9 Tips for Making a Low Budget Music Video (That Doesn’t Suck) - Music Made Pro

· By Will Harken

9 Tips for Making a Low Budget Music Video (That Doesn’t Suck)

🎵 If you only use music to support your music brand, you might be in trouble. I know some musicians that are STILL doing this and they can barely afford to pay rent.

We live in an attention economy where artists must get creative with their content. Low-budget music videos are a SWEET way to cut through the noise.

And even if a video doesn’t get millions of views, shooting a low-budget music video can still help you establish yourself as a music authority and help you sell lessons, production, and more. Even if you're just making music videos at home.

This article will show you how to shoot a music video on a low budget. Seriously, even if your budget is literally zero dollars, you can find simple good, and easy music video ideas.

👉 Looking for more music-industry ideas? Join Music Made Pro for free!

👉 Click here if you want to create a full song with ANY VOICE

 

1) Make Sure You Actually Want a Music Video

There are many types of content that can be more effective than music videos. These days you could make a Tiktok video that costs nothing, is only 15 seconds long, and dramatically outperforms a music video.

One of my clients, The Trills, are living proof. They don’t have a crazy amount of music videos but their audience is huge. Their fanbase would likely be smaller if music videos were their main focus.

You may also want to consider an “our story” video instead, where you discuss the story of the band, obstacles you’ve overcome, and WHY you make music. If you spell out the emotional core of your music for people, that can do better than a cryptic music video.

the trills making tiktok videos

Music videos are a great way to get new fans and promote your music, but you should definitely consider all the alternatives as well.

I recommend making a list in a spreadsheet then ranking your ideas based on the estimated results. Start with the ONE VIDEO that seems likely to do the best.

2) Use What You Got

OKAY, so you want to shoot an awesome and simple music video on a shoestring budget.

The main elements of shooting a music video are people, costumes, props, location, and video gear.

So the best way to cut costs is to leverage what you already have in those departments.

>> Need help coming up with low-budget music video ideas? Try my free Music Video Idea Generator.

>>Or, just try using ChatGPT to give you crazy ideas

👉 BUILD THE STORY AROUND WHAT YOU HAVE.

I break these out in more detail in the rest of this article, but here’s the short version:

🏰 Location - I’ve found that finding good locations is typically the best place to start. Location limitations will often determine which day(s) you can shoot. And the location can often impact the storyline of the video. If you can leverage your friendships/connections to shoot in private locations, that’s ideal. Hint: pick outdoor locations if you don’t have a lighting setup.

👯 People - You have friends (hopefully), so call them up and explain the vision to them and ask if they are down to help! This is a great way to get actors, someone to hold the camera, or someone to get the coffee. Make sure you have your potential shoot day(s) ready for everyone you ask.

🎥 Video Gear - Almost everyone has a cellphone with a decent camera these days. So you could make that work. If you have a little extra money to invest (like $1,000), I recommend purchasing a DSLR and a gimbal. This combo will give you the ability to make some really nice looking stuff. Totally optional though- never let your budget hinder your creativity.

🤡 Costumes & Props - Usually the easiest variable to deal with, since you can just use what you have or buy cheap stuff on Amazon.

3) Use One Location & Shoot in One Day

I usually start with locking in the location because that dramatically impacts the production timeline and the final video’s quality. You could make a good video with an average location. But why not use something unique or extraordinary if you can?

If you shoot in public, you may need to get a permit depending on where you are. That being said, everyone has a cellphone camera now — so I’ve found that public locations tend to be fine in most cases. Unfortunately this can result in “unexpected encounters” that could ruin the shoot. Like the police. Or a pack of drunk people yelling at the top of their lungs.

If you can leverage your friendships/connections to shoot in private locations, that’s ideal.

For example, when I was planning the video shoot for Denser Suns, some bandmates happened to know an astronomy professor who had access to a friggin observatory. So we sent an email, got permission, and the rest is history.

telescope for music video

A big tip I have for you: shooting two days or having two locations will double the effort… Maybe even more than double. And chances are good it will not double your results.

This is all about low budget, so shoot in one location. But make the location evolve with camera angles, lighting, or different spots within the one location.

