A few years back there was a trending opinion that the music video was dead. The most obvious sign was that MTV had all but abandoned music videos to focus on reality shows, etc. Record labels, which were constantly losing money in a spiraling industry, were cutting music video budgets, video departments and most of the infrastructure that previously was an integral part of any promotional plan for an artist. And with the digital age cutting deeper and deeper into the bottom lines, promotional tools like the music video were an expense ripe for cutting.
But then, when all hope seemed lost, the music video was resurrected, thanks in large part to the digital age that almost killed it off in the first place. The two main factors behind the resurrection are declining music video costs and YouTube. YouTube deserves it’s own column, so for now we’ll stick to focusing on cost.
It used to be that to make a quality music video, you needed a sizeable budget to afford tape stock, cameras, lighting, makeup, crew, etc. Now we have digital cameras, professional editing in programs like Final Cut Pro, and a vast array of post production options built into the software that can do just about anything. All of this makes the cost of making a music video infinitely more affordable, almost to the point where it is a must-have for any band concerned with the visual component of their presentation. Obviously, you need a good video concept as an anchor. Still, if you are able to wisely stretch your dollars and maximize your budget, a great product can be had for a great price.
Buyer beware! The old adage of “you get what you pay for” still rings true, even if you’re not paying that much. Just like Garage Band makes every amateur with a microphone and a computer think he is a “producer”, there are no shortages of wannabe “directors” who will claim to be the bees knees because they have access to a Sony RED Camera and Final Cut Pro. Do your research, ask to see a reel of their work (any director worth their weight in salt will have one), be sure they have a vision for the video and find someone who shares your enthusiasm for you music! And remember, the work on a music video doesn’t end when the shooting stops. There is post production time for editing, color correcting, output, etc., so you will need to make sure you have someone who can reliably deliver you a finished product in a reasonable period of time.
A music video is often a significant investment of time, money and resources for an independent artist but with a little planning, researching and assembling the right team, it can be one of the ultimate bargains in your portfolio.
Rob Fitzgerald spent the past five years living, breathing, and sleeping music videos and witnessed the evolution of the product first hand. As a music video promoter, he works with various players—from major labels to independent bands— and takes special pride in helping unsigned artists.