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Music Videos 101: Where to Start

Music videos are defined as short videos or films that are accompanied by a complete musical piece. A music video is used primarily for marketing and branding purposes, whether to promote a song, album or artist in general. It can take a song and bring it’s words to life visually, or can be a concept that actually has nothing to do with the song.

Videos generally help in the promoting of music recordings. Usually the more popular the song, the more effective the music video is, but this effect can also happen in reverse. Some artists may release a visual for a song and have the song start generating interest because of the video. Whether it’s because there was a marketing campaign behind the video, or the visuals are just THAT good, it has been proven that unique visuals can boost a song or artists’ popularity.

The term music video became widely used early in the 1980s. The origins of music videos started way back, but were never widely utilized. They started drawing more attention when the format of MTV’s programming was based around these short music films.

MTV grew away from this phase when video platforms on the internet became extremely popular. Platforms like YouTube, Vimeo, & Vidyard completely took over the way video is consumed. The internet is one of the places where music videos are so prolific because of the ease of access for users and convenience of distribution for artists. Users can search for and access a video whenever they want and artists can upload videos whenever and wherever.

There are a lot of huge websites built solely for music videos. These websites contain pages and pages of videos. The most popular music videos available are usually the mainstream artists. Other music videos out there are those made mostly by individuals, or small teams, hoping to break into the music scene.

Video currently takes up 79% of web traffic, and that’s only expected to grow in the coming years. The options of hosting videos are extremely abundant, so picking your spots is also pretty important. It may not be easy at first, but learning how to properly utilize certain platforms and invest money behind some marketing can also help push the videos growth. There are many cases of videos going viral organically, usually because of its nature, but a lot of videos can be boosted to reach certain audiences and generate views. So coming up with a marketing plan before you release the video, is highly recommended.


Music videos generally use the same filmmaking techniques that are used in film, such as live action filming and animation. Generally, they will fall into one of the following categories: performance-based, narrative-based, or conceptual.

Performance-based videos are centered around the artist actually performing the song. There's generally not much meaning behind them other than to show the band performing in a few locations, along with some other visuals, or b-roll, to break up the video.

Narrative-based music videos can have some elements of performance shots, but focus on telling some kind of background story while the video develops. The story may have to do with the lyrics in the song, or something related to the theme of song. This is a great way to illustrate the meaning of the song and visualize it for the audience watching.

Lastly, concept based videos have a lot of freedom for creativity. These videos are either symbolic or thematic and may have nothing to do with the song at all. The point of them is to be abstract, while keeping the audience entertained and thinking on a deeper level. This can really benefit a song and really represent it as a piece of art.

If you don’t feel like really honing in on a certain type of video then you can always mix and match elements from multiple styles. The more out of the box you choose to go, the better the chances that your video catches people’s attention and does well.

Your budget will also be a factor in deciding what you want to do. If you have a lower budget, than it really pays to get creative because you’re going to have to cut corners and make some sacrifices. You’re not going to be able to lock down production crews, sets, permits or extras, if all you’re putting into your video is $500.

That being said you can always make some magic with no budget. Sometimes all you need is a couple cool locations, someone who knows what they’re doing with a camera and some post production editing techniques and you can create some eye capturing visuals.


Branding - Branding aims to establish a significant and differentiated presence in the market that attracts and retains loyal customers.

Marketing Campaign - comprised of a number of activities carried out to accomplish a predetermined goal, most commonly the promotion of a product or service.

Video Platforms - enables users to upload, convert, store and play back video content on the Internet, often via a structured, large-scale system that can generate revenue.

Viral - relating to or involving an image, video, piece of information, etc., that is circulated rapidly and widely from one Internet user to another.

Live Action Filming - a film made with actors and sets, a film with scenes created by a director

Animation - a dynamic visual medium produced from static drawings, models, or objects posed in a series of incremental movements that are then rapidly sequenced to give the illusion of lifelike motion.

B-Roll - supplemental or alternative footage intercut with the main shot.

Post production - work done on a film or recording after filming or recording has taken place.

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