A glimpse behind-the-curtain of four independent music videos

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The making of a DIY music video

Between CD Baby and Illustrated Sound (CD Baby’s new YouTube network), we hear from lots of artists who’re releasing cool-looking music videos.

I thought it’d be interesting every so often to share a handful of standouts along with comments from the artist or director about the video production, in hopes that it might inspire or inform your next music video project.

As you watch these, it’s worth remembering that just because you’re an independent/DIY musician, it doesn’t mean you can’t work with pros when it comes to any aspect of your video production: videography, editing, set design, etc.

So, let’s take a look. Below the embedded videos are comments from each of the artists about the shoot.

“As an independent artist, it was so important for me to find a team of creatives to help bring my first music video to the table in a unique way with being mindful of our limited budget. Luckily, I had the pleasure of working with normal.tv to produce the video for “BAD.”

I initially sat down with producer Anthony Baldino and director Ryan Lacen to go over concepts and figuring out ways to get the viewers’ attention right from the beginning. That’s where the idea of editing the video so that the storyline starts from the ending, and finishes at the beginning, came from.

During the all-day shoot, there were some interesting moments that took place in order for us to get the footage we needed. For example, for some of the scenes, I had to learn my song backwards so that the “reverse” motion came off authentic when we shot it. I can’t even remember how many takes of certain scenes we did! The overall process was such a great learning experience for me, as I was hands on with selecting the footage, color correction, plotting out the story board, managing the budget, etc. Between location rentals, equipment, crew, personnel, talent, craft services and glam, this shoot wouldn’t have been possible without an amazing team of people who believed in the project and really pulled together countless resources.

My advice to independent artists who are self-funding any part of a release, is that you take your time and find people you trust, are collaborative, professional and timely, and who make the job fun. There’s a lot of time, effort and energy that goes into these shoots, and as an artist, feeling comfortable for hours on end is necessary.”  — Alexx Mack

“Collaborating with other artists is always fun. We’re both from the same area of New Jersey and have known Scott Paul for a long time. It was great to finally combine our styles of music.

When we got together, we decided to stay true to the original while adding our own stamp on it. It’s a great challenge because with a band like Gorillaz, or any of the other artists we have covered, you don’t always realize all the subtle parts or sounds in a song until you start analyzing it. It’s a reverse engineering type of thing. We break the song down as far as we can and build it back up in our own way piece by piece.

While filming, we focused on using sharp colors for the shots to match the animated Gorillaz style and we kept the shots simple to highlight all of the different sounds in the song. We got to use some fun instruments, like the Q-Chord as well as some vocal sampling.

When working with video, a solid understanding of your camera and its lens (if you are using a DSLR camera) and the appropriate lighting are both very important. You can actually make a great looking set with some workshop clamp lights and color filters on a very small DIY budget. Start small with your concepts and work your way up from there as you get more comfortable. Patience is key — don’t release something just because you filmed it. If it is not up to your standards, continue to edit or film until the final cut is ready to be shared.” — Rigbi

“Do Your Thing” was featured in Season 1 of Showtime’s House of Lies and again in a Season 3 Promo featuring Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell. When the second placement happened, I knew it was a good opportunity to capture some eyes and ears so I came up with the concept of finding a “Young Usher” to perform the song and kill a dance routine.

I’m fortunate to have an incredible video team who has shot my other videos. Cinematographer Matt Roe told me about the Doggicam rig for a performance look and I enlisted my friends Zach Salsman (Cinematographer) and Ben Redmond (Director / VFX) to work with me on the shoot. We filmed at Gradient Studios in DTLA which features Norman Zammitt’s painting “Elysium,” a Los Angeles City Historical Landmark.

The key to the entire video was finding the young superstar Kida The Great, who at the time was 11 years old. I secured him through his agent Clear Talent Group (LA). Kida was the ultimate pro, working a full day, bringing so much creativity and fun to his routine as well as learning the entire song. He destroyed the performance and has a white hot future ahead of him.” — Jensen Reed

“”The Best Fears of Our Lives” was a challenging and fun music video experience. A lot of teamwork, on the spot time management, and pre-production made it possible. Director Brian Petchers and I hashed out our concept in advance: we wanted to capture the nostalgia of being young and not having fears. To reference my personal childhood, we set the scene with locations in Orange County, New York that convey the tone of the area where I grew up.

With an ambitious two days to shoot, co-producer Regina Zaremba and I had to juggle a variety of tasks on the spot. This is where detailed pre-production really mattered, especially involving child actors and multiple locations. We did homework on the distance between each location, we decorated the bedroom with vintage band posters far in advance, and we had a lot of help from generous friends and family who could play extras or drive to grab missing props. It was surely a team effort, so special thanks to cinematographer Patrick Lawler, makeup artist Liz Maney, and the tireless rest of our crew. We are all so proud of the video.” — Dylan Owen

Got any music videos or tips on video production you’d like to share? Leave a link and your comments below.

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[Music video pic from Shutterstock.]

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  • Peter Brooke Turner

    I remade Dylans Subterranean Homesick Blues in airline restrooms last year while on tour – I’d suggest try and find an angle somehow http://bit.ly/1iPwT0p

  • Mark Rossmore

    You can do a lot with a little knowledge and a little equipment, and a whole lot of trial and error. Here are two videos I shot entirely on my own (no crew at all), including filming, editing, prop-making, visual effects and post-production. I used a Canon T2i with two lenses, tripod, a remote control, and a small wireless monitor.

    Every Storm has an End: https://youtu.be/Rn1RYpdTT5o
    I filmed this against a makeshift green screen made from $25 of fabric duct-taped over a pair of bookcases. I think I maybe spent $125 total on props. All told, it took me a couple of months to put it together.

    Until the End: https://youtu.be/Sd3tWgSzLUU
    Over six days, I shot this video on location on Pensacola Beach. I called in a couple of favors, with my female friend and the owner of the biplane that I’m seen flying at the beginning. Everything here, I shot using my T2i on a tripod.

  • Nice. Thanks for sharing. Impressive amount of props and effects for a totally DIY production. Well done.

    @ChrisRobley