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How to Produce A Music Video: A Roadmap to Successful Music Video Productions

Updated: Mar 28

Introduction

Nick Bohle and Cody Hall discuss a shot on the set of "Firecracker" the music video.
Nick Bohle and Cody Hall discuss a shot.

Welcome to the ultimate guide on producing a music video, written by yours truly, Nick Bohle. In this article I’ll discuss my best practices for producing a music video. This post should be a helpful guide for emerging and established music video producers/production companies and for the musicians who enlist their services.


As an independent media producer in the video and film production field, as well as a seasoned musician and professional actor, I understand the intricacies and nuances of creating a visual masterpiece that complements an artist's music. This post is designed to walk you through my entire process, from the initial contact with a client to the successful release of the music video on platforms like YouTube, Tidal, VEVO, and Symphonic. Let's dive into the world of music video production and how you can achieve the best results for your music video production.


before we start....if you're not a reader here's the video masterclass



Discovery Meetings

Music video discovery meetings & client collaboration.


Cody Hall and his band pose with a classic red Chevy truck
Cody Hall and his band on the set of "Firecracker"

The journey begins with a discovery meeting. This initial consultation is crucial for understanding the musician's vision, song, genre, target audience, and specific needs. It's a collaborative process where we discuss ideas, inspirations, and the message(s) you want to convey throughout the production. Starting on the right foot with effective communication and setting clear expectations is key to a successful partnership. In this meeting I will discuss references to other music videos, inspirational images or stories, colors, filmic qualities and even potential costume ideas, anything that helps us get beed on the dream outcome. This meeting is a chance to get to know each other and your communication style/needs. It’s also a chance to get a feeling for the desired production and discuss all of the preconceived information from the artist(s).


For instance, what "kind" of music video are you creating? In my experience there are 5 typical styles/genres (or approaches) to creating a music video.


The common 5 Types, kinds & styles of music video

  1. NARRATIVE - These music videos tell a story, often following a plot that either directly reflects the lyrics of the song or adds a separate narrative layer to the music. Narrative videos can range from simple, straightforward stories to complex, multi-layered narratives. They often feature characters, settings, and a storyline that progresses from beginning to end, providing a cinematic experience that complements the music.

  2. PERFORMANCE - Focused on showcasing the artist's performance, these videos typically feature the musician or band playing their instruments and singing in various settings. The emphasis is on the energy and emotion of the performance, with the visual elements designed to enhance the viewer's sense of being at a live concert or an intimate session. Lighting, dynamic camera angles, and visual effects are often used to amplify the performance aspect.

  3. CONCEPTUAL - Conceptual music videos are centered around a specific idea, theme, or artistic concept rather than a narrative story or performance. These videos can be abstract or symbolic, using visual metaphors and innovative visuals to convey emotions, themes, or the song's mood. The interpretation is often left open to the viewer, encouraging multiple viewings and discussions about the underlying message or concept.

  4. LYRIC - With the rise of digital platforms, lyric videos have become increasingly popular. These videos focus on the words of the song, presenting them in creative, visually engaging ways. While they may include some background imagery or animation, the primary focus is on the lyrics themselves, allowing fans to learn the words while enjoying a visually stimulating experience.

  5. ANIMATION - Animation offers limitless creative possibilities for music videos, with styles ranging from traditional hand-drawn animation to modern 3D animation and everything in between. Animated music videos can tell stories, showcase performances, or explore concepts without the constraints of live-action filming. This category allows for a high degree of creativity and experimentation, often resulting in unique and memorable videos.


Keep in mind, just because these types of music videos exist as stand alone creations doesn't mean you can't combine them in a hybrid format that includes 2 or more of these approaches. You want to play to your strengths as a music video producer while harmonizing your approach to the music, the desired outcome, the target market and the fandom of your musician(s). Bring your talent into the conversation and build a plan that best suits the music and the desired outcome of the video.


