Videos posted on video sharing sites, personal websites, and blogs have become an incredible method to promote your music.
Sites like YouTube (youtube.com), Vimeo (vimeo.com), DailyMotion (dailymotion.com/us), StupidVideos (stupidvideos.com), eBaum’s World (ebaumsworld.com), Break (break.com) and Ustream (ustream.tv) host millions of videos featuring artists just like you.
But with the vast number of videos on the Web these days, you can’t just record the same old footage if you expect to rise above the clutter. What follows are 15 different approaches that you might consider when setting out to record your next video.
Create videos that stimulate laughter—laughter makes people feel good. Singer-songwriter Dave Carroll wrote and filmed a humorous video called “United Breaks Guitars” after the airline trashed one of his instruments during a flight. Not only did the video receive several million hits, Dave received a sponsorship from a guitar case company and wrote a book on customer service. To check out Dave’s video, search online for “United Breaks Guitars.” And while on the humor kick, search for, and check out, “Drummer at the Wrong Gig,” for another example of a great, humorous video.
Create videos that depict the lifestyles of your fans and set your music as the soundtrack. If you’re an alternative, punk or metal band, you might create a video with rad skateboard footage of kids riding in the parks of Venice Beach, kids jumping the stairs at Hollywood High School, or kids cruising down the Hollywood Walk of Fame at night—all set to your songs. The video “Skate Punk: Zero New Blood Three” that features the band Herrera My Way received about 130,000 hits. Not bad! To view lifestyle videos, check out Skatevideosite (skatevideosite.com) and other sites like it.
Experiment with using new technology to create a visually stunning music video that might help your band and song stand out from the threat of the pack.
Manager Sydney Alston recently recorded a video with 360 technology for his band End of Ever. Here’s what Alston had to say.
“A couple of years ago when YouTube first allowed 360 videos, and Facebook announced it was working on 360, we decided we had to be the first band doing it. Unfortunately, we weren’t the first band to do a 360 video, but we were the first band to do a 360 full-action lyric video, and the first band to post a 360 music video on Facebook.
“At the time, I was going to the YouTube studios trying to learn as much as I could about the platform and I met a rep from Ricoh. I convinced him to help us make the first 360 lyric video and he gave us two Ricoh Theta Cameras to use. Getting the camera turned out to be the easiest thing to do.
“We needed a director and someone who could edit the video. We found a young director, Aaron Brownlee, who was willing to take it on and also had the equipment to edit the video. In the end, the video cost us $800 to make. The video got 75k organic views and 2.1k shares on Facebook. You can check out the video here: youtu.be/Jwl1EbvD9A0.”
Develop videos that feature the written lyrics to one of your songs set over cool still photographs and video footage. While lyric videos were originally created by fans as a show of admiration to the artists they loved, bands are releasing their own lyric videos, too. To view the most popular lyric videos, search for “When I Was Your Man,” by Bruno Mars, “Problem,” by Ariana Grande and “Wake Me Up,” by Avicii. Also check out the official video for the band Hippo Campus and its song “Monsoon.”
Report upcoming shows, important happenings in your career, or thoughts about world events. Film interviews about how you got started or how you are enjoying life on the road. All this shows off a more personal side of your brand and helps you to connect with fans in an entirely natural way.
Says Freddie Al-Hajj, of the bands Clepto and The Hajj, “We’ve always used video as a major tool to promote our band and music—from making small videos to promoting our next upcoming show, to even creating our own small, TV-like show, “Clepto Goes to America,” which highlighted our Canada to California tour. Since the tour was completely funded via Kickstarter, we would film humorous ‘a day-in-the-life’ clips of us on the road merged with live performance footage and then post it to our YouTube channel as a way to update fans and create engagement. This gave the fundraising a real-time push and it showed that we were a band committed to the tour. This also helped get our fans excited enough to fund our next tour through Europe, which lasted six months. Here’s our European Tour Video Update: youtu.be/Kvgo3LD4DOE.
Film yourself covering a hit song and capitalize on that song’s built-in audience. While there are millions of artists already doing this, there are new success stories unfolding seemingly every day. Chloe x Halle, an adorable teen sister duo, attracted the attention of megastar Beyoncé after posting a cover of the pop diva’s song “Pretty Hurts.” Subsequently, the girls signed a five-year management contract to Beyoncé’s company, Parkwood Entertainment. Now that’s impressive!
