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How to Execute a Great Looking Music Video on a Budget

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By Gideon Waxman

Making a great music video will cost you money. There’s no two ways about it. But it is possible for you to obtain a memorable, high-quality music video whilst sticking to a budget, without breaking the bank.

But first, why go to the effort of making a good video anyway?

Some bands take a completely DIY approach, by either producing the video themselves, or using someone cheap and inexperienced who can trade their energies for the work opportunity. But ultimately, compromising on quality will be to an artist’s detriment in the long run. There are a lot of artists trying to break through in the music industry — if the quality of your video doesn’t cut it, then people won’t take your music seriously.

In order to gain the attention of professionals within the music industry (those who can be pivotal to developing your career as an artist) it’s not just your music that needs to be top-quality. Your image, visual artwork, stage presence, and promotional pictures all need to look stellar. Achieving a high-quality music video is vital for gaining online traction as an artist and building your fan base — and, luckily for you, it is not as expensive as it sounds, as long as you stick to a sensible budget and make sure you stay creative throughout. 

1) Find the right filmmaker to work with.

Finding the right creative professionals to work with is a crucial part of the development process of any band. Ideally, you will want to work with someone who enjoys your music, understands it, and has a vision for how to expand on it.

Paying a filmmaker will be the primary cost of your music video. Your goal of executing a great music video on a budget will be to find the optimal balance between quality and cost. And as there are a lot of talented filmmakers and directors out there, it’s important to do your research beforehand. This involves browsing through YouTube and filmmaker portfolios and making sure the quality is consistent.

Aim to reach out to 5+ different filmmakers you like and ask for quotes for a full music video package, as well as sending the song for which you would like to shoot a video. To keep costs down, request to capture all of the footage within a single day of shooting. You might receive a broad range of quotes… and some will probably be way over budget! Always respectfully decline any quotes that are out of budget. Use your initiative to find the ideal value for money with a filmmaker.

Agree on a flat fee beforehand for the whole video plus two free sets of revisions, if needed. Additionally, arrange to pay 50% up front and 50% after completion. This removes the potential for any “funny business” later on and also allows you to manage the cost of the project easily. Some filmmakers will charge for different components of making a video (including filming, edits, grading, post-production, and revisions). Although this is common practice for top-tier film production companies, this is not what you want for a low-cost video.

2) Develop a great concept.

Once you’ve agreed on a fee with your desired filmmaker, the next part of the creative process is working together to develop a unique concept. Explore ideas and themes with the director. Talking about song lyrics and the motivation behind writing the song should help prompt some visual inspiration. The visual aesthetic should fit seamlessly with the music and should fit with the theme of the band, overall. Look at your other visual assets and try to keep a cohesive and identifiable theme running.

Break the mold by thinking outside of the box. Look for inspiration from videos that aren’t necessarily the same genre of music as yours, or think of interesting stories that could plot a great narrative.

If you decide to use a story narrative for your music video, use your personal connections to find aspiring actors that would like to play a part in your video. Talk to family or friends, and post to Facebook asking if anyone knows someone. It shouldn’t be too hard to source someone who will be willing to help out on a tight budget!

3) Avoid paying for an expensive location.

Locations that are advertised to be used for filming are generally going to be very expensive. This is because they will have been previously used by high-budget film companies for film or TV, or corporate shoots, such as commercials.

Agencies that advertise locations for hire are a rip-off. They will add a substantial fee for simply acting as the middleman. If you must use a location for hire, contact the venue directly as opposed to going through an agency. From experience, I have been able to half the cost by using this method, and most times I can find a comparable location for free.

A location is an important part of the music video, but a good filmmaker will be able to make a great-looking video using their creativity and talent as opposed to relying on a stunning location. This is an important part of keeping the video costs down to a minimum. So get creative and scout locations to film that might be free to use.

4) Plan ahead and organize the shoot effectively.

You might only have a single day to capture all the necessary footage for your music video — it is vital that you make the most of your time. This means you will need to plan an itinerary beforehand to accommodate for all the scenes. Ensure all the necessary equipment, clothes, food, water, and anything else you might need are all packed and ready to go before the shoot.

It is also important to plan for the unexpected. Chances are that you’ll have some issue with traffic or weather, so be prepared to deal with these obstacles if they arise. If you plan to be filming outside, bring a large waterproof tarp to protect equipment in case of rain. Stick to a plan and maximize the efficiency of a shoot. If creativity flows and the filmmaker has spontaneous creative ideas, being prepared with contingency plans will allow you to go with the flow (rain pun not intended).

Final Thoughts

The outcome of a music video will be largely a result of the decision-making throughout the project. There are a lot of contributing factors to achieving a great-looking music video, and if you can get the pieces to come together effectively, you will surely be proud of the result.

The key is to find the optimal balance between quality and price and to get the best value for your budget, regardless of whether it’s $150 or $15,000. Don’t be afraid to push for a good deal and negotiate. It’s impossible to please everyone and the reality is if you have the money to spend then you hold the buying power.

A talented filmmaker combined with a unique concept, bolstered by a location that fits the aesthetic, will produce a memorable music video. It can will be a powerful marketing tool for you as an artist, allowing you to capture the attention of music listeners and the industry alike!

Got 10 minutes to learn something new?

Explore Soundfly’wide array of free online courses and expand your musical skills over your lunch break! Here’s just a few free courses you can choose from: How to Create a Killer Musician WebsiteTheory for Bedroom Producers, How to Get All the Royalties You Never Knew Existed, and Touring on a Shoestring. Here’s a snippet of what to expect on Soundfly. 

Gideon Waxman is a London based drummer with over 13 years experience. Since completing a Music Degree at the University of Westminster, Gideon has been touring with metal act Familiar Spirit. You can find more of his advice over at Drum Helper, a free online resource dedicated to helping drummers achieve more from their playing.

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