Getting a clear idea of what you aim to achieve will allow the team to send each party away with some action items so that we can all begin to gather any required materials, additional references, contact teammates and retrieve inspiring elements to guide production in the following meetings. The goal is to set a strong foundation for the relationship and the production to stand on.


Concept Development

Music video concept development, creative brainstorming


After the discovery phase, we move on to concept development. This is where creativity flows, and ideas transform into a tangible concept for the music video. It involves brainstorming sessions, mood boards, and sometimes, location scouting to ensure the concept aligns with the artist's vision and song's theme. Sometime’s this is very collaborative with multiple meetings that investigate the various aspects of production, concept and story. I usually ask the artist to listen to the song and write a freeform document in point form that includes images and ideas that come to mind while listening to the track.


Nick Bohle conceptualizes in the studio
Nick Bohle Conceptualizes in the studio.

Other times, it can be a more solo effort on my part where I brainstorm and create a rough script outline that follows the song from moment to moment. In the outline stage I’ll listen to the song multiple times and allow my imagination to run wild, gathering and writing down images and ideas that come to mind based on the discovery meeting(s) while listening and relistening to the track. Similar to the artist's document, this will be a freeform document but will include timestamps that allow me to align the images I’m seeing in my head with specific points in the song. This helps later one with developing a shot list so don’t skip this step.


Screenwriting

Music video screenwriting, storyboard creation


Nick Bohle writes a script at his desk
Nick Bohle Screenwriting

Screenwriting is the next step, where we draft a script and create storyboards from the contributions everyone has made in their freeform writing. Disclaimer: I don’t always use storyboards, as this can be a very tedious and time consuming process, but if the budget allows it is a great asset to help guide your creative team and keeps everyone on the same page when it comes to the visual journey. This phase outlines the narrative, visual elements, and transitions [seamless or digital], providing a blueprint for the production. It's essential for visualizing the final product and making adjustments before filming begins. This facet is important to build confidence in the artist(s), your crew and yourself as you move closer to your production day(s). This stage also provides the blueprint for your shot list. Be deliberate and clear in your choices. 


In my shooting scripts I like to have the timestamps listed so that it’s easy to retrieve that section when using music playback. Also it’s a good idea, when formatting, to breakdown your paragraphs into individual shots (associated with the shotlist) and number each paragraph with the same number as the shot in the shotlist. This helps to break down ideas into bite sized pieces and makes for easy comprehension of each document. Here’s an example with the shot list numbers in bold on the left margin.


EXAMPLE:

INT. OLD HOUSE - LIVING ROOM - NIGHT


1.1 A lamp in the corner of the room bounces up and down to the beat of the kick drum.


1.2 The outside of the drummer’s left foot kicks his drum pedal [Track left through the kick drum to]


[SEAMLESS CUT]


2.1 [Track left from behind a wall] to reveal the back of a crowd of people jumping up and down and dancing while they watch the band perform.


Organization is your friend in this early stage. It helps you maintain a lock on the moment to moment experience more easily and is easier to organize during principal photography.


After you complete and send the artist(s) this draft of the screenplay the director and artist(s) should meet to discuss their thoughts, address any changes or make approvals. Usually there’s some edits requested so take notes then you can address everything in your next draft. 


After completing the final draft the team can read it and approve it with a simple call or written communication. No need for another meeting as long as everyone is happy with the final draft. Remember, time is money. Once the script is approved you can get to budgeting, scheduling and team building.


Budgeting and project Breakdown

Budgeting your music video, breaking down the script


Once you've completed the screenplay you have everything you need to breakdown your script into a reflective budget. Each project is unique and each budget is also unique. In this stage you will deconstruct the screenplay into all of its elements from gear, crew and amount of days on set to how much food, and transportation you'll need to accomplish your task.


Take time to consider all elements at play carefully. A strong budget will keep your artists aware of their investment, allow you to build a functional plan and will dictate the overall quality of the project. Bad budgeting will leave you with unshot clips, not enough time and will risk you go over budget for the production, which isn't good for the producer or the artist.


