This article is for the independent musician trying to make music a career. If you are ready to do both the creative side and the business side of things, this position is for you. So asking Are music videos worth it for independent artists?, I mean financially and strategically.
The purpose of a music video
The main reason you create any kind of content around your music is to promote your music. And any music video you create is content.
Wendy Day is a household name in the hip-hop world for her mentorship and partnerships with independent rap artists. And she had some things to say about the music videos in an interview on the NDPNDNT podcast.
“I don’t want to have a great video because I don’t want people to watch the video because it’s a great video,” she said. “I want them to listen to the song.”
Music videos shouldn’t be a mini-movie, she said. If you’re making a music video, it should be one that you can easily cut into small chunks of content for social media. She said a music video is a “helping hand” to promote your music.
The cost of a video clip
How much does a good music video cost?
In a Medium article, filmmaker Garrett Wesley Gibbons says that a “restricted budget” for a music video is $2,000 to $5,000, depending on what he would charge. This includes everything – a full day of shooting, a small crew, editing, maybe a paid actor or two.
You can obviously shoot a music video for less than that, but that means you’ll be doing more work. If you have a small budget or no budget, you (and maybe your bandmates) will probably be the writer, cameraman, director, actor, and editor.
If you can do all of this and enjoy it, go for it. But most freelance artists may not have the skills or the desire to do all of that. And that’s why, if you want to make a music video with little or no budget, you need to make sure it’s going to be really worth it.
Music videos vs short content
Right now, short-form content has far more ROI than a full music video for indie artists growing their fan base.
You can shoot content on your phone, edit it yourself using a service like Kapwing, and stream your music in front of tons of new people on social media. And all of this costs you nothing.
And remember, the purpose of a music video (or any type of content) is to promote your music. So if you can create content that costs you nothing but puts your songs in front of strangers, why wouldn’t you focus on that rather than a full-fledged music video?
Should independent musicians make music videos?
“Should” here depends on your music career goals and artistic endeavors. If you want to make a music video to scratch a creative itch and you have the budget, go for it. But if you’re trying to grow your fanbase, focus on creating shorthand content for social media.
And the content doesn’t have to be super fancy. Burstimo, a music marketing agency, says “a music video of you performing live is perfectly fine.”
“If you have more than 100,000,000 streams, then absolutely [a music video] it’s worth it,” they say. “But I wouldn’t spend huge amounts of money.”
Whenever you’re wondering if you should focus on a certain method of music marketing, like music videos, ask yourself: how many artists have I discovered thanks to this method?
For example, today I discover artists on TikTok and Spotify playlists. So as an artist, that’s where I put my marketing efforts.
So, are music videos worth it for independent musicians? If you have the budget and want to express your creativity, of course. To grow your fanbase – no music videos, just focus on simpler, more affordable content that promotes your music.