Making a Music Video

Music video is one of the most important things you can ever do. So why do so few people even try?

Video Killed The Radio Star

Michael Jackson - Billie Jean
Michael Jackson – Billie Jean

And it did. It really did. Grunge killed the video star and then the internet killed the whole landscape that we knew. What the internet hasn’t killed though is real human nature, the reasons people seek entertainment. Those are still there. Let’s firstly look at why Video works so well.

Video is one step off live. Live is immediate, visceral, fully-connected and in-the-moment – Billy Idol could punch Steve Stevens right there on stage. Video is one step back from that. Personally I tend to prefer a concert DVD to the real thing but reality is that most people prefer the real thing with all the noise and clutter it involves. This is why you need to play live locally. This is also why you need to make videos as not everyone can get to your physical local. Everyone can get to your virtual local and this is your cornerstone just like being on MTV in the 80’s.

Thankfully these days you can get your video played without getting anyone’s permission. YouTube. You can eve host your video on your own website – which to me is a must. If I am interested enough to land on your site and want to know more then video is one of the easiest ways in as the combination of sound & vision is a gift.

Makin’ Whoopee

Van Halen - Jump
Van Halen – Jump

Downside of MTV is that is lead us to believe that every music video has to be a fifteen minute epic like “Thriller”. Not that I don’t love that stuff but what about simpler videos that just showed off what made the band special. I’m thinking of the Van Halen videos where it was all lights and action. They showed the band real well. Still hard to make that sort of thing though as you probably don’t have a budget.

These days publishing is a doddle with YouTube. And making is almost as easy for any act with a pulse. You have a mobile phone and guess what, it has a camera. You have a computer and and guess what, it has a video editor. On Windows it is called Windows Movie Maker and will cover everything you need to make a basic video.

Import some video and the song. Set the project length to the song length and start arranging your video to match. Export and upload to YouTube. Done.

But I hear the voices whining that the quality will be no good. All that blah, blah. Go read this article and the three articles that follow. It is the message that counts, not the shiny bubble it comes in. Do you think Justin Bieber’s first videos on YouTube were high quality – the ones that got him attention? Nope. I won’t pretend to like the kid or what he does but those videos just showed him screaming his little head off and sold him just fine enough for fans to dig him and Usher to see dollar signs. It was all just simple on-message stuff. You can do that – after all you think you are better than Bieber.

If you are a band then video practice, shows and maybe even some of those goofy times. You can then edit those into a form that flows with the song. You just made your first music video.


Those cats at the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers were smart enough to get an anachronism all of their own. Basically what it means it that you can sync sound to image. Get the lip sync right and all that. If you can actually do it then great. If not then don’t even try. Don’t even fuss about it.

First aim is to make something that shows who you are. Do you look like Sisters of Mercy, Bob Dylan, Duran Duran? Do you have an image to add to your songs? If so then great. Use it and use it big. People love a fantasy so if you are a genre act then you have an immediate advantage over Joe Average who looks average. Use the image you have to sync to the song. Look at the Frozen Autumn video below. I found these guys (and girl) through the net. They work simply (and cheaply) but it works.

Use this formula as it is all really simple. Don’t fuss over the animations, you don’t really need them. Just look at the band stuff. This is a simple room somewhere with a few bed sheets tacked up and back-lit with some color. They then mime a few passes and edit them into something we take as a performance. Clever and very effective as their videos spread to for me to find whilst looking at similar artists. This shows their style with their songs. I’m sold on both.

If you are a soloist then it can be a tad harder. But you can still do it. Use that formula but swap roles as you make different passes. If you play several instruments then we can see you playing guitar, singing etc. There are a few people online doing exactly that and winning. A caution, just be sure not to out-clever yourself or people will remember the cleverness instead of your song. They may even find the contrived cleverness off-putting as I do. That said if you know your fans like that sort of thing then you’d be silly not to do it – but be sure to put your mark on it lest you appear to be un-original.

The only really tricky one to advise on is people like me who aren’t a band, don’t play anything and have no real presence in the real world. My music may sound like Vangelis but unlike him I compose completely with a mouse. I am not my music. My music is of me but not performed. No doubt there is a solution if I were to but ask around.

The same applies to you even if you are just a covers band playing down the local bowls club. I still want to see if I want to come on out for you.

Make your first video, post it and then start thinking about your next.

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