Initiate a fun contest for the best lip-synched video of one of your singles. This might motivate your fans to create cool video content and help you spread the word-of-mouth. For his song, “Lucky Animals,” Devin Townsend inspired his fans to create humorous music videos of them dancing to his single. He then merged all of the fan footage into his official video. The video received nearly 200,000 views. Cool!
Use shock as another method to promote your music and get people interested in your band. Rap artist Tyler the Creator released a video of himself eating a Madagascar cockroach, throwing up and then hanging himself. The video received nearly 100 million hits and still counting. Search “Tyler The Creator + Yonkers.” Shock may not work for you if you’re a Christian country artist, but it could certainly work wonders for just about everyone else. Human beings are psychologically drawn to shock and gore. Why not give this a try?
Staged Live Performance Video
Record the typical music video of you performing along to one of your studio recordings. If integrating a storyline, just be sure to hire the appropriate professionals (i.e., actors, models, and/or dancers) where you might be lacking. If there is one thing that the world can do without, it’s more bad actors. [Ha ha.]
New Sweden-based rock band Dahlia didn’t use any actors in their recent video shoot for the song “Gravity,” but it did hire a local dance teacher who choreographed a special dance routine for the song. Jesper Westerlund, the band’s guitarist, explains how they got the video produced, where it was produced, and how much it cost:
“We first planned how we wanted our video to look and what we wanted to accomplish. After settling in on a concept, we talked to a local cameraman who worked at a nearby studio called Living Picture (which no longer exists) and he agreed to record us for the indie-friendly price of only $1,000. We scouted several locations to record, but jumped at the free opportunity to shoot at my boss’s warehouse Hilight/Westerlund Studio (westerlundstudio.se).
“We rigged up a small scenery with black molton fabric, put up some cool lights (including moving heads, sun strips, and LED fluorescent lights), and then set up all of our instruments on a stage in order to recreate a real live performance venue.
“The complete process took us about 2.5 days to record: one evening for building up the scenery, one day to record different angles of the band, and one day to record the dancing. You have to have time when you do this stuff and you have to always put down a 100 percent effort in what you are doing or else it won’t turn out as good as you might think it will. You can check out the video here: youtu.be/rDW-EqBGtxc.”
Record a documentary about the making of your band. Film clips of the house you grew up in, the high school where your band members met, and any other behind-the-scenes footage you can think of. Fans really love this type of stuff because it helps them to learn more about the person behind the artist. Check out documentaries like Time Is Illmatic featuring Nas as well as Amy featuring Amy Winehouse.
Capture footage of yourself performing live on stage. Club bookers and equipment sponsors typically love this type of footage since it doesn’t lie—what they see and hear is what they know they are going to get. Oftentimes, clubs are already equipped to film your video for you for a small fee.
Use sites like Ustream (ustream.tv) and StageIt (stageit.com) to present “real-time” videos for your audience. For instance, you can invite fans to tune in with you at a set hour every night while you’re recording your album and ask them for feedback. This makes fans feel like they are really invested in your cause.
Says Freddie Al-Hajj (Clepto and The Hajj): “We use video and the new fast and easy technology of live streaming through Facebook and Instagram to show parts of our shows with our new band, The Hajj, as well as to showcase the bands that come and play at our venue and studio, Doll Hut and Doll Hut Studios in Anaheim, California. This definitely gives the people who are not attending the show a taste and a sense of ‘missing out’ which will hopefully bring them to the next show. Doing these live streams and saving them on your profile is a good way to show your history for new fans that you might get each new show you play. Here is one of a raw and raunchy clips: facebook.com/worldfamousdh/videos/1581056848616765/.”
Use amazing still photographs of you and your band to create slideshow videos. You can use several videos that fade in and out using that awesome Ken Burns effect, or you can just use one continual shot of your album cover and URL.
Get your videos produced by rolling up your sleeves and doing it yourself. Use high-def digital video cameras (like the ones by Canon or Sony), editing software (like Sony Vegas Pro or Final Cut Pro), and stock footage from sites like Videoblocks (videoblocks.com). You might also think about using online tools like Animoto (animoto.com) to produce fun videos using your photos and video clips. Just remember that producing high-quality videos yourself requires a little know-how and a lot of patience. Bottom line: you gotta have some skills.