Take your time and do it right. You should expect. to budget for all required elements and add approximately a 20% fee to the top of the budget for company overhead and profit. After all, in order to stay in business and do this again for another artist you'll need to stay in business and part of that is making a profit to maintain gear, access new talent and cover things like insurance, etc.


Scheduling & Team Building

Production scheduling, music video crew assembly


Nick Bohle explains a shot for crew and interns on the set of "Firecracker." A music video production for Cody Hall
Nick and some of the crew.

Scheduling and assembling the right team is critical for a smooth production. This involves setting timelines, booking locations, setting times to audition cast, and sign up crew members such as directors, cinematographers, gaffers, grips, makeup artists and more. A well-coordinated schedule ensures that the production stays on track and within budget.


I use https://www.studiobinder.com to organize and schedule my productions. It’s a great tool to manage productions from music videos, to films, to entire series. You can run a single production on Studiobinder for free but there are definitely some added benefits to paying the subscription which include the ability to run unlimited productions. You can also use spreadsheets to organize your team, schedule, budget and more but purpose built tools like Studiobinder save you time and… time is money. 


Pre-Production

Music video pre-production, equipment preparation


Pre-production includes all the preparations before filming starts. This is the part where you get all your ducks in row. It encompasses casting, costume design, setting up and gathering all the required equipment to realize your vision, and finalizing locations. This stage sets the foundation for a successful shoot by addressing all logistical aspects.


You should have the following things sorted during pre-production to be certain you are ready for day 1 on set:


  • Screenplay complete.

  • Shot list complete.

  • Mood boards and inspirational materials should be created and available on set.

  • Props should all be gathered and logged.

  • Location(s) should be locked.

  • Costumes should all be gathered, treated, cleaned and logged.

  • Equipment all gathered, rented and logged.

  • Batteries should be charged. 

  • Harddrives, data storage and SSDs should be formatted.

  • Cast should be locked, their jobs and schedules should be clearly communicated.

  • Crew should be locked, their jobs clearly communicated and all materials/tools gathered.

  • Director should have completed meetings with primary on screen talent.

  • Call sheets should be sent.

  • Schedule for each day should be broken down and clearly outlined in the call sheet.

  • Budget should be completed. 

  • Nearby hospitals identified and included in call sheet(s).

  • Scope of work, cast and crew deal memos, NDAs and rights agreements are signed.

  • 50% of the production budget should be paid to the producer. 

  • Artists should have an opportunity to approve or discuss any last minute developments.

  • Crafties and meals should be planned and gathered.


Austin Davenport plays the Bartender on set for Cody Hall's "Firecracker" music video.
Austin Davenport plays the Bartender on set for Cody Hall's "Firecracker" music video.

Production

On-set music video production, filming techniques


The production phase is where the magic happens. It's the actual filming of the music video, where every scene is captured according to the storyboard and shot list with some wiggle room for additional shots that arise while capturing. Effective direction, innovative filming techniques, and a cohesive team effort are vital to bringing the concept to life. 


It’s very helpful to have a person in charge of keeping the day(s) on track. Sometimes this is a script supervisor. Other times this is a first assistant director. Sometimes it’s a producer. The takeaway is that you want to give your creative team as little distraction as possible so they can focus on bringing their best to the result on screen. 


Be sure to build in breaks and to account for meals throughout the process. A happy cast and crew is a well fed one. Also, be sure to manage your setups or company moves with efficiency. Time is one of your biggest assets on set and managing your moves is crucial to maximize your creative time. 


Charlie Christensen diffuses a light for the next shot.
Charlie Christensen diffuses a light for the next shot.

One tip to elevate your production is to build in seamless transitions to your shots and to log where you’re attempting these transitions. You can force these in post and this consideration during production shows a professional eye in your final edits.


