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  • Writer's pictureCJ

Music Videos and You

Updated: Mar 28

You thought you were done.

Your new song is written, recorded, produced, mixed, mastered, and sent off to your distributor of choice. You know you’ll need some social media posts or whatever closer to the release date, but all the big projects are over with, and you can chill for a minute.

Just kidding, in this day and age, you probably need a video of some sort. Lyric video, performance video, behind the scenes, or a full-on music video. Take your pick. Some cost a few hours of your time, and some can cost a few hundred thousand. And if you don’t have a giant label backing you (and if you’re reading this blog, you probably don’t), you’ll have to roll up your sleeves and do it yourself.

Minimum Effort: The Lyric Video

Gone are the days of reading inserts to find out if Freddie is really singing “Saving his life from this warm sausage tea”; you can just hop over to Google. But odds are you’re reading the lyrics because you want to sing along, so instead, you head over to Youtube to watch the karaoke-like lyric video. This plays your song along to some sort of cheesy backdrop that shows each line of the song as you sing it, allowing the viewer to belt along with you.

They are cheap and easy to make. Spend a few hours in Capcut, Filmora, VEED.IO, Videobolt,, etc., etc. (seriously, I googled, and there are over 617,000,000 results). Take your pick. Personally, I like using Canva. Is it the easiest? No, but that doesn’t mean it’s complicated.

If someone is going out of their way to learn the words to your song, they are already invested in you as an artist. Make it easy for them. If you don’t make a lyric video, you should have a really good reason, like it doesn’t fit your brand, your piece doesn’t have lyrics, or you hate your fans.

you broke me first’ involved finding a rooftop parking lot, attaching a phone to a car, and telling the driver to go slowly as she walked behind it, mouthing the words. In post, the lyrics were added to the sky along with some cheap effects. This Tate McRae video has 239 million views currently.

Medium Effort: The Performance Video

Have a gig coming up? Have a bunch of friends with phones? (If you don't, that's ok. 1. I will be your friend and B) go spend $30 on a few tripods). Have the cameras all pointed towards you at different angles. Pay careful attention to the lighting and your iPhone’s settings so you don’t end up with a really dark video, and if you’re jumping around the stage a lot, you’ll want the tripods set up on a different floor so they aren’t bouncing with you.

Getting sound from a gig can be almost impossible, so you’ll most likely want to overlay the recording overtop of the video. If you aren’t playing to a click, make sure your timing is excellent or else you’ll have a LOT of editing to do jumping back and forth from different angles to hide it. Make sure to capture as much B-roll as possible. Pop a title card on there, and you’re good to upload. Maisie Peters did a fantastic job with 'Cates Brother' slicing together different angles, b-roll, and silly shots to make a great DIY-looking video (that probably cost a LOT of money).

But let’s be honest, very few artists and editors can pull those types of videos off and keep the original energy. There’s a reason you go to live shows, and if you took any videos (which I’m hoping you didn’t!), they just seem flat and lifeless when you watch them later.

Another type of performance video involves finding an interesting location and just playing. In this Dan + Shay video, you have them both sitting in a field at sunset performing a stripped-back version of ‘I Should Probably Go to Bed’. With a great lighting setup, it can start to look professional very quickly, and you probably already have the equipment you need to capture a great take.

Now we are approaching the god-tier level of performance videos. One could almost argue that we’ve entered into the realm of proper music videos now. In this type of performance video, it’s no longer JUST about the music. You are showcasing another talent, and maybe the viewer is actually there to see that and your music is a bonus (use this to your advantage). Let’s take K-Pop Queens Black Pink as our example. ‘How You Like That’ has 2 videos, a proper music video with an enormous budget that has 1.2 billion views, and a well-done but much cheaper dance performance video which surpasses it at 1.5 billion views.

So a music video with 13 sets, 21 outfits, 38 backup dancers, and 1 giant Trojan horse is getting fewer views than the one with 1 simple set, 4 outfits, and 8 backup dancers that only show up for the last 40 seconds of the song. Why? Because it’s not just showcasing the song, it is showcasing the dance. I know nothing about choreo, but what I do know is these women kept showing up in different places with the one singing/rapping magically appearing in front, and my little musician brain could not understand it, so I ended up watching it 5 times. Once actually watching it, then watching it one time per member so I could figure out how this puzzle works.

