Ahh music videos – perhaps the best way to present your work to your fans in an audiovisual format. Sure, they probably won’t make you any money, but many seem to think that they are crucial for helping to get your name out there and they can sure as hell be fun to film. Even if only a small percentage of your fans take the time to check them out, those fans will be grateful. If your video is truly great there is no telling where it could take you. People long for cross-media products and videos are a great way to do this and to get your fans to engage with your music on a much more personal level.
Now – regular readers will know that the first question that I have to tie into this is “Where does a music video fit into the narrative?” This is a lot more important than you might think. While yes there are a lot of generic ideas for videos that work, IE: a metal band playing in a warehouse, a rapper surrounded by attractive women and drugs, a rock band playing a sold out show, something more unorthodox might help to communicate who you are more effectively. That being said – if you want to show your allegiance to a particular genre, sometimes it’s best just to do something fairly normal and fill it up with the appropriate symbolism. This can help to prove who you are and might even garner a few new fans.
How does one get a music video to garner new fans though? In my experience the only way to do that, and not just pander to your old fans (Not that they couldn’t use some pandering to) is to create a video that is simply outrageous. Odds are someone isn’t going to click on the video of a band they don’t know for the same reason they probably won’t click on any other suggested streaming link – people don’t care until you make them care. In a world where we are all inundated by content the only way to make non-fans care about your music video is to make it over the top, hilarious, or just really powerful. You need to get people talking about the music video as a sort of cultural event rather than as just your latest video.
To use an obvious example look at the Thriller music video. For many people born after 1990 or so this was one of their first exposures to Michael Jackson’s body of work. Why? Because it represents so much more than Michael Jackson, it shows us the entire broad and beautiful scope of his artistry. At the same time – it had a massive production value and a big name director behind them. That being said – the Thriller video has made Michael Jackson and his estate millions of dollars over the years because it has sustained a very real interest in his work. It cements his travails in a specific place in time and still wins the hearts of the youth.
Obviously not every music video can be that way, and you would be remiss in trying to do that with all of your music videos. Asides from, y’know, budget concerns, your fans definitely do want stuff that looks familiar every now and again. It’s nice to have variety in videos, if you have a party hearty clip then maybe you should balance it out with one where the band are medieval warriors (Probably my go to since I’m a nerd) or maybe a low budget video in a space that looks cool. Just look at all the metal bands that have been able to do awesome, simple videos in forests, there are badass budget video options out there. The point being – you need to be careful in plotting out your video in advance in terms of look and execution, otherwise you could very well end up with something that limits your narrative.
As per the financial viability of a music video I personally am torn. While they definitely can help to make your brand look a lot more professional, they also cost a lot of money to make and promote. Sure you can do something for a low budget, but more often than not, unless you really know what you’re doing you’re just going to make yourselves look stupid. For any decent music video with decent promotion you need to be aware that you are probably going to be going at least $1500 in the hole – that’s a pretty big financial commitment for something that doesn’t generate much direct income outside of the paltry amount that YouTube pays for ad revenue.
There’s a reason that even fairly major groups like Yob have yet to make a real music video seven albums and sixteen years into their career. They often don’t make financial sense – especially given the demographic of an independent music fanbase. You need to realize that in an industry where we all are scraping pennies, the money to make videos is rarely available. Even if you can do it – are you sure that that money wouldn’t be better invested in a more reliable income source like merchandise or Facebook advertisements? There’s a lot of challenges associated with music videos that I think far too few of us really take into consideration before diving in.
Does this mean you should avoid making a music video? Not at all – you simply need to be aware of the implications. Music videos are a tricky thing – it’s hard to get labels to fund them and most musicians certainly don’t have the money or connections. This is one of those times where reaching out to your local scene is important because you will almost certainly find people who would be willing to do this kind of thing for free. Music videos are tricky and there’s a reason fewer independent bands than ever are doing them these days – but if you can execute properly they can be an effective tool in growing your brand name.