How to Make the Perfect Music Video: 15 Tips from a Pro Videographer

A music video will do nothing but promote the band and give their fans another way to listen to their music, by not just listening - but watching as well.

There’s no right or wrong way to do this, but here are some very helpful things I’ve learned being in a band and also creating music videos for other bands for the last half decade:

I've divided this article into 3 sections: tips for bands, tips for filmmakers, and essential tips for everyone.

Tips For Bands…

  • Be communicative! Sure, sounds easy - but is it?
     
  • Work closely with whomever is helping make your video, don’t just expect they will know what you want and make it happen on a dime
     
  • Make them feel appreciated - even if you aren’t paying them, be supportive and let them give their input, their likely doing this for their own creative fun, not just for your sake.
     
  • Be specific with example music videos - what do you like about that Cure video? Tell the filmmaker/friend/grandma with the camera: I like this color palette, this style of editing, a story based video, a performance based, an abstract cornucopia of fun, “I just want a 3 minute shot of my turtle shitting” - Be specific! And if you don’t have specific ideas, no sweat, but be sure to give your collaborator the freedom to explore.
     
  • The editor doesn’t need the final mix right away, but be sure you’re not changing things like BPM or lyrics. The editor could spend 20 hours on the video, then your engineer adjusts the Beats Per Minute just slightly and uh oh, suddenly the editor’s timeline and timed ‘cuts and splices’ are way off.
     
  • If you and your band love huffing glue and want to get lit on set, go for it, but hey - why not clear it with the filmmaker first - remember you’re collaborating here, be respectful and polite.
     

Tips For Filmmakers

  • Find bands you enjoy! Nothing sucks more than spending weeks/months on a project and hearing a song you dislike over and over and over and over…
     
  • Be clear up front… Do you need to get paid? Make sure they know that. Make a contract
    (more on this in a bit)
     
  • Are you going to require special credits in the video description? Credits in the video? Release through your YouTube/Vimeo?
     
  • What’s your realistic timeline? Don’t bullshit an artist (and don’t let them bullshit you) - but be honest. If it’s going to take you 6 months to animate that dragon coming out of the toilet, then tell them - just convince them it’s worth it (because it is…!)
     
  • If they’re asking for something you can’t do or isn’t within budget (4k, wild animation, etc.) try and give an alternate idea instead of just shooting this idea down - this is collaboration remember?
     
  • Stay in touch! Don’t leave bands high and dry for weeks wondering what is happening with the video. Even if you’re busy on other projects or your day job, just send an email every few days or week when things are stagnant and say "hey."
     

Tips For Both Sides

  • Contracts. Definitely not always necessary, but if you don’t know one another super well this is a simple way to have proof of what you agreed upon. You may not think the band or filmmaker will sue you - and they probably won’t - but this is an easy way to avoid arguments later on and keep things smooth.

    Consider the following when drafting (remember it can be simple, you don’t need a lawyer here or college degree):
    • Timeline (rough shoot dates and completed edit dates)
    • Budget (a firm number everyone agrees on AND when it will be paid out - half now and half when done is a good method.) This can be ZERO $$$ but definitely try and cover the filmmakers gas or food costs if possible or at least split costs on these fronts.
    • Release info. For example, will you post it on the band’s Youtube or the filmmaker’s Youtube (both? neither? Vimeo? Etc.)
    • If video has monetary ads enabled, who will reap benefits?
    • Video description. Make sure everyone involved is getting proper credit & links.
       
  • Relationship. You won’t be friends with every other artist you work with (in any field, naturally), but consider that sometimes when working together bands and musicians can become great pals. Once this relationship is built and continues to evolve, I’ve found that your collaborative work will just grow exponentially, getting better and better.

    So don’t be afraid to work with the same band multiple times or the same filmmaker, if ya’ll are digging what you’re doing, it’s likely other people are as well.
     
  • The launch. When premiering through larger outlets (MTV, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, etc.) remember they aren’t your friends and don’t care about you. Make it clear if you want a certain link in the description or name listed in the premiere article, etc. They think they own your video and will do whatever they want with it - don’t let em’!

And remember… this is an equal opportunity for both filmmakers and musicians. Work together and the project will do nothing but benefit both of you.

Author: Reynolds "WLF" Washington