Tips on DIY Music Videos

Angela Saini

by Angela Saini

Making music videos has become a necessity for the indie musician. Music is consumed much differently in the online age, and most often people will come across your music first on a platform such as YouTube. Increasingly people are “hearing with their eyes” so you want to make sure there is a visual medium to enjoy your music readily available. That being said, you don’t need to have label-backing or be a big artist with a huge budget in order to make a music video.

I’ve done several music videos, all DIY (do-it-yourself, ie. Without a grant or third party funding) and there are many ways to go about it. As with every aspect of an indie artist’s career, you can start with people that you know who already support you in your craft. Maybe you have a friend who has a camera and/or knows how to use editing software. . I know an artist that shot an entire video by herself on an iPhone: for no cost. If you have the skills or know someone who does, you can do a lot yourself.

Another option is to find people in film school who need to create a film reel or final project. My video for “Stay Here with Me” was done entirely by a small group of people who were doing a final project for a film program. You might find a young director who is hungry for experience, and is willing to do a video for free or a reduced rate. It doesn’t have to be crazy expensive to make a video if you know how to plan and utilize your resources. Regardless of budget, the planning and production of a video is the same general process.

The first major consideration for a video is the director. Who is going to create and execute the “concept” of the video? A director should be the one who presents a “treatment,” which is a general outline of how the video will flow, from start to end. It doesn’t have to be an exact shot list, but should entail how the video is going to start and generally progress, within a concept. A lot to consider in terms of style: Is the singer going to sing to the camera for some shots? Are there actors? What about location? What kind of wardrobe? Is there a live performance scene? Will there be an audience? How many days do you need to shoot? Your costs are going to reflect the duration of filming. The director may charge a per day fee and you might need a crew for lights, additional cameras etc. and you need to feed them. Renting gear might be a reality for your shoot, and that can add up fast; all the more reason to try to utilize your resources and do as much as you can with little or no cost. I have been able to pull strings and get locations to film in for free for all my videos. Start with who you know, and don’t be afraid to go “guerilla-style” in shooting scenes in public spaces. A side note on this: technically you need a permit to film on streets in Toronto, and probably most cities. The moment a tripod hits the pavement you can be asked for one (apparently handheld cameras don’t break the rules.) I am not advocating doing anything illegal, but permits and fines can get expensive so you might want to get creative.

Here is where planning is the most important factor in shooting your video. I have had whole projects fail because of a lack of planning. “Doing it as you go” is going to cost everyone time, money, mental sanity and will probably add days to your shoot. Have a shot list and make sure your director/director of photography knows what is being shot, where, and how long it should take, BEFORE you start. They might make a “Story Board” which will visually show each scene in order, although you might not shoot it in chronological order. Include set up time and meals in your planning, and remember things always take longer than you think! Having extras is always more difficult than you think it will be, at least in numbers. You might love to have a crowd of screaming fans in front, but the day of only 3 people show up. Have a back-up plan for shooting and be flexible when depending on other people, especially if you aren’t hiring professional actors.

My most successful shoots considering time and money have been small scale; maybe a handful of “actors,” and a small film crew, or just me and the Director and that’s it. Making a video doesn’t have to be a huge daunting project that costs you a small fortune. If you have a clear vision and plan everything ahead of time, you will save time and money. Factor in the time it will take to edit the video, and don’t be afraid to ask for a rough cut to make sure you and the editor/director are on the same page. Editing is just as important as shooting, so don’t rush the process just to get it done. I always make sure before I commit to a project that it’s clear that I will be part of the process. Make sure you are proud of your product because you want to share it with the world for years to come. Right?

The sky is the limit. We are creative people and it is exciting that a visual representation of our music is attainable as indie artists. Happy Shooting!

Angela Saini

Click Here Angela’s Songwriters’ Profile.

Here is Angela’s video for her song “U-Turn,” recently featured on the S.A.C. website:


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