Clear communication between the producer, director, talent and crew is so important so take the time to communicate thoroughly. I recommend a walkie talkie set for the key players with headsets so that they are hands free throughout the day. CAME TV has some great sets if you’re looking for a great low budget option.


Keep your energy up. Make sure you are eating and getting fluids in you throughout the day. Having a production assistant in charge of keeping the cast and crew comfortable is an asset. Pace yourself through the production days. Get your sleep and come to set in a good mood, ready to work each day. 


Editing Techniques/Tips & Tricks

Music video editing, post-production tips


Post-production is where the footage transforms into a polished music video. Editing techniques, color grading [this is massive], and special effects play a significant role in enhancing the visual appeal. Don’t force visual effects. These should be discussed in the pre-production process then carefully articulated and considered during production to allow for adequate space and time on screen.


Nick Bohle edits a commercial for Purple Carrot Health and Wellness in his editing suite.
Nick Bohle edits a commercial for Purple Carrot Health and Wellness

Tips for efficient editing include carefully and consciously organizing footage, using dynamic transitions [but not too many because this starts to look amateur], and incorporating visual effects that complement the music. Don’t always cut on beat when editing. Pay attention to movement when not cutting on beat but be musical in the editing process. Knowing when to keep the beat locked to picture and when to let loose is the mark of a strong editor. Just make sure those choices are in service of the story and performances you are curating in the edit.


Allow time for revisions. Usually I’ll give each artist 2 free/included revisions. After that there is an hourly/daily editing fee to tackle additional revisions. Making sure that you are giving yourself time in the editing process to not rush through revisions is very important. It’s exciting to get to this point and it’s common to want to show the world at this time but hold your cards close until you’ve consulted with the artist and addressed any issues or fixes they notice. 


Watch the edit on multiple different screens, not just your editing monitor. Use your phone, your laptop, the living room TV. Upload it to YouTube, Vimeo, etc. as a private video and see if there are any major gamma shifts or lost elements once these platforms inevitably compress it. 


Finally, if the artist is releasing the music video in tandem with the single, remember that Spotify, Symphonic, Tidal, Vevo and other premium audio and/or video streaming platforms usually require at least a 5 week window from the time of upload/submission to the release date. This gives them the time to review, identify and place your music video and the single in the appropriate playlists, channels, etc. and improves your chance of discovery.  


Release Strategies

Music video release strategy, digital distribution


Optimizing the release strategy is crucial for ensuring the music video reaches its target audience. This involves choosing the right platforms, understanding the best times to publish, and utilizing SEO practices to improve visibility. Platforms like YouTube, Tidal, VEVO, and Symphonic have their specific requirements and benefits, so tailor your strategy accordingly. You have to do your research to identify which platform will give you the best chance of exposure. 


Cody Hall smiles outside before shooting on the set of "Firecracker"
Cody Hall smiles outside before shooting on the set of "Firecracker"

I’ve ran into an issue where a video that was submitted on Symphonic was submitted according to their required specs but uploaded with a major negative gamma shift on one of the major platforms. This was probably a result of a high file size so be mindful to optimize your exports for the specific platforms carefully.


As a reminder, don’t forget that many major premium platforms [the ones we all want our music videos to dominate on] require around 5 weeks of pre-launch time. So you upload on March 1st which means your release is no sooner than April 7th. 


Use the 5 week window to build up marketing materials and video clips so you can advertise your new music video from pre-sales to launch day and beyond.  


Directors & Producers Working with Musicians

Director-producer collaboration, artist relations


Building a strong relationship with the musician(s) is essential for a successful project. As a director and producer, it's important to maintain open communication, respect the artist's vision, listen to them carefully and willingly and provide guidance to achieve the best outcome. Some artists are very hands on, others are very hands off. Each project is different so be attentive and discerning of what you need as a direct, producer, musician or team member.


Share your contact information and confirm it has been received. This shows a dedication to open lines of communication and builds trust in your team.



Nick framing a shot of his actor's with his hands.
Nick framing a shot of his actor's with the good old hand trick..

