10 Tips To Making High Quality - Low Budget Music Videos
Updated: Jul 27, 2019
Some people consider it a must to make a music video when releasing a new single. Others realize making a music video would be a good idea only after a song has gone viral.
Wherever you stand on the spectrum of whether or not you think making a music video is worth it and when it’s warranted, there are certain things to keep in mind that can help you keep costs on the low end when taking on such a task.
Personally, I find making music videos an important and rewarding part of the creative process and have chosen and continue to choose to make music videos for certain songs, especially if I am launching a new single, EP or album.
Why? Because it gives me one more tool to connect with my audience, reach out to media and get good promo behind a song that I worked very hard to get people to hear. Music videos can help you reach an even wider audience, and at times an entirely different or new audience.
Some people use Spotify, Pandora or Apple music to consume music. While others go straight to Youtube.
That being said, making music videos can be very expensive, so how do you cut down costs to make something that is affordable, yet still high quality?
Here’s 10 tips to help you do just that:
1. NARROW DOWN YOUR IDEAS
When coming up with ideas for music videos it is common to go all out, Hollywood style. The problem with this is that big ideas cost big money. Hollywood ideas cost Hollywood money.
Every location you think of will add to the cost of production: getting there, setting up, renting the place, getting a permit, all of this will add to the cost both in terms of money and time.
Also, every person you add to the production crew will add to the total production cost.
So, when you are brainstorming ideas by all means go all out, write it all down and then EDIT the heck out of it. Erase, delete and do away with anything that is not absolutely necessary. Narrow your ideas down to the bare minimum. Diminish the amount of locations, actors and crew for the shoot. The smaller the crew, the cheaper the video.
Ask yourself - “what needs to be modified in my original plan to make this idea less of an idea and more of an achievable (and affordable) reality?”. Then adjust accordingly.
2. PICK A LOCATION THAT ADDS VALUE TO YOUR SHOOT
For example, if you pick an outdoors location that is stunningly beautiful, this in itself will add tremendous value to your production right from the get go. As long as you focus on getting the best cinematography possible, choosing such a setting will get you the most bang for your buck.
With this option, picking the right camera and lenses will automatically enhance your production value. So what you save on location, you should consider spending on camera rental if need be. Renting a cinema camera could enhance the quality of the video considerably and give you the quality you want.
If that is not an option and you want to cut down costs even more, consider using a smartphone to shoot your video. Some smartphones offer really high-quality footage. Do some research. It might be worth it.
Another option is to pick an indoor location, such as a bar, an apartment, an office, a dance studio, a club or other, which will allow you to maximize the use of the interior design elements in this space and if you have a friend or family member who happens to own one of these spots you can see if they’ll allow you to use it for free.
This way you don’t have to spend money on renting a film studio or designing a set. You can use for example an apartment and all the elements in it, move them around as you wish and turn the space into the set you need for the shoot you desire.
Lena Dunham’s first film “Tiny Furniture” was shot in her parents’ apartment. She later went on to create, write and direct the hit HBO series “Girls”.
3. PUT TOGETHER CLEAR REFERENCES
Make sure you know exactly what you are aiming for and that everyone on your team knows this as well. In order to accomplish this, it is important that you give everyone clear references of what you are going for.
Not doing so will cost you more time, more money and more resources.
If you are shooting outdoors, make sure you have a clear reference for how you want the colors to be and cinematography to look like, this way you can make the best use of your resources and achieve the results you want.
The people on your team need to know all of this, they can’t guess it, so put together a reference sheet for them with images that are aligned with the results you want to obtain.
If you want to create a particular wardrobe look, do the same thing. Put together a reference of looks and styles from makeup, to hair, to wardrobe so that whomever is helping you put this together (even if it’s the store clerk at the thrift store), knows what the goal is and can help you achieve the look(s). This will avoid wasting time, getting things you don’t need and spending time and money on things that you won’t use.
And yes, if you are putting a look together by all means raid your sister’s closet and your best friend’s, grab what you can from your own and if you must purchase a few items certainly hit the thrift store.
As yourself: What is necessary, what is essential and what is whim?
Take one last look at your budget and everyone and everything in it.
Ask yourself what is an absolute a necessity for this project to succeed and what are things you can spare. Then let those things you can spare go and don’t think about it twice.
