Get a free music video with all CD Baby distribution through June 8th. Details below!
When you hear the term “music video,” do you think of a band playing along to a pre-recorded track? Or maybe an artist flanked by a dozen dancers? Or some complicated computer imagery that took months to create?
Are you thinking: costumes, scenes, props, choreography, plot?
These were the kinds of videos MTV would play (back when they played music), and up until the dawn of YouTube they were often the only videos artists would make.
Why you need to think beyond the traditional music video.
With the growing popularity of short-form video on TikTok and Instagram Reels, plus the continued dominance of YouTube, modern musicians have many more options for defining what “music video” even means. You’re no longer bound to the “traditional” music video format. You can get really creative on a tight budget.
With that freedom comes new expectations though. Since video is the most immediate (and thus successful) form of online content — and since video is so much quicker and cheaper to create today — there’s also a greater need for good videos to reach listeners. It means you can’t disappear for months or years at a time. Which is a double-edged sword. There’s lower pressure for your videos to look “big-budget,” but more pressure for you to publish a steady flow of video content in general.
To help you in your quest to make those videos happen, we’ve partnered with Rotor. They’re an automated video-creation tool that helps you make music videos, lyric videos, video ads, concert announcements, and other teasers on a regular schedule.
Below we’ve outlined 10 types of music videos you should be making right now.
1. The official music video
Hey, just because we said these were the only types of music videos for decades doesn’t mean they’re not relevant any more. A classic is a classic for a reason.
This is your traditional full-song video. Most likely this is the song from your album you want to feature most. The “single.” Since you’re shining a spotlight on this one, it usually has the best production value of any video you make.
Beware: this format can be expensive in terms of time and money. Like we said at the beginning, when people think of an official music video, it usually has a long-form sort of narrative. Sometimes there are actors and scenes and props. That can be a massive undertaking, especially for a new artist. Though acts like OK Go and Thao & the Get Down Stay Down have proven you can do something captivating without fancy sets, big budgets, or narrative.
YouTube tends to be the main home for these types of videos, but you can also run them as ads on Facebook and Instagram to reach new audiences. An official music video also works great as a YouTube embed on your artist website to link to show bookers or other people in the industry who are going to visit your website. They don’t want to watch a 15 second embedded TikTok video. They’re looking for a proper long-form video to make their decisions about booking you for a gig.
2. The song snippet video
Sometimes you want to just get right to the best part of a song. That’s where a short snippet video comes in.
These videos tend to start right at the chorus, and maybe include a verse heading into the second chorus if you want to get that far. Either way, you’re starting the video right on the hook.
Short snippet videos are great for things like social advertising or oranic TikTok posts, where people aren’t going to sit and watch the entire video. You want something to bring a potential new fan into your music easily. That’s what the hook is there for!
Rotor is a perfect tool to use for making short snippet videos. Even a 15-second video ad used on Spotify or Instagram can drive traffic to your music.
A visualization is a subtle graphic element that has some dynamic change to it. Many times it can be an image of your album art but it has visuals changing in the background or even just some light animations.
Visualizations are not narrative in any way. They’re just videos that can loop without people realizing they’re looping. They can act as a sort of bridge between your official video and a song snippet. When you’re posting your music on social media, a visualization is something that can be quick and easy and add some sort of visual moving content that captures people’s eye enough.
Like song snippets, Rotor allows users to create visualizations. Just upload your song and select a vibe; it will create graphics to match!
4. Lyric videos and/or karaoke videos
A lyrics video is just what its name implies: a video with the the lyrics to your song going across the screen. Some diehard fans actually love lyric videos, even when they’re done very simply!
But you can go one step further and still create a lyric video fairly easily. If you’ve already made an official video for your big song, you can take small portions of that and make short videos with the lyrics to the hook or even the verses over the video. This doesn’t take much work and you can have two or three small lyric videos pretty easily. As mentioned earlier, these type of snippet videos can work really well on TikTok.
Karaoke videos are similar to lyric videos in that they focus on the words to your song, but the vocal portion of the audio is removed. If you have a catchy chorus or a fun verse, ask your sound engineer to take out the vocal track in the mix and make you a karaoke version of your song. Post that video to social media and ask your followers to sing along!
5. Art track videos
Have you ever listened to a song on YouTube and the accompanying video was just the album art as a static image? That’s an Art Track video. YouTube Music automatically creates these for all songs in its catalog. If you distribute an album to YouTube Music, they will create an Art Track video for each individual song.
CD Baby distributes to YouTube Music. So if you’re distributing your music with us, your songs already have Art Track videos on YouTube!
6. Spotify Canvas videos
Spotify Canvas is a vertical video format on Spotify that loops footage the artist chooses while the song plays.
Generally artists will select a part of their music video that’s three to eight seconds long. The key here is that it’s a section of the video that looks good looping, so make sure to choose something that’s not too specific to one section of the song. Footage of your vocalist lip-syncing the hook looks weird when it’s looping and out of sync.