Essential Tools & Crew: The essentials

Music video production tools, essential crew members


The right tools and a skilled crew are the backbones of any music video production.


Essential equipment includes:

  • High-quality cinema camera(s) or professional DSLR with 4K capabilities. Some new phone rigs could even do the trick if you're skilled in that medium.

  • Multiple options for lighting. I like to have a couple sets of panel lights like the Nanlite Lumipads, at least one high power dome lights like the Godox UL 150, a few RGB strips, tubes or panel lights to play with colors and toning like the Nanlite PavoTubes and a healthy dose of flags and bounces. Every shoot is different though. Maybe you're shooting exteriors and will need to rely on diffusion and flags to control the light. Maybe a combo of everything. Best to be prepared with powered light and light shaping tools regardless.

  • Camera stabilization and tools, gimbals, drones, tracks and dollies will go a long way when trying to bring your production value up.

  • Audio headsets. Key crew members including the director, cinematographer, editor, and production assistants should all be wired up.

  • Music playback device or system. Make sure you can playback the music with enough volume to get the musicians involved and feeling the groove.


Essential crew include:

  • Director, Cinematographer, Producer.

  • Grip, Gaffer.

  • Hair & Make up artist [HMUA]

  • Production assistant(s), Playback operator.

  • Crafties/catering


Every set and production is different but if you have these tools and people you’ll have a good thing going.


CANADIANS Capitalizing on U.S. Royalties

Music video royalties, Canadian artists in the US market


Be sure to register your song with SOCAN and any rights orgs you've joined in Canada. That's a must for every musician.


For Canadian musicians and rights/share holders aiming to capitalize on US royalties, understanding the legal and distribution aspects is crucial. Registering with performance rights organizations and choosing the right distribution channels can maximize royalty earnings from your music video.


Also, Canadian artists and royalty collectors need to submit a W-8BEN Form to the IRS in order to take full advantage of the royalties garnered in the US. This form allows Canadians to take advantage of the tax treaty between the US and Canada. Without this form you’ll lose out on 30% of your US royalties through a hold back tax. 


There’s a create organization called SONGTRUST that tracks your song through its IRSC code to make sure you can collect royalties all around the world, wherever your music or music video is played. It's a one time $100.00 US fee.


If you want more information on this feel free to reach out for a consultation. Each case is unique so it’s best to reach out on a case by case basis.


Positioning Your Music Video for Success

Music video marketing, audience engagement


Finally, positioning your music video for success involves more than just a great production. It requires strategic marketing, engaging with your audience, and leveraging social media to amplify your reach. Creating behind-the-scenes content, teasers, and leveraging influencer partnerships can also boost visibility.


I always like to have a BTS videographer (or photographer, at least) to capture production content to be used later in the marketing process. Phone pics are one thing but there’s something to be said about having a professional videographer or photographer covering your day(s). It’s great content for social media ahead of launch and BTS content for later use. Be sure to allocate some budget to marketing. Google Ads, Meta Ads, Tik Tok and other platforms can be a great injection to get the ball rolling for your viewership. 


Releasing trailers, photos and BTS content during the windup to your release is a great way to amplify the marketing effort. Don’t just wait till release day to start posting. Get the algorithms working for you ahead of time. 


If possible reach out to other industry or genre influencers. If you can leverage their audience and credibility you will gain new followers, fans and eager audiences. Prime the market for your eventual release.


Conclusion

Producing a music video is a complex but rewarding process. At HatChap Productions, we're dedicated to collaborating closely with our clients to bring their musical visions to life. By following the steps outlined in this guide and focusing on effective communication along with innovative strategies, your music video is poised for success. Whether you're looking to captivate your audience on YouTube, Tidal, VEVO, Symphonic, or other platforms, we're here to make your vision a reality.


Reach out to us for a consultation or discovery call at the link below.





Photo Credits to: Janise Michel and Dayton Stebner

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