Music Video Production for the Indie Artist.

A few years ago I wrote an article for the print publication, The Indie Bible. The publication focuses on everything music — from record labels, clubs, radio stations and more. Also, they are known for great articles on a variety of topics and I wrote one all about producing a music video.  There are many more things to know then just getting your friend with a pocket-cam to shoot your latest video… not to say you can’t shoot with a pocket-cam.

So. Here is the original article I wrote as published in the 2005 Indie Bible and in the august 2005 IB newsletter.  I  hope you enjoy.


by Allen M. Gottfried, Owner/Director Electric Head
© 2007 All Rights Reserved. Used By Permission

With constant advancements in today’s video production world, more and more high-end equipment is available at lower costs than ever before. This affords independent artists and labels a way to shoot high-end looking music videos for a budget they can afford, while being able to compete with some of today’s top artists and videos that are currently in rotation.

Budgeting, Production Cost, Distribution, Networks
As can be expected, artists are always looking for ways to save money but don’t realize that this can compromise the quality of the production. Sure the band’s close friend will produce a video with his home camera for a beer and pizza, but what outlets are going to play that video? Probably not many at all. If you feel your band is ready to shoot a professional music video, that you want to promote for national airplay, you need to hire a professional production company to provide the creative talent, crew and cast to deliver a video up to the highest standards.

I speak to many bands and labels on a day-to-day basis and many ask what is a good budget for a video. That is always a rough question to answer because you have to realize the many factors that are involved in producing and distributing a music video. When it comes to developing a budget, I always tell my clients to think logically. You can’t shoot on 35mm film, on a big set, with huge explosions, fast cars, and cast, crews and everything in between on a budget of $500…. it’s just not going to happen.

Many artists and production companies are opting to shoot on digital tape (Mini-DV, HD) because of the cost savings of equipment, and media, time reductions to set up shots, and increased delivery speeds from camera to editor to label to air.

When you approach a production company and director, you should have some idea of a budget in mind for the video. When you contact the director, you should have the subject song selected, and a rough idea of the creative approach to the video. The director will then write and submit a treatment for the label’s and artist’s approval along with a budget projection for review and negotiations.

Production Cost
You must remember that the company and production people still have to make a living, even though they are all doing what they love. They all need to make a profit to put food on the table. Here are some things to consider when reviewing a budget projection.



  • Crew (Directors, Producers, Cameramen, Art Directors, Grips, PA’s) And yes sometimes on a smaller shoot some people will do multiple tasks to save money.
  • Cast (Does your shoot require actors and actresses or extras?) (Union, Non-Union?) Many rising stars are willing to work for a much lower amount of money since they are trying to establish their careers, but still expect to be paid a fair amount for their work.
  • Locations (Where do you want to shoot your video. In a huge hotel, old house, on city streets?) Depending upon the location of the shoot, certain fees may apply. There are ways to work around or get lower rates or fees, Many private owners typically want to show off what they have, and may charge a lower fee or none for use of their property.
  • Insurance / Permits If you have a legit production, you will need insurance and most likely permits to shoot, especially in major cities like NYC and Los Angeles. Minimum required insurance is usually a $1(one) million dollar liability policy for the duration of the shoot. I also recommend adding third party coverage as well. Coverage like this runs from $1000+ depending on how long you are shooting and what insurance requirements there are (i.e. stunts, rentals, pyro). You will also have a better chance of securing a location when you have an insurance policy. The owners feel safer and may cut you more slack.
  • Transportation (Is cast, crew or the band flying, driving in from somewhere?)
  • Rentals (Rain Machines, Cars, Planes, Limos, Props)
  • Food (A fed crew is a happy crew.)
  • Duplication and Distribution (How many copies and where to send it?) Duplications usually runs about $30+ for (Beta SP) tapes most stations require. Some of the smaller networks will take Mini-DV, VHS, and DVD, which will save you money and still get you video airplay. Don’t forget shipping costs.

Distribution, Networks
Music videos have been around since MTV launched its groundbreaking station in 1981. Ever since, places like MTV, VH1 and BET all helped to promote artists and their videos to the masses. As many may know, such stations as the above adhere to a very strict play list, usually within the top 40 market. What many artists and labels are not aware of is that there are 1000’s of other locations nationwide that will potentially get your video major exposure. Everyday, more and more cable TV shows, internet shows and websites are popping up, giving even more exposure options to artists with music videos. Other outlets always looking for new videos include shows produced and developed for nationwide and regional distribution to retail stores, bars, night clubs, bowling alleys, concert venues, etc.

Usually a video will start to be talked up a few months before a CD release, if the track is ready before hand. Just like radio airplay, it is usually best to have your new video added to rotation a few weeks before your CD release date. This will get people familiar with you new track and band, and hopefully they will want to buy that CD as soon as it is out.

Whether you are an unsigned, indie or major label artist, the cost to produce a high quality music video has substantially decreased but the value of having a video to air and compete with other artists is greater than ever and will aid in your musical success.

Electric Head, LLC is an award winning music video and commercial production company based on the East Coast. Our goal is to provide top-notch productions at budget-conscious costs so that bands, corporate and other clients of all sizes promote themselves via media that gets results and competes with the best out there! You can visit Electric Head on the web at or contact them at (732)903-4418 to discuss your next project.