Musicians often come to me asking whether they need a music video,  and if it's worth the investment. The answer is unfortunately - it depends.

Music these days is a cut-throat competitive market, and the conditions aren't the same for different music styles and different levels of brand recognition (i.e. how big your band is).

The cost of producing music videos

Videos have taken over the internet to an unprecedented and unexpected point. So much that the world wide web might crash because it wasn't built for such an intense exchange of data.

And when a small video taken on an iPhone can get you millions of views, it's a fair to wonder whether you still need a proper music video for your songs, with all the budget and preparation this entails.

It's a bit disheartening when filming a cat on a piano or a homeless person playing on buckets gives you an audience in the hundreds of thousands, while you're struggling to promote your own video beyond your circle of friends.

And that's why you need to make informed decisions regarding your music marketing strategy, as highlighted in our previous article on marketing your music more professionally.

NB: A very important update, read the articles below on the place of music videos in this digital age as well as the new production styles:

Where do viral videos come from?

There are a few keys to successful music videos on the YouTube you should keep in mind:

  • Innovation - the first person to show something that's never been shown, will have better chances of having a popular video
  • Viral ingredients (article coming up on this soon) - generating strong emotions, social value, social triggers, etc
  • Tip of the iceberg - the VAST majority of what you see on YouTube, the successful videos presented to you in your homepage or related videos are the very tip of the iceberg. Believe me there are billions of cat videos, fight videos, and so on that only have a few dozen views.
  • Relationships & Promotion - lots of people have a friend or a cousin who works in this or that online magazine, popular blog or large Facebook page. They can be very good at networking or just happen to know loads of people.

Some people have had moderate success with a previous video and that has got them the attention of websites that will promote their future videos. Fame is a long, curvy road!

Why you might need a music video

Even music videos on a budget can look very professional these days. Hell the BBC used to shoot on DSLRs for certain productions (they still do, but not as often)
Even music videos on a budget can look very professional these days. Hell the BBC used to shoot on DSLRs for certain productions (they still do, but not as often)

A music video doesn't always have to go viral, sometimes it's a great way to:

  • Establish your brand & identity - or how professional you are;
  • Give something nice for bloggers and journalists to review and delve in your world. This works only inasmuch as your video is a good reflection of your music's vibe;
  • Connect with your audience - which works great for music styles with smaller audiences. This is an investment in future videos and songs, in that these early fans can help you promote your next releases.

Depending on all of this you need different types of music videos, with different budgets.

All in all, a real music video clip will focus on a concept. It can be low budget or require lots of cash depending on the implementation, but it's the idea that matters.

It's what will make the video unique and become popular (or not).

In any case, don't give up. Success in the music business, just like many other creative industries, is subject to a lot of changes, chance, timeliness, finding an audience and other factors. Do amazing work, do your best to promote your sound and in time good things will come. But you have to keep at it and learn from past mistakes to keep improving your marketing efforts.

It is becoming a totally saturated market however, which makes it ever more difficult to get large numbers of people to watch your videos. It's becoming increasingly important to develop your own style, identity and story (or stories) to make your music memorable. But at the end of the day, great music is what you need first and foremost.

Below is a great example of a quality low-budget music video - expertly crafted by the filmmaker - which conveys an artistic vision. Even if it lacks a bit of a narrative to some people, it's more of an experience. Kind of like going to an art gallery.

Alternatives: when you don't always need a music video

There are other cheaper alternatives to producing a music video, but the goal isn't quite the same.

Cover songs

Cover videos allow you to gain exposure by “surfing” on someone’s name and fan-base. Use this very carefully so as to not dilute your brand (supposing you’re going to the exclusive kind of band/musician), ideally you want your cover to be a very unique take on an existing song.

As always, the idea is to add value to the existing musical landscape (rather than polluting it with more noise), and covers are a great opportunity to showcase your creativity and musical flair.

Live gigs

Live gigs are usually best to create a deeper bond with your existing audience and give them something unique. That’s unless you do something very original on stage (or wherever you play) which many viewers have never seen before. It could be anything from using a loop station, to singing techniques or using weird, unseen instruments.

Acoustic sessions

These can be mixed with covers and live gigs, they’re good keywords to invest in YouTube in general. On their own they’re a good alternative to live gigs and are great to submit to festivals and venues where you’d like to play. It’ll dramatically increase your chances of being seen/heard. It’s also a good way to show your identity and style (if you have any).

And more ideas: 

  • Q&As with fans
  • Talk about music influences
  • Set yourself a challenge, such as reproducing a famous beat or underlying part of a song
  • Livestream a songwriting or music writing session
  • Use beautiful and/or locations for live shows or covers

In short, tell people your story. Give them a chance to connect with you over time, to build the sense of getting to know you.

Do you have any questions or any ideas to contribute to the list of why you need (or don't need) a music video? Please share them below :)