Know some dancers? Have a friend who can do a time-lapse painting inspired by your song? Does your brother know how to juggle 5 swords while riding a unicycle? Give the viewer something interesting to watch.

Medium Effort: The Behind-the-Scenes Video

Now, this one takes a bit of planning (or acting). As you create the song, you should have your phone out capturing everything. For those of you who have already embraced TikTok, you might already have some bite-sized content to put together. For those of you who don’t, your options are to wait for the next song OR go back and do a bit of acting. Now this is probably going to end in a LOT of footage and many dead phone batteries, BUT with a day or so dedicated to picking the best clips, you could end up with something like this video of Ed Sheeran and Benny Blanco writing ‘Love Yourself’ in real time. My suggestion would be to either have your song come in and play in full at the end or play the song with the clips thrown in between parts, but keep it casual and fun above all else.

Maximum Effort: The Music Video

‘See You Again’ - Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth

‘Shape of You’ - Ed Sheeran

‘Despacito’ - Luis Fonsi ft. Daddy Yankee

Here are 3 of the top-watched music videos on Youtube, with the last one coming in with 8.3B views. You might also be expecting them to also be the most expensive music videos of all time… but no. That would be ‘Scream’, ‘Express Yourself’, and ‘Estranged’ by Guns N’ Roses (which let’s be honest, when was the last time you thought about that music video? Was it $10,129,003 well spent?).

Music videos can be extremely complicated and expensive. Look at K-pop where obscene amounts of money are poured into amazing videos that garner millions of views. They are bright, flashy, full of costumes, sets, choreography, and FX, and yes, they are very successful. But you don’t need all of that. Sure, it will give you a leg up, but the videos above aren’t hitting those.

Let’s take a look at Lorde.

‘Solar Power’ was released and is sitting at 28M views. It features Lorde dancing on a beach with a hippie/cult-esque vibe with a minimum of 26 background dancers. The first 2 minutes a 1-shot take of choreographed shots that change behind the scenes while the camera turns to different angles.

‘Tennis Court’ is sitting at 129M views. It features Lorde looking straight into the camera for the entire song and mouthing only the words “yeah”. The lighting does change throughout the song, but other than that, there are no changes.

You can argue all day about which song is better (‘Solar Power’), but let’s use the Billboard Hot 100 as our guide. ‘Solar Power’ peaked at 64 while ‘Tennis Court’ peaked at 71. Now I can’t find the figures for how much these videos cost, but just watching them, it’s easy to see that one had a much more elaborate production than the other.

Budget does NOT equal success. Yes, it can help, but the quality of the song and innovation are king.

Dominique Fricot’s 'Haunted By Love' video where he burns a piece of paper and it slowly sets the entire room ablaze is already interesting, but when the video is played backward (think of ‘The Scientist’ Coldplay) showing the fire slowly receding to expose what it is he burned at the end it is captivating. You feel like you have to watch this video to the end to see what started it all, and figure out how he achieved this practical effect.

Speaking of Coldplay, ‘Yellow’ has Chris Martin slowly walking down a beach in the rain. To achieve the slow-motion effect, he had to sing the song significantly sped up so when they played it back at normal speed, his mouth was in sync with the music. This 1-shot music video that possibly was done after 1 take would put the filming time at around 2:16. Add some editing and color grading, and it might have taken longer to upload than create and comes in at 1B views.

Last and probably the most unique on the list required a roll of aluminum foil, some tacky outfits, and 8 treadmills. Yep, that’s OK Go’s ‘Here it Goes Again’. I can guarantee you I did NOT watch this for the song the first few times but now I can sing you the entire thing from memory. With 17 attempts at the 1-shot video, this video basically costs nothing but the band's time to learn the dance which while impressive as a whole, isn’t that complicated when you only watch one of them at a time. With the music video winning a Grammy, I would call it a success.

So choose your video, and remember that with a lot of creativity and work, you can put something interesting out and get your music to more and more people. Will it be easy? Maybe. But will it be worth it? Also maybe, but that’s the music business, so why not try?

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