5. RESOURCEFULNESS IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN RESOURCES
But what on earth does this mean? This means that your ideas and ability to solve problems, to get people on board to help, to ask favors, to get locations for free, volunteers to collaborate and to figure out the best ways to use the resources you already have (your house, your car, your phone camera and Youtube to learn what you don’t know yet, etc) will be your greatest assets.
You don’t need a big budget, or a lot of things, but you do need to be resourceful and creative. Think of what is readily available in your environment that could work for an interesting story line that won’t need much more than a good small crew and a decent camera in order to keep the audience interested and entertained.
6. SPEND YOUR MONEY ON PEOPLE
I would much rather spend my money on hiring the right team than spend it on a fancy location, wardrobe or props.
People bring along with them their talent, street smarts, resources and personal contributions. The more heads thinking together towards the same goal, offering their resources and their network, the more ideas and opportunities there will be to create something interesting, special, creative and unique as well as solve the one or many problems and situations that will arise.
If you have talented and committed people on board you will be able to make something more awesome, for less money.
7. PUT TOGETHER A TIGHT TEAM
Reach out to people that can help you make this happen who have something to gain by collaborating with you.
An upcoming film-maker that can use this for his/her reel.
A makeup artist student that needs to build their portfolio and could use high quality photos.
Film students looking to perfect their skills on productions, cinematography etc.
Your best friend’s sibling who happens to be an incredible dancer.
Make sure whomever you invite on board wants this to succeed at least almost as much as you do.
There are loads of talented people out there, but not everyone is fully committed and puts their whole heart into something. You want to work with those who will. Be smart about who you need and who you want on your team.
Here is where your money should go, spend it on the people that will put their time, heart and soul into helping you sail this ship to shore. Make sure to make them feel valued and rewarded for their talent and their work, both financially and experience wise. Even if they are not getting their full fee, they will be glad and grateful to go home with something in their pocket.
To me it’s a matter of principle. We are artists and we should be the first ones to value the art and artistic contribution of the fellow artists we work with. This way we also foster the growth of the industry within which we want to be valued ourselves.
8. FOSTER COLLABORATION
Steve Jobs once said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” - Follow his advice.
Get smart, creative people on board and then give them wings to do what they do best. Yes, under clear directions and guidelines so everyone knows where you are all heading towards, you are the leader of the pack after all. This is your project and your vision, but let them contribute and collaborate with you towards your vision and encourage them to collaborate amongst them.
Fostering collaboration will yield better results.
9. ASK FOR FAVORS
Once you have put together an awesome team, there will still be a lot of things to do and acquire. Here is where you put to work the fact that 2 heads, 3 heads or 4 heads think better than one. Brainstorm together as a team and figure out how to get the things you need on a low budget.
Calling in favors from anyone and everyone within your combined networks will come in very handy.
Maybe someone owns a really nice car that you can use for the shoot. Ask if you can borrow it.
Maybe someone you know owns a restaurant and needs to get word out about their new spot. Ask if you can shoot there in exchange for promo or high-quality video that they can use on their business’ social media (which you will provide from your shoot reel).
Maybe you have an acquaintance who is getting started in the audiovisual world and has been investing in equipment and is waiting for the chance to test drive it. Invite them on board!
Your network is full of people who can contribute in different ways and chances are they also happen to be fans. Fans can be the greatest collaborators. Invite them to join the team. They will be happy to be part of the process and join you on path to success.
10. TREAT EVERYONE WELL AND FEED THEM
The more footage you get the better chances you have of having enough material to create a good edit. It takes at least 8-12 hours to create a good video and of course more complex production will require even longer hours.
Long hours and no food make people hangry.
Everyone works better when they are happy and a good meal is also a good way to pay back those who are volunteering.
If you will be working through meal times (and chances are you will), make sure you budget for food and feed the people on your team. This will keep everyone happy and in a much more collaborative spirit ensuring a better result all around.
This should go without saying, but be kind to everyone. First because it’s the nice thing to do. We all like to be treated with respect.
Secondly, remember that the greatest value in this industry are the relationships you foster. Building a team that works well together can go a long way. And who knows where life will take each one in the future. Think about relationship building in the long term. Today’s camera person might be a leading film director tomorrow. Keep that in mind and help each other along the way. It can be rewarding in more ways than one.
Lastly, I’ve made a simple cheat sheet with the most important tips mentioned on this post so you can keep it at hand. Use it next time you embark on creating a music video, it will help you make something of value on a low budget, without compromising the quality of your work. You can download it here.