natural light.
Other times, it’s best to shoot somewhere you know really well. Think along the lines of blank walls in your apartment or a long hallway in your school/workplace. These sorts of locations are as cheap as can be, and you have more control over when and how you want to use them.
Keep Your Crew Small and Effective
I find it’s valuable to hire a videographer/producer to help with the video. If you can attract a videographer/producer when they’re starting out (think students and hobbyists), and get them excited about your music, then they’ll hopefully be willing to work hard for less money than a professional.
Alternatively, you can hire a professional who is excited about your work. Be honest, and tell them that you have very little budget, and come up with a low-to-no-cost video. Use most of your budget on the videographer/producer, and create something unique. This takes some creative burden off your shoulders and eases some practical concerns as well.
Consider keeping your cast and crew fairly small. The bigger it is, the more expensive it gets. Food costs can be pretty high, even if that’s all you’re paying them. It’s better to have a small crew of excited, committed people than a large crew of people who end up getting in the way.
Take Your Time
In my experience, shooting a video always takes way longer than expected. If you take your time, you will be far more satisfied with your results. Keep in mind that this is something that will represent your music, probably forever.
I would recommend giving yourself 4-6 months to make a video. If it happens faster, that’s great!
Get Feedback From Friends and Family
Finally, show it to your friends and family before releasing the video. Watch them, not the video – are they reacting the way you thought they would? Consider your intentions when you set out. You don’t want a sad, heartfelt video to elicit chuckles or sniggers.
Take what your “test audience” has to say into consideration. Sometimes it’s hard to find a balance between making your video accessible/catering to your audience and fulfilling your own vision. Only you know the answer to this, so put some thought into it.
Ultimately, making a music video should be a rewarding experience and a great marketing strategy. Have fun and take some risks! You’ll be rewarded.