Why music videos don’t cost $300 – stay away from cheap music videos

A few weeks backs, a good friend and recording artists I grew up making music with inquired about me making a music video for him.  He asked me how much I would charge him and stated:   “I paid $300 for my last video so I was hoping to stay somewhere in that price range.”  Even though I really wanted to help out an old friend (I still offered 50% off my starting, basic music video production service), it just isn’t worth my time to film a music video for $300, for what I bring to the table and offer.

Let me start off saying, first and foremost, that as a musician myself, I know the struggle of a hungry, struggling artist more than anyone.  If you want to get to know my story, you can do so by watching my “Making of a Sellout” documentary. I literally came from very, very little, so I understand that most artists can’t afford to pay thousands of dollars for a music video. Therefore, most budding musicians settle for a friend or “production company” that is willing to “film a music video for $300” and that is good enough for them.

Most professional music videos you see from major artists on VEVO cost tens of thousands of dollars, if not hundreds of thousands, to even millions of dollars. Chances are, you look up to most of those artists and would like to emulate their same exact footsteps some day and quite possibly have a quality music video just like theirs. Well, it’s not going to happen by hiring your friend to film your music video for $300 just because they have a “camera.” But bare with me, because in this post you may find that you CAN achieve a big budget looking production for a lot less than you may think.

YouTube is the #1 place people discover new music. If you’re a musician and don’t have a music video or YouTube presence, you’re already half a decade behind the times. In 2012 TechCrunch.com posted an article stating that: “More Teens Now Listen To Music Through YouTube Than Any Other Source“. It’s 2015 now. Do you think that has changed at all? Then there is this article by CDBaby.com: “Why YouTube is More Important Than Anything Else in Your Music Career” stating “Not only is YouTube THE most popular online tool for music discovery, but amongst the younger demographic (18-) it’s also become THE preferred platform for listening to music.” Your brand NEEDS to be on YouTube. And it needs a professional, quality look, too. So how do you get that “Hollywood look” that most of your favorite artists have? Well, by saving up, having a budget, investing in your career, and hiring someone capable of producing quality music videos. Here are some points to remember when looking to film a music video:

1. Invest In Yourself

Do you think Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Donald Trump or ANY of the worlds richest businessmen ever struck it big because of “luck” or because they got noticed? Absolutely not. They became successful by believing and investing in themselves when nobody else would. If you don’t take yourself seriously or invest in yourself, then nobody else will either (not your friends, not potential fans, not music industry execs, not even your family, not ANYONE…trust me, I KNOW). This is a very sad reality…I know so many talented musicians who are nowhere right now nor ever will be, because they fail to realize that they need to invest in themselves as musicians. They think talent alone will carry them on their way, and that is the biggest misconception any artist can have. I myself, as an artist/musician, will admit that I am not the most talented musician out there. But my drive and determination carry me along way more than anything. I believe and know in my heart I have something to offer, so because of that belief, I don’t ever think twice about putting money into myself or my music career.  Put the nice cars, shoes, electronics, jewelry etc aside…and splurge on that stuff later.  A music career should be your baby; Your #1 focus and investment.

If you can’t get past this very first step as a musician and understand that you absolutely HAVE TO invest in yourself, then you’re at a stalemate in your career and reading any further is pointless until you fully understand this.

2. Quality Video Gear, Techniques and Knowledge Don’t Come Cheap

I’ll start off by admitting that I don’t have video camera’s, lenses or equipment that top $50,000+ dollars…YET. But I have invested a lot of money in my equipment. Even if you were to rent the barebones camera that I use, the external recorder w/ memory card as well as the lens, in my most basic of setups, you’d be looking at $163 for a 1 day rental via LensRentals.com (this is approximately 6.5% of what the basic setup costs to buy in full). Keep in mind, that is simply a basic camera equipment rental for one day. You have no shoulder mount or anyone to man it; no experience or knowledge with the camera or any of it’s functions & features. But let’s be honest, I don’t show up to video shoots with a single DSLR camera draped around my neck looking like a tourist (or a $300 music video “director”). I have shoulder mounts/rigs, crane/jibs, gliders, tripods, dolly’s…many different pieces of equipment which help give my productions that “Hollywood” looking aesthetic which the human eye picks up subconsciously. Then there is lighting. Even with new technology, which lets you film in low light conditions better than ever before, most indoor or night scenes still have to be well lit in order to avoid noisy and grainy, low quality video (I mean you wanted a professional looking video like your favorite artist on VEVO right? Well all those videos are well lit. Trust me).  If you were to rent all this additional gear for one day, you are already well over your “$300 video” budget and well on your way to a grand just in rentals alone. And you still don’t have yourself a cameraman to man the camera or a crew. Then there’s editing, visual fx compositing (if you choose to have this option), and color grading (which is a whole other art in itself. I mean SOMEONE has give it that Hollywood mojo, right?). Then don’t forget the beast editing machine I custom built which is capable of editing Ultra HD 4K video. This isn’t your grandmothers computer she uses to get on social media or play Wheel of Fortune with (okay, I used this reference because my own Grandma used to do this…haha).  And on that machine you have software worth thousands (yes I actually purchase all of my own software and don’t pirate software).  The cost of doing business far exceeds $300.  So do you really want your “VEVO ready” video being filmed by an amateur who values their equipment & talent at less than minimum wage? Let’s be honest…when all is said and done…I spend WAAAY more than 60 hours filming, editing, compositing, color grading and rendering a music video. OH…and speaking of VEVO, if you have me film your video, I might be nice enough to tell you how you too can get your video on VEVO, just like all your other favorite artists. 😉

