Just mention the word “video” and most of us think of those high-priced MTV videos only top artists can get played. This reminds me of my first band’s video, which cost about $200,000, and got aired like four times. That equates to $50,000 a spin. [Laughing!] What a waste!
There’s a right time and a wrong time to get a video made. For many artists, the right time is after they’re signed, getting some “love” at radio, and have a hit. However, with advances in technology today, there are a number of opportunities to record a decent-looking video for next to nothing. Furthermore, there are a variety of new websites and cable shows starting-up nearly every week to provide new outlets for promotion.
While it probably shouldn’t be the highest priority in your marketing plan, outline your video goals using the following points as your guideline:
• Get it produced. Film schools are a great outlet for getting your video produced. As a requirement for graduation, students often need to turn-in final projects of their choice—and this is where you and your band come in. Conduct a search on the Internet using something like “Your City + Film School,” jot down the results of your search, and then pay each school’s film department a visit. Speak with students or the department heads and let them know that you’re available for filming. You just might get a great quality video done for free. You can also get your video produced by asking your local club booker if they offer professional video services to bands performing live in its venue. Some clubs will film your entire live performance for as little as $150, complete with special effects. Finally, you might find an “artistic” and “capable” friend, with his own digital camera like the Sony Handy Cam and editing tools like Apple iMovie, who will produce your video free of charge. Bottom line you can get a decent video produced with relative ease if you’re resourceful.
When shooting video, especially for use on the web, keep the camera tight on your subject, eliminate unnecessary motion, and avoid a lot of dark areas. For more tips on producing videos, see Vertical Online.
• Decide on the concept. Decide whether the concept of your video is going to be a live performance, one that is scripted with someone acting out the lyric subject matter, or an extended documentary style video that has interviews and commentary. Shooting a live performance video is probably your best bet because playing live is what you do best—and it’s also what club bookers prefer to see when considering you for their events. If you choose to script a scene to be acted, just be sure that you can really act, or prepare to hire some actors from a local acting school—there are enough bad actors already in the world and you don’t want to be one of them. And if you decide on a documentary style video, be prepared to have someone following you around with cameras for several days or weeks, and to incur time and expenses in the editing bay.
Buzz Box: Lifestyle and Stupid Videos: Whatever Works!
Shawn Owen of the Maryland-based metal band Stolen Element conceptualized his video as follows: to feature bits and pieces of his band’s live performance with a focus on self-produced extreme sports footage. Says Owen, “Our demographic fan is into biking, snowboarding, and surfing. Being that I have a lot of close friends that are into that stuff too, I was able to get some great action footage. We mixed that with small clips of us playing live and used our music as background throughout. This opened-up doors to selling the DVD at skate shops and cable stations like Fuel TV.
Additionally, with all the whacky websites out there like Stupid Videos and Ebaum’s World, we plan to produce some “crank video clips” of our band in action and then uploading them on various sites. You know, stupid stuff like pointing the smoke machines at our drummer, and then totally smoking him out during a performance. People spend hours on sites like Stupid Videos and it just might be another way to attract attention to our band and website. Last, we thought about holding a contest among our fans for the best lip-synched video of our single. We’d be sure to get all kinds of crazy footage that way and get fans involved and excited as well. I say, whatever works to create that little extra spark.”
• Use it as a perk to sell CDs. Use your video as a sales-perk by asking a manufacturer like Disc Makers to “enhance” (add video data) to your CDs. This way your fans will feel like they’re getting “that much more” for their money. Another “value added” perk might be to ask Disc Maker’s to package your video and CD in “double jewel cases” or “double Digi-Paks.” By doing this, you might even be able to charge a few more bucks per unit.