If you’re following this list in order and making videos as you go, you’ll already have some songs snippets made. Those can work great for Spotify Canvas videos. Just cut a part down to eight seconds and upload it through your Spotify for Artists account.
As with other forms of video we’ve covered here, Rotor makes it super easy to make Spotify Canvas videos. Sign up now and upload your video to easily make edits!
7. Short-form video
Of all the items on this list, short-form videos are currently the hottest trend — with the widest possible playing field. From Instagram Reels, to TikTok and YouTube Shorts, short-form videos are massively popular on today’s social media platforms.
The name is self-explanatory. A short-form video is a quick video that’s one minute, 30 seconds or even 15 seconds long. These are meant to be viewed quickly (sometimes a few times in a row if they’re particularly funny or weird), shared with fellow users of the video platform, and then scrolled past to the next video.
The main difference between a short-form video and full length video is that short-form videos tend to be more casual in nature. In this case, the more amateur and less professional your video looks, the better it’s likely to perform (as long as the idea or the concept is creative and interesting, of course). And they don’t even need to have your music in them at all.
Short-form videos are fun, silly and off the cuff. For viewers, they’re a peak into your life when you’re not writing or recording your next masterpiece. They’re meant to help you connect with your fans and potential fans.
8. Cover song videos
Cover songs can be very useful in helping draw attention to your music, especially if you choose the right song to cover for your video. YouTube cover song videos are entire cottage industry and have been for over a decade, with some artists recording cover song videos exclusively and never attempting original compositions.
While you don’t have to go that far, making a few videos of you covering your favorite songs can be an extremely effective way to boost your audience. Just don’t pick too deep of a cut. Pick something appropriate for your genre or audience (or totally off the wall if you want to play into the silliness of a hardcore band covering an ’80s pop song) and get to work!
9. Live videos
Note that we didn’t say “livestream” video. That is something else entirely.
A live video is just that: a video of you playing in a live setting.
This is important if you want to work with a talent buyer or festival booker. Industry professionals who work in a live capacity want to know you can put on a good show, and a live video is proof of that. They’re not only looking at your set or individual song for performance quality, but also the audience’s enthusiasm. Because it doesn’t matter if your chops are exceptional if the audience is disinterested (or non-existent).
And it should go without saying, but make sure the live video is actually good. Footage shot on a flip phone from the back of the room won’t cut it.
Hire a real camera person who knows what they’re doing to set up shop at the right spot with good equipment. Make sure the camera pans over the crowd a few times to capture their reaction. And afterwards, mix the sound so viewers can actually hear what you’re playing.
10. Behind the scenes videos
There are lots of options for this last one. A behind the scenes video can be anything from just setting your phone up and talking to your camera about the meaning of a song, or a unique experience that happened to you, or an announcement like a new album or tour.
If you really want to go the extra mile, a behind the scenes video can even be a finished documentary-style video about the making of your new album, or a tour diary that’s done as a series. Anything that lets your fans see what you’re like in real life.
Like we mentioned in the short-form video section, behind the scenes videos work great on platforms like TikTok and Instagram Reels. A quick video of you practicing a new technique on an instrument, learning a cover song (which you can use to tease a forthcoming video featuring that song) or showing off some of your other hobbies can go a long way to your audience connecting with you on a deeper level.
What kinds of videos have you made? Did they work? Which ones do you want to try next? Let us know in the comments! And listen to our full DIY Musician Podcast episode “10 Music Videos You Should Be Making Right Now.”
Make a stunning FREE music video in minutes—no video production skills needed.
From now through June 8, when you submit music through CD Baby, you’ll receive credit to create a music video using Rotor, a video creation site for musicians.
Here’s how Rotor works:
- Upload your song
- Add your own video clips and/or clips from Rotor’s library
- And apply a video style and captions
- Rotor’s AI automatically edits it all together to match the pacing of your music
The result is a professional-quality video to use on YouTube, streaming platforms, and social media—with no video production skills or resources required.
Free video offer ends June 8
Earn credit for a free Rotor video with each song or album you release with CD Baby.
Here’s how to claim your free music video:
- Pay for distribution through cdbaby.com.
- You’ll receive a confirmation email with a link for your free credit through Rotor.
- Then click the link, and you’ll be brought over to a special page to redeem your credit.
- Log in or create an account on Rotor.
- Credit will be added to your account so you can create a video!
Why CD Baby?
Grow your audience—Wide distribution to over 150 platforms around the world.
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No annual fees, keep 100% of your music rights—Pay once to keep your music up forever.
The help you need—Loads of DIY resources and expert support from fellow musicians.
Community—Founded and run by musicians, for musicians.
Music not quite ready to release?
No problem. Just pay for distribution now and use your free video credit later.