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A guide to shooting great music videos

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A great music video doesn’t have to cost a small fortune but they all need a good idea, talented video production team and a clear budget. The first step in producing a fantastic music video is a good understanding of the key steps and elements that go into producing music videos followed by a well-structured plan.

For bands and artists alike, a music video is a key part of their brand and marketing strategy. If you’re an aspiring musician or manager of a chart-topping band like the Kaiser Chiefs, you’re in the right place to learn how to make a memorable music video. 

Music video trends

Music videos became valuable marketing tools for artists following the release of Michael Jackson’s 12-minute mini-movie for Thriller in 1983 a couple of years after the launch of MTV. This iconic music video fueled major investment in music video production and audiences had a new medium, their television, on which to consume and enjoy music. Music video killed the radio star.

Fast-forward 25 years and audiences were given a new way to consume music, online streaming and downloading meant music lovers can now bypass the radio and the music video channels to listen to their favourite songs as and when they want to. Viewers predominantly watch music videos on social media platforms, such as YouTube and Vevo. In 2018, 95% of the videos watched on YouTube were music videos and there are over 1 billion hours of video content consumed on this platform every day.

The role of music videos

Music videos play a key role in creating and nurturing an image for a musician or band. When an artist we like, or have been hearing great things about, releases a new song or album audiences not only want to listen we also want to see what they have been working on. Naturally, we search Google for their new music video and then if we like it, we’ll share it with our friends online.

From the musician’s perspective a music video makes them more human and approachable as fans can connect with them on another medium that’s much more experiential than the radio or your headphones. Fans are transported into your musical world and can savour every visual detail in your music video as they sing, hum, or nod along.

Sharing music videos online

For artists, when they publish their music videos online it instantly becomes accessible and shareable by users, the size of the audience their content can reach is huge. The most watched videos on YouTube are music videos and it’s not uncommon for music videos to go viral. The most watched video on YouTube is Luis Fonsi – “Despacito” ft. Daddy Yankee which has been watched over 6.5 billion times and this viral music video success broke the 3 billion views mark in less than 3 months. 

 The #1 watched music video on YouTube: 

A great music video remains a valuable brand and marketing tool artists, only where and how audiences consume music video content has changed in the past couple of decades.

Find a talented team to create your music video

Behind every fantastic music video is a talented, creative and passionate team. In an ideal scenario you will have the budget to appoint an experienced music video production company, like Fresh Cut, and it’s always worth gathering a quote or two to understand the value for money they can offer. Alternatively, if you’d like to build your own team for your music video shoot you will need a videographer (aka camera man), lighting specialist, and an editor/producer.

Kaiser Chiefs – Record Collection (Official Music Video, produced by Fresh Cut)

Often you will find people who are multiskilled, but we recommend you need at least two experienced people for a music video production project. Don’t forget to double check that they have all the equipment you will need for filming and lighting your video, if they don’t you will have to rent or purchase this in advance of your shoot.

Music video planning advice

It’s no secret that to make three minutes of awesome video content you need to film hours or even a day or two of video footage. Even after the footage has been captured you also need to allow time for editing to ensure your finished music video is as good as it can be. The best way to manage and plan for time is to create a video storyboard and plot your music video story frame by frame. You will need to tell a story for every verse and chorus of the song.

Once your storyboard is complete you can prepare your shot list and circulate both with your video production crew and map out your shooting schedule. This kind of detailed planning before your music video shoot will save a lot of time during post-production and ensure your video is inline with what you are expecting.

The creative method behind great music videos

All great projects start with a great idea. For inspiration, we recommend you should have a good understanding of what works and doesn’t work, or what you like and don’t like about music videos within your genre. Next, decide which of your songs you are making a music video for by shortlisting your favourite songs with your bandmates and creative team. Consider the songs which inspire you the most, how the lyrics make you feel and your overall affection towards the sound. A song you all feel passionate about should inspire lots of creative ideas for your music video’s story and content.

