5 must-haves for creating a music video on a budget

The following post was originally written by California based singer-songwriter Stormy Strong, who is currently being represented by the awesome team at Muddy Paw PR. We believe Stormy has an amazing future in music ahead, and I think there is something artists at every level can learn from their experience. Enjoy!

My name is Stormy Strong (yes, that’s my real name) and I am a saltwater rock singer-songwriter from Santa Cruz CA. As an artist, I have longed to spread my music as far and wide as possible, and I’m constantly trying to figure out how can I get it out there with all the competition of record labels and bazillion other forms of entertainment vying for people’s attention. The problem is, I simply don’t have the bank account of some of those larger entities. One way I’ve found to stand out without spending a ton of money is producing story based music videos.

Every musician should have a strategy for video releases. Continually creating and releasing content will keep your band relevant and current. When creating your next music video consider the following:

1. Song

I pick songs that I love and that I have a gut feeling are strong representations of who I am as a singer-songwriter and accurately represent the sound of my band. The song that embodies the vision of my musical journey. You can do this yourself.

2. Concept or Vision

I first come up with an idea around the song we’re working on either with collaborators or by myself, looking for themes that fit the song and my musical vision. I’m always sure to incorporate my personal brand, which in this case has strong nautical ties. My songs tend to involve storytelling but there are no hard and fast rules. Write a script or find someone to help you. Then create story boards (you can Google for tips on creating both) Keep iterating on it, you can do this yourself but it’s always good to have people you really trust with your art give feedback.

3. Budget

Set a minimum budget (what you hope it will cost based on research of what you will need) and a maximum budget (what you can afford). Then double the maximum budget (“disaster scenario”) and ask yourself, if it ends up costing me this this amount, will it be a total loss? Example: I want to make a video for $500 best case scenario (minimum). I could get $1000 if I had to (maximum) … BUT if disaster strikes and we lose all the footage because my friend dropped the camera off the boat then we’re looking at $2k, disaster scenario. Always make sure that your crew are paid—if not monetarily then in another agreed upon method.

Some costs to consider:

  • Talent
  • Crew
  • Props
  • Permits
  • Gear and rental equipment
  • Food and water for crew
  • Location
  • Insurance (for shoot and or gear)

Talent can make up a lot for lack of high end gear. I’d argue someone with the knack for filming and editing could make a very compelling video and give the pros a run for their money. In fact Talent > Gear.

4. Team

Collaboration makes it more fun and will result in a stronger final product. Try to find people who you trust, that are excited about the music and the concept, and have talent in the areas you’re looking for.  Don’t be afraid to exchange services and if it makes sense, show them your budget so they can see where you’re coming from. No one likes being taken advantage of, so whatever you do, don’t burn bridges.

If not yourself, you’ll need someone to shoot and edit the video, as well as someone to do color grading if possible. Everything else will be talent: people helping with sets or lighting, props, etc.

5. Network

Everyone one has friends, colleagues, family, acquaintances, etc.—this is the time to call on those people. Ask around when you are looking for something you need. It’s amazing how helpful people can be and all of my videos are the result of leveraging my networks and extended networks heavily. Some people might hear about what you’re doing and want to work just for credit, or to play around with a piece of gear they’ve been eyeing. Some people LOVE doing certain things that rhyme with what you are doing… you just have to find them!

Once you have a script and storyboards in place you’ll be ready to start planning for the days of shoots. Make a list of all the people involved with their phone and email addresses (Google docs works well for this, as well as for sharing the script and storyboard for collaboration). You may be able to shoot the whole video in one long day depending on the number of locations and complexity, but the better you plan the more likely you won’t need to do pick-up shots (these are shots you have to later re-shoot). You’ll have to do a lot of hard work getting props, scheduling shoots, and keeping in touch with people to make sure they arrive at their scheduled times. If you have someone that wants to help with this (a band member perhaps) that’s optimal.

Always go with your gut on the set and be professional. It’s your video so you will need to exercise patience, and compassion, while being efficient and keeping things moving. Make sure you have a solid relationship with the crew and never be afraid to tell them what you want. That being said, a lot of great ideas come from collaboration, so try to remain open to alternatives. Often weather and sick crew or talent will be your biggest hurdles. Always have a backup plan.

If you don’t mind hard work, and are patient, then you can make yourself one hell of a music video without a huge budget. It’s an extension of your music and I guarantee after your first video you’ll be itching to create more.

Santa Cruz, CA based alternative “saltwater” rock leviathan Stormy Strong formed in 2006 and has been sweeping the globe atop a tsunami of salty melodic anthems ever since. Unrelenting rock hooks sink unforgettably deep in his music, giving way to honest lyrics soaked in raw emotion that splice seamlessly with award winning song-writing. His songs will leave you cast adrift, melodies swimming around inside of your head long after the show is over. You can view his latest music video, “Sail Away” HERE and keep an eye out for the premiere of the “Holiday” music video later this year.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.