In today’s music world, video rules. With the rise of YouTube this proves to be self evident. But many talented musicians and bands opt out, worried they simply do not have the funds to make “professional” music videos.
But what does it really take to make a “professional” music video these days? What are the real costs? And ultimately: do fans really care?
I’ve gathered some advice from various discussions with associates in the SF Bay Area music scene, and I also have. Hope you find it helpful!
Different budgets for different bands
San Francisco musician and music video director/producer Jared Swanson from the band Abbot Kinney and producer of monthly video series mondaymorningsf.com feels “budgets are specific to the client’s vision and very important.”
On rare occasions a band “has a unique talent, professionalism, collaborative spirit, distribution in place for the video premiere, a vibrant fan base, and a friendly demeanor.” Then – maybe – Jared explains, “the hours of pre-production, shooting, editing and post production (needed) for a narrative music video” may make it worth working with artists with smaller budgets.
“Most artists don’t put in the amount of work necessary to make that happen and I find that usually those who do are able to communicate a clear agreement and pay the crew what they deserve.”
Budget Option B: spend nothing
“There’s only one way left to win in music: spend nothing. Literally. And if you have a great song, nobody will care what the video looks like or doesn’t look like,” says San Francisco super-producer Jim Greer (Rondo Brothers, Galactic, Macy Gray, Foster the People, Butterscotch, Andrew St. James).
“I say take your phone and your iMovie app, make something yourself, and upload it. I’ve made several videos now for under $300.00 this way.
An artist I worked with where the ‘breakout’ video was huge was Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks”: it was just a compilation collage video, with a great song, and way cooler IMHO than something ‘professionally’ done.”
Pay your friends, have a party
Daniel Guaqueta is an award winning video producer (and the drummer for my own project, Sayla Dobro). Being a recipient of the coveted Telly, Addy, and Ruma Video Awards, Daniel is no stranger to what it takes to make a video.
“My budgets for those award winning videos were minimal. Maybe $500-1k per video. The way I succeeded in making the video was by ensuring the filmmakers knew that I was going to work hard to get it out. I also encouraged them to be as creative as they wanted.
“The most I’ve spent (on a music video) was about $1500. I had to buy champagne and take care of a lot of people in the shoot. I promised them a party.”
Musician, artist enabler, and music tech entrepreneur Ken Umezaki turned me on to a company called “Rotor.” Simply upload your song and the Rotor technology analyzes the audio to find beat, tempo, and loudness. You then pick a “video style” from templates that suit your music, and finally personalize it with your own footage or Rotor’s stock clips from their library. If you like the output you can buy the video and do whatever you like with it. Boom. On my list to test!
Use what’s in the public domain
Yes video, loads and loads of p u b l i c d o m a i n video. This library contains digital movies uploaded by Archive users which range from classic full-length films, to daily alternative news:
And anyone can use to make…videos! So, after my band mate (Daniel, the award winning video producer – see above) mentioned that he is a whizz with Apple’s “iMovie” program, it just all started to come together for our new video. I began to dive into the archives looking for source material our new single “The Way You Move.” I discovered “The Prelinger Archives”, which were founded in 1983 by Rick Prelinger in New York City. Over the next twenty years, it grew into a collection of over 60,000 “ephemeral” (advertising, educational, industrial, and amateur) films, which are now housed within the Internet Archives.
After finding this treasure trove of source material I spent several hours combing through the videos and noting the urls. I then sent all my preferred videos I’d sourced at the Archive on to Daniel with my idea for the “treatment” (direction of the video). Daniel used Apple’s iMovie, sourced more material, and edited this together in a day or two and then we had one revision after getting some feedback from friends. So in essence, we spent virtually nothing, collaborated with friends, and used public domain for the footage! We took all of our friends advice!
We are excited to present the first Sayla Dobro video single of 2016, “The Way You Move.” Comprised entirely of public domain video from Archive.org and the Prelinger Archives, and edited by Daniel Guaqueta. Please enjoy, subscribe, and share with friends!
(Todd Tate is a longtime SF Bay Area musician that has been an active recording engineer and producer since the 90’s. Todd is know for being involved in early stage music tech product development, the SXSW Accelerator Advisory Board, the SF MusicTech Summit, as the “community architect”, and the singer/songwriter for Sayla Dobro.)