Music Videos

There is something magical about the way a good music video intertwines the song audio with visual interpretations of that audio to tell a gripping story, or even just present mesmorizing images to go along with it. The music video creates the space for a casual listener to be drawn toward a closer focus on the song. Part of this is beause they aren't just listening to the song in the background of whatever is going on in their life, they are actively looking at these images and thinking about the song in that moment, and maybe the meaning of the lyrics hits harder or maybe they notice music elements that didn't stand out for them when they heard the song on the radio (or streaming). 

The average watch time on YouTube video is thirty seconds. I'm not sure if that's a result of how mainstream the short form videos of TikTok and Instagram Reels have become, where users are in the habbit of swiping along and watching bits of this and bits of that, or if it's always been this way on YouTube. I'm guessing it's a little bit of both. I'm from the MTV generation where we sat through entire videos, or blocks of videos with commericials in between, in hopes they would play a video that we liked, so I tend to watch a lot more then thirty seconds when a video comes on, but this is an important metric to consider when you are creating. If you haven't bedazzled the viewer in the first thirty seconds, there is a good chance the rest of the video won't even be seen by your “viewers”, even if they show up in the statistics.

I have a dream that someday I will create a great album and publish amazing videos for each song. This is hard. The biggest hurdle is money. As an independant musician, no one is investing in videos to help my promotion, so I need to shell out money I earn from my day job. To make ten stunning music videos, an artist would probably need at least $100,000, probably much more. That's with camera operators, actors, directors, editors etc. One alternative route is using your phone to make home videos for free. That could actually be pretty cool, but if you don't have a strong familiarity with video, actors willing to work for a meal (or out of the kindness of their heart), and the time it takes to properly edit a video, it will probably turn out pretty boring and look cheap. It can be done though, I've seen videos made this way by local artists and they are great. For me, time is the biggest problem. I barely have time to make music, if I take on video creation I would need to put the music on hold. Part of me still wants to dive into this, video creation is very cool. 

Another relatively cheap option is hiring video creators that work with royalty-free stock footage. They piece together the video scenes, trying to make them fit with the song. For my recently released album, I hired ten video makers to create music videos for each song. I hired all along the price spectrum of $30 - $300. Two videos stood out as the best - the most expesive one and the cheapest one. I wasn't expecting to like the cheap one, but I got lucky with a talented artist that is just starting out, so is working cheaply until he builds a reputation online and then can raise his rates. I definitely found that price didn't equal quality, the ones that I didn't like at all were in the middle to high range and the three cheapest ones turned out to be some of my favorites. One of the biggest hits so far was the cheapest video “Dominos”. The video creator had great timing with the lyrics and although much of the footage is hard to watch (war footage because the song is about the Ukraine war) I liked how it moved from peaceful to war to peaceful again, which reflects the song.

I definitely found that songs with a strong narrative are much more suited to videos, but there is only so much footage these creators have access to, so some pieces of the story can be hard for them to tell. For those types of songs, nothing can replace actors and script writing. I tried this for one song (“Dig It Up”) with a Columbian filmmaker that was offering a great deal ($150) for him to hire two actors and direct/film/edit the video. He did a very nice job! 

I tried to hire someone for “Out To Sea” using that same model, but the price was well out of my range, so that is the video made with stock footage that I paid the most for. It's by a video creator in Israel I've worked with once before and I knew he was pretty good. The video has been well received online, the most views, most likes and most comments. While it's not exactly what was in my mind, it does capture the essence of the song and that is important.

Those three videos I mentioned have over 18 thousand views in 28 days! The other six videos have under 100 views combined. Why such a big difference? YouTube ads. I bought ads through YouGrow that drive traffic. I'm not sure of any other way for a non-famous person to cut through the noise of 1 million uploaded videos per day and actually reach people that are interested in their content. I was skeptical about ads for music, but it works, and to me it feels better to advertise then to pay for the chance to pitch songs (to Spotify etc.). That isn't exactly pay for play, it's pay for pitch, but it doesn't feel that much better. I suppose you could say advertising is pay for pitch also, but you are pitching your music directly to listeners. I haven't actually seen my advertisements, I am curious about that… Will report back if I am able to capture what it looks like. If any reader has seen one please share your experience in the comments!

For the current project, I am still waiting for the last video, “Ghost In My Head" and then I will have one video for each song. It has been a cool experiment and great learning opportunity. It helped me as a songwriter understand the importance of narrative, and how a song without a strong one might sounds cool, but not be as moving as the one that tells a story, or at least hints at one and allows the listener to fill in the rest. I also now have a better idea of how long a video takes to make, how much it will cost and feel more confident in storyboarding a song so when I hire a video creator I can share my vision of what the scenes might look like. That said, I also believe in letting go of those preconceived notions and allowing other artists to “do their thing”, that's what makes collaboration so powerful. The end result is a combination of visions that I alone could never have imagined.