• Add it to your line of products. Package your video individually and add it as a sales item to your growing line of products (CDs, T-shirts, hats, stickers, and now DVDs). This is especially a good idea if you have extended footage and interviews you can use. You can package the DVD more like a documentary or “behind the scenes” video like Metallica’s Cliff Them All. Fans love this type of stuff because it helps them to better connect with you and feel a part of your “total experience.” You can sell your DVD at your live shows, on your website, or by using services like Amazon’s Advantage Program. You can even give away your DVD for free as part of a prize to your fans or you can use it as a tool to sell more CDs (you know—“buy one CD and get the DVD for free”). Hey, this kind of thing works!
Custom Flix helps you sell DVDs on its e-store and through Amazon.com. They require no stock. They manufacture your DVD “on demand.” Check them out.
• Stream it from your website. Stream your video from your personal website or some other home destination like your Myspace page to further connect with your fans, club bookers, and other visitors. Fans appreciate every little bit you can offer to make your site more exciting and help them become part of your “world.” And bookers can get a better sense of what you can do live when considering you for gigs. You benefit any way you look at it! And while on the topic of videos and getting gigs, companies like Sonic Bids can help you to create an electronic press kit (complete with video) to connect with bookers from all over the country.
• Get in touch with local cable shows. Get in touch with local and national cable shows featuring independent artists by conducting a key word search on the Internet for “music video shows” or “cable music shows.” You’ll be surprised at the number of programs that come-up, how easy the submission policy, and how feasible it is to get your video played. For instance, VH1 has a show called Web Junk that allows you to submit your video, get aired, and possibly win a cash prize if it’s chosen as the best video. Of course, there has to be something really unique or interesting about your video to win, so be sure to produce something special.
Buzz Box: Standing-out from the Rest of the Pack
Indie artist Jodie Whiteside says that making and promoting his video was practically effortless. In Jodi’s words, “Students at the Santa Barbara Film School in California, who needed to turn-in a final project to graduate, shot the video. They used two student actors, supplied all the camera gear, shot in a public park, did all the editing, and gave me a master recording. This cost me as little as $50 and change. From there, a friend referred me to a cable show in Philadelphia, and after making contact and sending my video in, I got airtime. Next, I logged on to Myspace, created a profile, and submitted my video. The qualifications were no more than submitting it in the right format—which I believe is Windows Media. Finally, I submitted my video to independent festivals such as The Indie Music Video Festival. Overall, my video proved to be a valuable promotional tool that helped me get fans. The way I see it, every indie artist has a CD, but not everyone has a decent video. I think this stands out from the rest of the pack.”
• Upload to various video sites. Upload your video to sites such as MSS Vision where TV programmers looking for content can find you. CD Art allows fans to discover the personalized page you create and to rate your video. Google Video allows users to preview, play, and purchase your video. Video Egg allows member/fans to watch and share your videos with their friends. YouTube and Dabble are like online communities where fans can discover your band, preview your video, and create a personal collection of favorite videos on their own home page to share with friends. Punkrockvids enables punk rock fans (and others) to view your videos and biographical information. And EvolvingArtist.com lets fans preview a video show called EATV and potentially discover your video and band.
iTunes Music store will soon be (if not already) selling video content by independent artists. Microsoft will have available, if not already, a site code-named Warhol that will take video submissions by local artists. Stay tuned.
• Submit to online “video podcast shows.” Submit to online video podcast shows (shows that can be watched by your fans on their computers and downloaded to their Video iPod) for new and exciting ways to get your video played. Check out sites like Blip.TV and Imusicflow. Conduct a search online for other sites using keywords like “video podcast shows.” There are tons of podcasts out there. You just have to put in the time and find them.
Videos can be a useful tool to the indie artist, but don’t overestimate the amount of exposure you’ll get from having one, or place too much significance on getting a video made. It’s helpful, but just one part of the many things you should be doing to get your band seen and heard.
Keep the production of your video simple and keep your costs down. And always remember, all the graphics, special affects, dancers, sexy clothing & make-up might initially capture people’s attention, but it can’t make a bad song better or a bad singer great. Just look at Paris Hilton. Damn! Did I say that?
Focus on your music first. Keep your priorities straight!