Sometimes the most memorable part of a song isn’t even the music. Sometimes it’s the video. Since MTV debuted in 1981, the music video has become ever more popular. Now, with social media and sites like YouTube available wherever you go, the music video has never been more important. A great video can go viral, and the exposure (and money) will follow.

There is a debate over when the first music video was created. Some claim it was Tony Bennet for his 1956 song Stranger In Paradise, while others promote Queen’s 1975 hit Bohemian Rhapsody as the first true music video. However, one thing that both these videos have in common is that they didn’t break the bank. Bennet’s video was a simple shot of him walking through Hyde Park, while the Bohemian Rhapsody video was made for only $7,500 – and has gone on to be somewhat iconic.

Of course, the sky’s the limit for how much you can actually spend on a video. Michael Jackson’s Scream is on record as the most expensive video of all time, clocking in a budget of $7,000,000. Yes – seven million dollars for less than five minutes of video. To put that into perspective, a half hour TV show will generally cost no more than $3,000,000 to create.

But let’s assume that you don’t have millions to spend on a video to go alongside your music. How can you make a great video while keeping an eye on the purse strings?

Concept Is Key

Coming up with a strong concept is the best way to keep the budget low for a music video. If you can think of an idea that is striking, funny or memorable in any way, you’re onto a winner.

Take Fatboy Slim’s Praise You, for example. The video is a flash mob in a California cinema, shot on a home camera with the song dubbed over the top. It is, arguably, one of the greatest music videos of all time. At the same time, the costs reportedly totaled only $800, an absolute bargain. One of the best things in the video, dancing aside, is the public’s reaction, and even better, it’s totally free.

Location, location, location

A key part in the production of any music video is the preparation. And one of the most important parts of preparation is finding the locations you want to use. Once you decide that you want to make a video, you should constantly be on the lookout for places you could shoot.

You can film a music video almost anywhere, and if you’re struggling to come up with an idea for a concept, the location might help kickstart your imagination. The UK is littered with amazing scenic locations, abandoned mansions and generally cool-looking places, it’s just a case of finding them (and getting the appropriate permissions).

Bear in mind that if you do decide to shoot in public, you will be liable if anything goes wrong. If someone trips and hurts themselves in the abandoned house you’re using, or you knock into a member of the public while joking about, it could seriously cost you.

But you don’t have to even leave the house to shoot an iconic video. OKGO’s Here It Goes Again video, with the band dancing on treadmills, was filmed in one of the group’s basements. The video helped to make their career, and though it was deleted from their YouTube channel with over 52 million views, it has since been reposted, clocking in almost 50 million more.

What You Gonna Do With All That Junk?

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It’s always worth bearing in mind that the props you use on a music video don’t have to be brand new, or even properly functional. Say, for example, the idea for your video involves you absolutely destroying some of the set pieces, then buying them new off the internet would be a waste of money.

Junk yards, second hand shops and your parents’ attic will have everything you need. The most important thing is the visuals. If you can fix the props up a little, or use some clever camera or production trickery, then no-one need ever know that they’re fifth, sixth or seven-hand items.

Ask Your Mates

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If you’re in a fledgling band, trying to make a music video, there is nothing wrong with asking friends for a bit of help. This might take the form of them starring in the video, or it could be behind the scenes. Odds on you’ll be able to find people who are just starting out in different professions who need to build their portfolio and will be willing to work a small fee or a cut of any profits.

One thing to consider, if you don’t have any friends who would be able to help filming, is saving a bit of money for post-production. Just like mastering a song might be what really makes the track, making sure that the final editing is done properly can dramatically improve the quality of your video. A quick Google will bring up countless companies that offer music video post-production, so do a bit of research and find somewhere that will fit your budget.

Making a music video can really set the tone for your music. Finding a way to make the video contrast to the kind of music you’re making will make the video that much more memorable. So take your time and remember the the 6 Ps: proper planning prevents piss poor productions!


If you’d like to learn more about how we can help kick-start your music career, why not come along to one of ACM’s Open Days.

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