Indie artist Emily Zuzik presents an example of someone who took charge of the production on her recent video, only she was wise enough to know her own weakness and to outsource some of the work. Here’s what Emily did:
“I had a song “Alone” (youtu.be/2iju740jw8s) with a very personal story and wanted to get the video right. I also had some specific visual ideas for it. I’m a pretty good photographer/videographer and have both a digital Canon EOS Rebel and iPhone shooting HD video. My producer friends took my ideas and proposed that we both shoot atmospheres (them in NYC and me in Los Angeles) and upload them to a Google drive. I also shot footage with me in these “lonesome environments” using my tripod, a selfie stick and some creative phone leaning against rocks and whatever I could find in the area. They also shot my concert at Rockwood Music Hall for some performance footage. Then, Anana Kaye, my co-producer friend from duendevision.com, used Final Cut Pro to weave all this video together in a montage sequence. She sent me rough cuts, and we’d have phone meetings and emails dedicated to editorial changes and brainstorming sessions. Thank god for her skills, because my editing efforts using iMovie (youtu.be/7YC8pyv9Gnk) have been basic at best.
“The point of this is, if you have a specific look you want and feel comfortable shooting lots of the video yourself, you can find someone to help you edit and produce the video without hiring an entire crew to run with it themselves. The budget for this kind of video falls into a range. I did mine for around $1,000, but they’ve done videos for under $1,000 and close to $4,000, depending on the budget of the person and how intricate they want to get. I also hired a video promotion friend (hipvideopromo.com) who pitched the video to television, Internet and print coverage as well as ran a social media campaign for the video. These were invaluable add-ons that I recommend for any indie artist looking for more exposure and to build a greater social media following. They offer a range of services for different budgets as well.”
Finally, hire a senior student at a local film school who has access to great equipment (which could therefore cost you nothing or a few hundred dollars), a videographer at a club who is set up to record your live show (which could cost $100 to $200), or an experienced professional who makes documentaries and videos for a living (which could cost you from $3,000 to more than $35,000). Keep in mind that the multiple cameras, professional lighting, sound equipment, editing expertise, sound stage, make-up artists and fashion consultants that professionals use make a big difference in quality. Contact local colleges, ask for referrals from other bands in your area who already have great videos you’ve seen, or just conduct a search online for videographers to find someone who you feel can get the job done right.
Los Angeles rapper Tall Cuzz found his videographer Rawli Creative on the set of a friend’s video shoot. Says Tall Cuzz, “As a rapper, I naturally support other rappers. So when my friend ExcelBeats asked me to sing a feature on his latest video single produced by Rawli Creative, I brought nothing less than my A game. This led to an opportunity to sing a feature on Bizzy Bones’ video shoot that Rawli Creative was also producing. As it turns out, Rawli was so impressed with my professionalism on both video shoots, he offered to produce my own solo stuff.
“My video ‘Been A Goon’ was a two-day shoot in three locations. Day 1 was shot at my home in Compton. Day two was shot in both Dorset Village off of Crenshaw and Slauson in the projects where I grew up and off La Brea and Slauson at Ladera Park. All three locations were filmed with a Sony A7s2, Canon cinema prime lenses and a half-ton grip truck.
“Rawli, understood my issues with financial hardships and didn’t want to let that stop us from filming, so I got the “homie discount.” Rawli shot a $3,500 video for a mere $1,000!
“So, take note indie artists––you have to network and create contacts to get ahead in this business. The harder I work to be really good at what I do, the easier it is for industry professionals to work with me even, in the absence of a big budget. Check out the video here: youtu.be/cQ7vZCpR4YU.”
So, ladies and gents, in closing, just remember that no matter what video approach you take, be sure to keep up-to-date with the latest techniques for creating and promoting video content. Search keywords online, like “video content creation” and “YouTube tutorials.” You’ll learn basic tips about posting consistently, titling your videos, tagging your videos with keywords so that they are easier to find, including links to get people to subscribe to your videos, responding to comments, and so much more. Some of my favorite tutorial pages can be found on YouTube’s Creator Academy here: creatoracademy.youtube.com/page/education. Enjoy!
This article is based on an excerpt by Bobby Borg from the book Five Star Music Makeover (2016), written by Bobby Borg, Coreen Sheehan, Anika Paris, Eric Corne and Michael Eames. Additional interviews were conducted by Bobby Borg for Music Connection magazine (2017). For further ideas and books by Bobby Borg, such as Business Basics for Musicians, please visit his site at bobbyborg.com.