As you jump into producing your band's first music video, take heart that in the world of D.I.Y. and lo-fi media production, concept and enthusiasm often trump production value, and that some of the most inspired and creative ideas have burst forth from the confines of extreme budget limitations. At the same time, strive for the highest quality of execution possible with the resources available to you. Here are some guiding principles to help you through the process.
1. Developing a Concept
Don't: Make a formulaic lip-synch performance or concert video based on the false assumption that it's the only thing you can come up or the only thing you can afford to do.
Do: Brainstorm, beginning with a disarming, no-pressure creative prompt like "What's the worst idea for a music video you have?". Although this may seem counter-intuitive ("Wait, don't we want GOOD ideas?"), beginning with terrible ideas defuses perfectionist pressures, lightens the mood and gets people riffing off of each other faster than a positively-phrased prompt. In fact, productivity guru David Allen has suggested that, because of the tension it creates in the room, "Who's got any good ideas?" is one of the worst ways to begin a collaborative brainstorming session. Instead, invite stumbling and ridiculousness. The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas. Banish your inner critic and come up with as many ideas as you can. And remember, the ideas shared during the brainstorming session are just seeds - they don't have to be fully formed.
Keep in mind, though, that you probably can't make a worse video than Jagger and Bowie's "Dancing In The Streets," even if you try really hard.
Don't: Assume you can rely on the song to carry the video.
Do: Choose a concept from your brainstorming session that is strong enough to carry the music. The most affective music videos go further than simply supporting the song. Instead, they provide listeners with an emotional experience that enhances their enjoyment of and deepens their emotional connection to the music. Strive to come up with a concept that brings something more to the table - one capable of leaving an indelible image in the viewer's mind that he or she will think of when listening to your music in the future.
2. Pre-production Planning
Don't: Mistake "DIY" for a synonym of "unplanned" or "haphazard" and decide that because you have no money to spend you don't need to be organized.
Do: Create a storyboard or shot list (a simple list of shot descriptions rather than drawings), then project plan your production thoroughly. How much money do you have to spend? Where will you shoot? What equipment will you need? Where can you get that equipment for cheap or for free? For D.I.Y. media-makers, proper planning is essential - maybe even more so than for productions that can afford to run over-time and over-budget.
Don't: Cast unpaid actors and extras in your video and assume that they will come back for a re-shoot.
These girls aren't shaking it on screen for the love of dance alone.
Do: Pay your actors a daily rate, or cast band members in the narrative portions of the video. If somewhere in the editing process you realize you need more footage, you want to have actors you can rely on to come back to the set and help get what you need. This seems like a no-brainer, but - unless they are paid - no actor will be more invested in the success of the video than the band members themselves. If you do end up needing to re-shoot, you can count on the band to be there.
Don't: Be a slave to your storyboard. Though a storyboard or shot list should have been an essential part of your pre-production planning, you must expand your view beyond these materials once on set.
Do: Arrive with a plan in hand, but plan to shoot additional footage. Your music video will benefit if you make room for on-set spontaneity, improvisation and fun. Think about your favorite lead guitarist. Though a great guitar solos is an explosion of spontaneous, improvisational energy, but it pleases the ears because it exists in the context of a structured and organized piece of music.
Don't: Attempt to edit your video alone if you have no experience with video editing whatsoever.
Do: Hire a freelance editor to oversee post-production. Yes, this article is about D.I.Y. music video production, but editing is one place where your music video must be strong. If you spend money on anything, let it be an editor. This is especially true if you run into serious problems on the day of your shoot. A seasoned, professional editor can often take even the product of a disastrous shoot and make something watchable and interesting. If you can't find someone through word of mouth, search the Web for "music video editor" and check out some reels. Even seasoned pros are willing to work with younger, less established bands - and for less than you might think. If you simply cannot afford to hire an editor, try to find a film student willing to edit your video for a reduced rate or in exchange for using it for their reel.
Don't: Treat the video as separate from the song.
Do: Remember that the video must serve the song. To ensure that the video's energy levels ebb and flow with the music, save the most powerful images you have for the most important emotional moments in the song. Consider the video for The Go-Betweens song "Spring Rain": during the verses, it's visually meandering, but for the chorus - a series of shots of the band playing the song with umbrellas in a rain storm-- the images are explosive. Notice also how during the chorus the focus is squarely on the band.
5. Thoughts About Engaging Fans
Don't: Scramble to win fans by making a video before you have any music for sale, and then expect your listeners to be interested in buying an album when you finish it next year. A music video should not be a teaser for an album that you plan to release at some nebulous and undefined time in the future.
Do: Capitalize on video views by making sure you have a product available right now. Upload your song to MadeLoud and offer it for sale before you even post your music video to social networks and YouTube. Be sure to include a link to your MadeLoud page in the video's description and annotations along with a call to action - a brief statement that encourages fans to head over to your MadeLoud page and support you by buying your music.
Don't: Make the video in a vacuum if you can use it as an opportunity to engage your fans.
Do: Involve your fans in the process as much as you can. In 2011, The Vaccines asked their listeners to send them Instagram photos to use in an upcoming music video by tagging them with #VACCINESVIDEO. When the video for "Wetsuit" was released, it went viral.
The band's innovative thinking and fan-supported buzz led to posts on Mashable, Ad Week and Media Bistro. Though you might not want to make a video out of fan-submitted content, spend some time thinking about how you can use their input. Could you use a Facebook poll to help choose your initial concept? Could you hold a contest where the prize is a cameo in your video? At the very least, give your listeners a teaser by sharing behind-the-scenes production stills on your website after the shoot.