 

 

Keeping the shoot to one day also ensures that your friends and free helpers don’t get too pissed.

👉 REMEMBER: Make sure you have a way to play your track out loud on shoot day if you are lip syncing! I usually just play the song through my cellphone.

Quick Guide: How to make music videos at home?

This is going to look a lot like a quick summary of the rest of this article, but here are the best practices for at-home music videos.

You can, with some creativity, create professional-looking videos that successfully display your musical skill if you use the appropriate technique.

The first step is planning. Start with a theme or narrative that works with your music. To give your video structure and flow, storyboard and sketch out the sequences. You don't need a complicated video. Often, simplicity yields the best outcomes. Think about what accessories, attire, or components could enhance your story's ability to be understood. To make sure the time and movements match your music (unless you want it to not match for creative effect lol), it could be beneficial to practice your video before you start filming.

A high-quality camera may make all the difference, as can using a more recent smartphone with a high-resolution camera. Make sure you have good lighting when filming. Often, the most cost-effective and finest solution is natural light.

For inside scenarios, shoot near a window during the day, or go outside for extra lighting options. A softbox light or even carefully positioned lights might help you get a professional image if you're filming at night. Also, bear in mind to maintain camera stability. For this, a tripod might be useful. Finally, think of several viewpoints and angles for a dynamic vibe.

The moment has come to edit your video once you've finished recording. You may stitch together your film, add effects, and match the movie with your music using a variety of free and commercial video editing software choices. A variety of tools are available for users of various ability levels in programs like iMovie, Adobe Premiere Pro, and Final Cut Pro. Spend some time here since careful editing may turn your raw video into a fascinating simple music video.

Keep in mind that the goal is to produce a video that connects with your audience and resonates with your song. You can create a professional music video at home with a little imagination and planning.

4) Focus On One “Visual Hook”

When you are focusing on cutting costs, it helps to limit your “visual hook” to one idea. Not only will this help the video feel more cohesive, but it will also reduce your need for more props/people/things.

CASE STUDY: For my video Laurali, I focused on the locket that holds the memory of Laurali. It was a very simple bluescreen effect. Just stuck some blue paper in a locket and it worked like a charm. You can see the effect at 2:57.

What do I mean by a visual hook?

A lot of artists will use dancing, wearing a crazy costume, time dilation, or some type of sex appeal. Just a few examples. If you need ideas, watch a few music videos and “repurpose” something you see.

Find a visual hook that seems do-able and make that the focus. This is usually when your ideas for costumes and props will come into play. Think about stuff you already own… or look at cheap stuff on Amazon.

👉 NOTE: Think about how you can be your own “art director.” How can you make the colors of the video look intentional? An example: wearing an all yellow outfit in front of a yellow piece of paper. Billie Eilish did this.

Billie Eilish

5) Ask People You Know For Help

If somebody knows you and doesn’t hate you, there’s a good chance they will say yes to being a part of your video.

Let’s be real: people’s lives are usually pretty mundane and boring. Being involved with a music video is a unique experience.

When you reach out, try to cater to the person’s interests. If you need a cameraman, you could find someone who has an interest in photography/video. If you need a tattoo artist, find someone who is interested in tattoo art.

Be sure to share your exciting vision and potential shoot dates.

👉 NOTE: People have busy schedules, so I recommend writing your story in a way to include the smallest number of people possible. It’s usually quite hard to get more than 5 people to agree on a time.

If you don’t have friends, or you need someone who looks a specific way, you can use backstage.com. Make a one page document and outline the details of the video shoot (who, what, when, where, how, why).

I recommend paying your actors if you can. But if you aren't able to, some of the people on Backstage will work for free if you have a good idea and appear competent. Which of course you are not. But who really is anyway?

6) Learn Lighting for Dummies

👉 Lighting matters more than your camera. I think most video pros would agree with me on that.

A $10k camera pointed at a badly lit scene, will not look like it’s worth $10k.

So - it makes sense to think about lighting if you want to make something look more professional. And you can do this without breaking the bank.

I recommend picking outdoor locations if you are on a tight budget and don’t have a lighting kit. The natural light will usually be better. You could also shoot in a room with windows.

