Music Video Production 101

You’ve just agreed to a music video production for a band or artist. What now?!

Well, first of all, congratulations! You’re about to delve into one of the hardest and most rewarding parts of film making – music video production. You’re lucky enough to get the inside scoop on a (hopefully) great track. You get to find a way to enrich it using your own unique take on film making and with any luck, the video will gain traction and lead to more and more music video production for great bands of all genres.

When Wandern Media wasn’t what it is now, our sole bread and butter was music video production. We loved it, and we still do. It was our way of giving back to a community we were part of for 6 years (Ross and David were band mates). Being involved with different bands and their music is just as rewarding as you might think, so we’ve amassed a wealth of knowledge on the matter that we would love to share with those that care – so here it is, part one of Music Video Production 101. This could easily be split into 10 parts…





This should be the first thing on your list. It’s far too easy to accept a job over Facebook or email without meeting the band, only to turn up on the day and find that you clash with the band. That being said, a music video should be an intimate insight into the lyricist’s thoughts. It is your job as director to enhance this and convey the emotion or meaning of the song – this can only truly be done by meeting with and listening to the band’s ideas. It will also give you valuable face time with your client – after all, that’s what they are. They may be your friends, they may be your favourite band, but you must stay in control of the scope of their video.


No time to be Mr. or Mrs. Niceguy on this one. Like we said, this is work for a client, and you need to get paid, even if you are just starting out and the band have zero budget. Look at it this way: there are 4-5 members of a modern band. The price you quote will be split that way. Music videos take at least one full day to film and probably a couple of weeks to edit. You deserve to be paid! The secondary reason to ask for a budget is to help manage the scope of the video. If the band have £300 to play with, they’re unlikely to get the performance/narrative/underwater/explosion scenes that they’re asking for. Manage expectations with a firm hand and remain in control. It’s easy to let things run away from you when there are 4-5 voices all asking for the world.


Far be it from us to tell anyone how to manage their finances, but from our experience, it is always wise to take a deposit as soon as the band or artist confirms a date. This can be applied to nearly every field in the creative industry, but it is common sense. The reason it matters so much when filming a music video is that you are dealing with a band of 4-5 separate people – that is 4-5 reasons this video may get cancelled for reasons out of your control. It doesn’t need to be a finite amount – we like to take a 20% deposit when a date is settled on, but this date can be moved. Again, remain in control. If the band want to move the date, you get to dictate what date it is moved to. That 20% isn’t going anywhere!


The song may have lyrics that will make your life easier as the director – use them, if this is what the band wants. With any luck, the song will be written in away that lends itself to visuals. Even if this is not the case, you need to learn to love this song – editing a song you hate is going to drive you insane!


Of the 15 or so music videos we have created, around 2/3 of them were shot with a second camera operator. As long as they don’t get in your way, a second shooter is ideal to get B-Roll or pickups that you might have to get at the end of the day when the band are exhausted. We like to shoot our music videos with two camera operators so that the main operator can get the “meat” of the video while the second operator has time to get beautiful little pickups that might be missed – let’s call this the “gravy”. Gravy shots are usually filmed at a higher frame rate so that your video has that extra “oooh that’s nice” factor.


Let us break it to you right now – something will go wrong on the day of shooting. It’s inevitable. You can’t control every aspect of the shoot, nor should you have to, but try and accept that something will go wrong, big or small. Let’s take a simple performance video for example. You have 4-5 people in a room, all excited to make their music video and give it their best to make the video engaging. That’s a vocalist, a drummer, a guitarist or two and a bassist. All of these people have their own equipment. Something WILL get left behind. Don’t beat yourself (or them!) up about it. Prepare for the worst, but always remain in control.

David McCourt