When filming a music video, here is a list of some people you might have to really consider as prudent to the production of your film/vision:

-Script/Treatment writer
-Camera Operator (or 2)
-Production Assistant
-Sound Guy (If your production requires sound)
-The list can go on and on, these are just the basics you can possibly get by with

I know what you’re thinking at this point: “This dude is crazy. This is starting to sound WAAAY too expensive. I’m out and going to stick with my college buddy, or guy on Craigslist, who can do my video for $300, guerilla style“. That’s fine, if that is what your heart desires, that is what you are going to do and nothing I, or anyone else, posts will change your mind.  But if you’ve done that already and/or are ready to take your videos to the next level, then keep reading…I promise you that you won’t spend tens of thousands of dollars for a production of that caliber.



3. Nothing Is Free

Even when I completely film, produce, direct and edit all my own music videos ON MY OWN (meaning that I don’t have to rent equipment because I own my own), they still end up costing me a few hundred dollars (on the very low end) upwards of up to a grand out of pocket.  I still have to subcontract other cameramen to operate the camera when I can’t be behind it, buy food for crew, put gas in their cars (or boats & jetski’s), run around town, buy props, rent locations/hotel rooms/costumes, pay help, hire makeup or visual fx artists…the list goes on and on. Even if you have family members, friends or supporters who are willing to help and donate their time because they believe in you and want to be a part of something, you will still pay the favor back in some way or fashion sometime down the road.

Music videos can easily take 2-3 days to shoot (depending on the complexity), and can range anywhere from 4-8 hours a day to shoot. And simply stated, time is money.  You don’t go to your job and work for free, why would you expect others to?


4. Your Image Says A Lot About You

It’s very cliché, but rings very true: “you only have one chance to make a great first impression.” Look…if you want to do something, do it right. I spent a majority of my music career NOT doing things right; and I have learned a lot over the years. To be taken seriously, you have to take yourself seriously. Do you look in the mirror and know in your heart that you see a superstar? Show those people what you see in the mirror, show them what you know you are worth. Don’t settle for a $300 budget music video hoping it’s “good enough” and that some big wig will come along, see the potential in you and invest in you AND THEN you can reap the benefits of a big Hollywood produced music video. That doesn’t happen anymore, nor will it ever happen. This isn’t the 90’s. The music industry is a completely different game these days. There’s SO many “artists” and “musicians” out there these days that are putting quality stuff out on YouTube.  The question is…what are YOU doing differently? What are YOU doing to stand out???


5. Conclusion

Bottom line, your $300 music video “director” offers nothing that I outline in this article. In fact, read my “Why Me?” section of my site. It outlines how the quality of my video is far superior than your budget “director”.  People who charge $300 to direct a music video are doing so for a reason:  Because ‘everybody needs to start somewhere‘;  They are just starting out, trying to build their reel and get their feet wet.  They have little experience and knowledge and willing to do it for that price to help “you” (themselves) out.  I’ve been there myself, I’m not hating on this person one bit and genuinely wish them the best on their journey to success.  But ask yourself this:  Do you want the music video, which is representing your professional music career, shot by someone as a college project, or do you want it done right?  It’s the difference between ‘Hey I’m new to this music industry and just want a video on YouTube‘ vs ‘I’m professional and mean serious business‘.

So how much do I charge exactly, you ask? Well there is no set fee to film a music video. Every music video is different and calls for different needs; every artist has their own vision, no 2 videos or scenarios are the same. If there’s one thing I made clear in this article, it’s this: I don’t shoot $300 music videos. With that said, because I am a very compassionate, understanding musician myself…I am known to start basic 1 cameraman packages at $999 for independent/unsigned artists (and they go up from there depending on the artists vision). For the price my clients pay and the quality results they receive…it is a very, very small investment to make in your career and future.  The bigger the vision the artist has (let’s be honest, what musician has a small “vision”?), the more my prices go up…and the more the prices go up, the more greedy I may seem to be to these artists.  Here’s the thing.  I’m not here to make a killing.  If our visions don’t mash up well together, I won’t even take on the project.  I’m careful with projects I put my name on.  I don’t take on every single project just to get some money in the bank and move on to the next one in the assembly line.   In fact my ’97 Plymouth Breeze (with 203,000 miles) is further proof that I am far from greedy.  In all honesty, I probably undersell my services and over deliver every single time.  But enough chatter about me and my services.  🙂

View my demo reel:

The best thing I can say is, email me and we can talk about your vision and what it would take to produce a music video for you.

Artists serious about their music career, feel free to email business inquiries to: booking@joshuamallett.com