Ideally, you would shoot when the sky is overcast (cloudy). This will provide natural diffusion so stuff doesn’t get washed out with sunlight.

In the event the sun shows up on shoot day - do not fret! You could put your actors under some natural cover — like a shaded area.

Or, if you have a decent camera (like a DSLR), you can shoot toward the sun. You’ll get those nice light leaks that make videos look legit. And your actors' faces won’t be washed out.

7) Have a Plan for Camera Operation

You COULD use a cellphone to shoot your music video. But even if most people don’t consciously think “this was shot on a cellphone,” they will probably feel the difference in quality. So it’s best to use something like a DSLR if you can.

If you have a little extra money to invest (like $1,000), I recommend purchasing a DSLR and a gimbal. This combo will give you the ability to make some really nice-looking stuff. Totally optional though… never let your budget hinder your creativity.

What’s the best low budget camera for simple music videos? My pick for the best low cost music video camera would anything in Canon's EOS Rebel series.

  • These can produce sharp, professional-grade images and videos.
  • The battery life is really good.
  • They are very lightweight
  • The built-in touch-screen focus is amazing (smooth, not jittery).

Now that you know what camera you’re using, you need to figure out who will operate it.

If you aren’t an actor in your video idea, great news! You probably get to be the camera operator!

If you are starring in your music video, you could use a tripod. But keep in mind this will make framing and focusing very difficult. As you will have to walk back and forth between the camera and your scene to make sure it looks good.

👉 I recommend getting someone to film you. Even if they are a noob. The shots will look more alive that way.

Whoever is shooting should take a few hours to learn about basic framing. You can do this by watching a few music videos and paying attention to what is in the shot and how the camera is moving.

You can replicate the motion in most of the shots you see if you use a gimbal for your cellphone or your DSLR.

🎥 TIP: I’ve noticed that shooting at 60 FPS or higher is ideal because you have the option to do slow-motion or real-time when you are editing.

Cellphone Gimbal

Cellphone Gimbal

DSLR Gimbal

DSLR Gimbal

8) Learn How to Edit and Color Yourself

Paying an editor and a colorist can get really expensive. And if you’re trying to save $$$, you can do these yourself.

Your eye certainly isn’t as refined as a pro. But if you want to make music videos yourself, it can be useful to start building the skills to do so.

There are a lot of free video editors out there, but I personally recommend DaVinci Resolve. Their free version is amazingly good.

Resolve started out as a tool exclusively for professional colorists, but now it can basically do everything. Editing. Audio Mixing. 3D motion tracking (not that you really need this in most cases).

Coloring is a HUGE part of what separates a professional looking video from an amateur one. So if you want to make it more professional, coloring is a good place to focus.

It’s really easy to mangle a video with coloring if you don’t know what you’re doing (I’ve done this many times), so I recommend using LUT packages to find a good look. Keep your adjustments minor if you are just starting out.

👉 Quick Hack: If you want a cinematic look, set your video project to 24 frames per second.

9) Remember The Rule of One

You might have noticed I mentioned the word “ONE” a lot in this article. Picking the best singular visual idea. Picking one location. Maybe even consider ONE character. This will help you keep the production and the end result simple. Simple music video = good music video when you're on a budget.

👉 SIMPLE THINGS ARE CHEAPER… AND EASIER FOR AUDIENCES TO UNDERSTAND

With film, one of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard is Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS).

Here’s a video that explains what happens when you try TOO MUCH…

Want help with your next video? Hit me up!

BONUS: Music Video Idea Generator 

I wanted a new way to brainstorm wacky ideas, so I made a tool that helps me do that!

With my Music Video Idea Generator, you click a button and it creates a basic concept for you. Because it’s pretty random, the result might not always make sense. And the result usually won’t be grammatically correct.

But this can be advantageous for making a new video the world hasn’t seen before.

Feel free to modify or combine the ideas the tool spits out.

So you might get:

"The main character wears moccasins at a warehouse while they acquire a koala."

And you might say “Well, I can’t figure out where to get a koala, so I might have to settle for a different exotic animal.”

Try the Easy Music Video Idea Generator HERE

Looking for more music-industry ideas? Join Music Made Pro for free!

Want me to take care of making music for you? Create a song with any voice here.

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