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How to Plan for a Music Video Shoot

Your masters are finished. Your listeners are eager for content. Now it's time to plan the marketing campaign of your release! Making a music video can be exciting, energizing, and adds to the legacy of your musicianship. It's extremely important to plan ahead and set expectations early on. Creative work breeds a ton of ideas, but also takes organization to refine those ideas into something meaningful. This article is aimed at helping you determine what's realistic at different price tiers, outlining the 3 stages of music video production, and maximizing production value.

Pricing & Production Stages

There are 3 stages to creating a music video:

-Pre-production, aka the planning stage. At this stage we determine timeline, locations, sets, props, talent, and all other details. Our goal is to make all major decisions before the shoot.

-Production, aka shoot day(s)! This is where we'll record all raw video.

-Post-production, aka editing. Clips are assembled, vfx work is added, and exports are sent for client review. This stage usually involves a series of drafts and revisions.

The project budget will essentially determine how much time you can afford to spend on each of the 3 stages. While Lightly Salted Production offers music video production at any price point, we find it helpful to categorize budgets as one of 4 tiers.

Tier 1

Your most affordable option, if you have a minuscule budget, is going to be a video where the artist performs the song on camera at one or more locations. With this kind of shoot, a lot of production value lies in the quality of the location, so it's important to pick a good one! The personality of the performer is also something audiences will hone in on more since there isn’t going to be as much going on as there would be in fancier edits. In pre-production, we'd identify locations and outfits. More locations will add to the overall time and cost of the project. Production at this level involves a few takes of the song start-to-finish at each location, and the edit would bounce between different takes.

Tier 2

Your mid-tier option takes this "performance style" option and adds other story-driven visuals or B roll. With a medium sized budget, you can spend more time on each of the 3 stages of production. You’ll want to spend significant time on pre-production at this level and determine what kinds of visuals will lend themselves best to the song. A classic example would be a break-up song, where you’re cutting back & forth between a band playing, and a character emoting about their loss. You might also choose to allocate some of your budget to post-production and add in visual effects. (VFX can eat up a lot of time, so it’s important to set clear expectations up front about how much money should be dedicated to creative experimentation). We often request reference videos to properly convey a desired effect. Having references during pre-production helps us plan both the shoot and edit.

Tier 3

With more time and more money, you can schedule extensive pre-production sessions and plan out all of your shots beforehand. You can also start to justify doing location scouts, where a videographer and client go to potential locations and do a dry run to see which spaces resonate with the artist. Investing more money also gives you more flexibility for effects in post-production.

Tier 4

Of course, if you have money to spend on it, at the very highest level of production there are companies that will offer full storyboarding and give you a shot-by-shot preview of the music video, so the whole thing is planned to a T before you do any shooting.

General Advice

It's extremely beneficial to have both the video production team and the client listen to the song a number of times before pre-production. Think about the lyrical and thematic content, and how you might want to show that visually. Here's an extremely literal example from a song called “The Way it Goes”. In one of the verses the artist is rapping about smoking outside while his girl is inside causing drama... so we built a narrative around that. The 2 go out for drinks, she uses the bathroom and he sees that there’s another guy texting her, so he goes to take a smoke break.

In a later verse, he raps about wanting to raise his kids in a better environment, so we decided that after this smoke break, our character would just wander the streets for a while and soak in his reality. We even pulled up to the rapper’s childhood home for a performance shot.

If you don’t have a specific location in mind for a shoot, we tend to recommend local landmarks. About 90% of this video is just the performer walking down a bridge, but we moved around him to create different backgrounds. The Kodak Tower, Genesee Brewhouse, and High Falls are all famous and distinctive parts of Rochester, NY. You’re not going to find another city where you can get those hallmarks, and that means it’ll resonate with the people of Rochester more. Whether you’re new to music and trying to start a grassroots movement or an established musician acknowledging where you came from, this is a universally great way to show some local pride and get viewers to root for you.

Post-production always involves a series of drafts and revisions, so be prepared to give and receive feedback. Don't forget about little details like a title card, credits, or any calls to action at the end of the video to market more of your work.

Producing a music video is fun, rewarding, and a great way to connect with your audience. Ready to get started? Let's talk!

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