Music videos never seemed like something I should pursue. In fact, I thought they were for serious rockers, famous artists, or singers with money to burn. I never understood how they could translate into sales or revenue, and I certainly didn’t know how to come up with an idea that wasn’t a literal translation of my lyrics (ie, “all I have to say is I love you” only invokes an image of two people running at each other in slow-mo, arms open for an embrace. Cheese city).
For my last record, though, I wanted to pull out all the stops. And this is when I finally figured out what it means to make a video that appropriately represents the song and will help push my music career forward, and how to go about doing it.
Here’s what I learned:
1) Ask yourself why you want a video- what is the result you are trying to produce? For me, I wanted to show that this new record works well against picture, that the songs were made for licensing for TV shows, ads and films. The result would be not only more sales of the song, but placements. For others, it could be to clarify the song’s meaning, or even to show another interpretation of the lyrics. Other reasons to make a video are to further develop your brand, spice up your tour, give back to fans, or to show your fans what you look like in music-video makeup (kidding). No matter what it is, make sure you are clear on your reason and desired result and that this result will be something you can use in the future to propel your career.
2) Have someone come up with a story. Don’t try to come up with the video’s concept yourself unless you had some divine intervention while asleep. Have someone else (ideally a creative type like a screen-writer, a producer friend, an author, someone who can create stories) listen to the tune, and come up with a few possible storylines. And of course, let this person know the “why” you figured out in #1. Discuss with them how you want to be portrayed. Figure out what is missing from your current branding or image. For me, I had done a lot of the “girl-next-door” type of tours, interviews, etc, and what was missing from my image (that was present in my music) was a darker side, with a little mystery and sexiness. That’s what we wanted to inject into my new video.
3) Modify the story to meet realistic costs. The big orchestra scene I wanted was nixed due to the fact it would have cost thousands of dollars to shoot. I asked myself what did I want to convey with that big orchestra scene? The answer was “epic emotion”. So then I asked how else can we portray epic emotion? The answer was to shoot the whole story in big mountains (where I was going to be for part of the summer anyway). Cost crisis diverted.
Let the snowball effect happen, and budget for it. Start small. Only because it’s inevitable that it will get bigger. My plan was to have my fiance shoot most of the story with his GoPros. It was only when we ran into an acquaintance of his that we learned we had friends with nice cameras who offered to help out. Which leads me to…
4) Share about your video, and make requests everywhere you can! I say this all the time, but the more people that know what you’re up to, the more likely you’ll get some offers to be involved, and even step up the production value of your video. Our acquaintance turned out to be a paraglider who shoots flying video, and he knew a guy with a remote controlled helicopter who also did a bunch of high-quality shooting. I straight up asked for their help, and these guys were interested in getting involved with something “artsy” and shot our WHOLE video for under $1000. After we had rough footage that included a helicopter shot, we had no problem finding an editor to edit this high-quality footage, and then got a favor by a big NYC post production facility to color correct the footage (which is the video equivalent of mastering your record). All because the good energy from the beginning and the unreasonable requests I was making kept snowballing to create a more and more quality product.
5) Build up to the release! Make a “making of” video for your video (here’s mine) to help keep fans updated, interested and curious about what’s to come. I personally love behind-the-scenes stuff and once I watch an artist’s sneak peak, I’m hooked until the video comes out!
6) Collaborate with your video’s products. Are you featuring a drum set? Drinking in the video? Driving a car? Reach out to the makers of these products to see if they’d be interested in cross-promotion and supporting the production. In my video, I wanted to wear an innocent-looking dress. I reached out, over Twitter, to a vintage dress company named ModCloth. They were into the song and the concept and agreed to lend me a dress for the shoot. Now they are helping to cross-promote the video and song, and their clothing line gets to see some action (I am rock climbing in it, after all). Having them post about your video on Facebook, and retweet your video-related tweets on Twitter will get eyes on your music and also more followers, which you can then turn into loyal fans with your tweeting awesomeness.
7) Lastly, get a marketing team behind your video so all the work is worth it. If you can, spend a little money to have a few months of someone pushing the video, getting it exclusively premiered on a great website, and to be your video’s cheer leaders. If the money is tight and hiring a company is a no-go, gather a small group of fans or friends and enlist them to be your video’s champion team, having assignments for sharing on social networking sites, blasting out emails, and reaching out to media about the video. (PS, I would do this in addition to a hired marketing team, just make sure the outreach to media doesn’t overlap!)
In the end, you don’t want to make a video because you think you should, you want to make one if you can use it as an asset to open doors in the future and to further establish yourself as the artist you want to be.
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