How Do I Make a Music Video?

Video shoot Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

There are four primary ways to create a music video: film and edit it yourself, use an online music video app to provide the footage and handle the editing for you, hire amateurs, and hire professionals. Which is best? It depends on your creativity, software skills, who you know, and your budget. Here, we take a look at the advantages and drawbacks of each method.

100% DIY ($0+)

Mobile phone filming. Image by Frederick Medina Photo by Frederick Medina | Unsplash

Advantages: Total control

Filming and editing your own music video gives you complete creative control over your final product and can be a great way to save time and money. You choose who’s in your video, where it’s shot and what you’ll wear. Scheduling is simpler because you have fewer people to coordinate. There’s no risk of your vision getting lost in translation as others try to create what’s in your mind’s eye. And best of all, it’s inexpensive. With a quality mobile phone and some editing software, it’s possible to make something great looking. Plus working with no budget sometimes fosters more interesting and creative solutions.

Selena Gomez Look at Her Now thumbnail

Selena Gomez shot her Lose You to Love Me and Look At Her Now videos entirely on an IPhone 11, and John Legend recorded his video A Good Night on a Google Pixel 2. And some of the biggest bands like The Black Keys kept spending to a minimum and still produced viral videos like Lonely Boy and Tighten Up.

Disadvantages: Glitches and tutorial hell

Getting your final video to look like what you imagined in your mind isn’t always easy when you go it alone. Lighting and colour inconsistencies between different scenes and clips can really stand out once put together, you might notice camera shake that you didn’t spot while filming, and so on, which make videos look sloppy.

Also, some editing software has a steep learning curve, especially if you need to do more than import your clips. You can lose hours and days watching software tutorials to learn things like: How do I sync up my song with my video? How do I slow down or speed up a clip? How do I shorten a section? How do I add text to show my band name or end credits? How do I make text move? So completing your video can be extremely time-consuming. And if it’s designed only for one social media outlet, it might not get as much attention as you’d like.

Rotor Videos ($25)

Rotor video homepage

Advantages: Speed, quality and affordability

Rotor lives in that sweet spot between a time-consuming DIY video project and blowing the budget on hired help. It’s an online music video app built by musicians specifically for musicians, so it provides the video footage, motion graphics and special effects quality that musicians want for a professional look and feel … with the ease of use musicians need.

There’s no subscription fee, the HD videos you make in Rotor cost only $25/each, it magically handles the editing for you, and you could have your finished music video live online in less than an hour. You upload your song, choose from over 3,500 clips, and pick which of the 40 editing styles and effects you want to apply. Then the Rotor app listens to and analyses your track and automatically cuts your music video together based on your song’s rhythm, tempo and intensity. If you prefer to be the star of the show, upload your own video clips and just work with those—or mix them with professionally shot footage from Rotor's ever-expanding library. Once you have a final version you’re happy with, it’s easy to add screen text to brand it, make a short promo video, or to turn it into a full-length lyric video.

Disadvantages: Minor editing control

With Rotor you’re swapping some control over how your video is edited together in exchange for ease, production speed, access to high-quality footage, and tiny production costs. You can’t control the precise timing of how clips are cut together; instead you influence it based on the editing style you decide to apply.

Hire Amateurs ($500+)

amateur video shoot. Photo by Virgyl Sowah on Unsplash

Photo by Virgyl Sowah | Unsplash


Advantages: Quality, collaboration and customisation

Sometimes two heads are better than one. If time isn’t an issue for you, shooting your music video with like-minded creatives can be a great option. You play a big part in defining the video’s vision, but creative input from others can often take your initial ideas to the next level. Also, hiring amateurs is less expensive than working with professionals.

Film students and those who’ve recently completed formal training are always looking for ways to build up their portfolios and can be more up-to-date on video trends than you are. They should also have the basic experience you need to plan shots, film quality footage, light scenes well, edit in professional software, and accurately sync your song with your video better than you can on your own—making it easier for you to more accurately achieve the final look and feel you want. If they’re serious about a career in filmmaking, they’ll likely already own some of the equipment and software your project needs. It won’t be professional-grade, but it’ll be better than your mobile phone and cheap editing software. If not, those still in school can access it inexpensively through their programs.

Disadvantages: Fit, cost and risk

Not all filmmakers will have an aptitude for directing and shooting music videos, so finding amateurs familiar with your genre of music, its aesthetic, and who understand the image you’re trying to get across and why can take time. Always review their past work and meet with them in person to judge if they’re a good fit.

Working with non-professionals can also be a headache. Issues include last-minute cancellations; dark, grainy footage because they’ve got a camera but no lighting kit; weeks waiting on your final edit because they’re working on it during nights and weekends around their day job/classes. Also, amateur doesn’t mean free. Most will expect to get paid, and while $500 isn’t a lot in the world of professional music video production, it’s a big investment for most musicians. Because they’re amateurs, you probably won’t have a formal contract in place for the project—meaning if you’re unhappy with the final result, there will be very little you can do about it. It can be hard to get anything changed once they decide it’s ‘done’.

Hire Professionals ($20,000+)

Professional film equipment. Photo by Daan Stevens on Unsplash

Photo by Daan Stevens | Unsplash

Advantages: Low risk and high satisfaction

Professionally produced music videos are where ambition meets reality. With the right budget, you can achieve just about anything. It’s the least risky way to spend money on a music video because a) everyone involved in the shoot is highly skilled, trained, and experienced and b) professionals survive on reputation. A string of unhappy clients makes it tough to get new work. So professionals will work hard to deliver your vision and go through multiple rounds of changes during the editing process to ensure the final product is just what you want.

Disadvantages: Cost, cost and cost

Creating a music video with a team of professionals is not a small task. It requires time, commitment, and lots of money. Filming requires a big crew: director, camera operators, lighting technicians, sound engineers, actors and/or dancers, extras, hair and makeup stylists, wardrobe, and even catering. There can be equipment rental costs for cameras, monitors, lights, mics, as fees to use the venues you shoot in. And you may need to apply and pay for permits to shoot in some locations. Then in post-production you’ll pay for the services of editors as well as motion graphic artists, animators, sound editors, etc.

With such high demand for video content and quality visuals, independent musicians need to be on top of their game. Using a music video app like Rotor takes the pressure off if you don’t have the budget or time to commit to a professionally produced music video. Join Rotor today, create as many drafts as you want for free, and only pay when you're ready to download.


Lead photo by Jakob Owens | Unsplash