The best way to find the perfect creative concept for your music video is to host an ideas session with your creative team, write a short brief with the invitation and invite your teammates to bring ideas that meet the brief. Likewise bring your own ideas and be prepared to pitch them. Remember not to overdo it with a complex concept, often a simple idea executed well can make an effective music video. 

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Key music video styles and video production techniques

Everybody wants to be considered original especially in the world of music videos. However, before you start planning your next music video, we recommend you read up on the tried and tested techniques used in countless music videos to date. Find the perfect balance of music video shooting styles and storytelling and produce a music video that will not only standout it will be memorable too.

Focus on the artists

Given that the music video is helping a musician build their brand image it’s essential they feature frequently and prominently within their music video. When filming the artists collectively or individually they need to act and perform their part(s) consistently with the same level of enthusiasm in every take. Be alert for over acting and if they are lip syncing, playing an instrument or dancing ensure you are playing their song whilst you record them. Always capture footage of the artist(s) from multiple angles so that you have plenty of video content to work with during post-production.

Capture B-roll and cutaway footage

Acting and dancing are a very different talent and skillset to singing and playing a musical instrument, so the above artist focused filming may not all go to plan. You may find that some scenes are just not tying together seamlessly so you will need to fill in the gaps with cutaway footage. Close ups of hands on a microphone, lips, hair swishing etc are all worth capturing to give you more footage to work with during post-production.

Live footage in music videos

Live music footage in music videos is really engaging as it showcases the bands true talent and connection with their fans. However, if you want your entire music video to be live music footage you will need a production company which specialises in this style of video. Mixing live footage with your other music video footage can be very effective and is an idea worth exploring. Bring live music footage to your video briefing meeting and let the ideas flow, it may make sense to “stage” a live performance to capture the “live” footage exactly as you need it.

The classic club story

If you haven’t seen a music video showing a bunch of people getting down in a club then have you even watched MTV? The club scene is a classic in the music video business. Why? It’s one of the most likely places your fans are going to enjoy your songs. So, whilst it’s not the most original idea it is a good one that you may like to consider. However, with a great planning session and music video brief we’re sure you will come up with something fantastic.

Setting a budget for a music video

Every music video project needs a clearly defined budget before you even start sharing ideas and working out concepts. Set an ideal and stretch budget, then brief your team on this. Fortunately, a creative music video production team can come up with amazing ideas for any size of budget so don’t let a small budget lower your expectations or imagination. However, be realistic, trying to shoot a glossy, cinematic style music video on a shoestring budget is not possible.


How to make a music video in 4 steps

  1. Define your music video brief: Which song is your music video for? What do you want to viewers to do or feel? Where will you shoot your video? What’s your budget? Do you want to appoint a music video production agency?
  2. Create a video storyboard: Plot out your story frame by frame and play about with the sequence of them to ensure you have all angles covered to support your song and brand. In addition to your video production crew your band members or artist need to be clear on their roles and contributions too. Always circulate your video storyboard and shot list with your video creative team ahead of production or shoot day(s). 
  3. Music video filming: Ensure you have allowed plenty of time in your shoot schedule for capturing all of your shots. Do not stray from your storyboard and keep an eye on the time, you don’t want to get halfway through your shoot and have only captured video footage for one or two frames. If you have an extra cameraperson don’t let them stand idle, get them involved in capturing additional footage as you never know how valuable that could be when editing. 
  4. Edit to perfection: Strive to ensure slick execution of every visual and audio element as your story unfolds frame by frame. Your goal is to attract and engage viewers into the world of your music and delight their ears and eyes. This is the time to add special effects and sound effects. For example, add drama with footsteps approaching at the start of your video and then walking away at the end.

Let’s shoot an amazing music video

From music videos to album promos, event highlights and everything in between at Fresh Cut we combine our love of cinema and music creating distinctive cinematic visuals for artists, record labels, events sponsors and festivals. With studios in Leeds, Manchester and London we are proud to work with brands and budgets of all sizes. Take a look inside our fantastic portfolio of creative video content and get in touch with our talented team to discuss your next video project.