By Max Rosen, CEO, Indigo Productions
Today we are witnessing a renaissance in the music video art form, with more and more artists and record labels opting to release Video Singles in place of traditional Audio Singles.
The rise of YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, and a myriad of other digital video platforms are empowering artists to share and promote themselves in new and innovative ways.
So… How much do music videos cost to produce? And where does the money go?
Music video production budgets typically cover concept development, storyboards, pre-production, casting, on-camera talent, choreography, rehearsals, location fees, props, costumes, production equipment, production crew, post-production, editing, motion graphics, visual effects, color correction, video encoding, and digital delivery.
The total cost to produce a professional music video can range from $20,000 to $500,000 and up. There are a handful of music videos each year in the seven-figure budget range, but those are exceptions in the overall market.
If your budget is on the lower end of this range, you’ll need to forego fancy visual effects, expensive locations and all the bells and whistles that big dollars can buy. But a creative production company should still be able to convey the essence of your story in a powerful way.
If your budget is on the higher end of this range, then the sky is the limit in terms of amazingly creative things you can do: Mind-bending concepts, name-brand directors, jaw-dropping locations, complex visual effects, elaborate stunts, car chases, celebrity talent – you name it.
For artists who are really trying to stand out from the glut of other music videos, higher production values can give you amazing bang-for-your-buck, relative to other ways you could get this same level of attention.
Here are the primary factors to consider when putting together a music video production budget:
1. What is your concept?
And who is going to come up with it? Some video production companies have their own in-house creative services departments, with a team of writers, directors, and designers who can develop and storyboard several creative options for you to choose from. Obviously that costs money.
Some artists already know what they want conceptually, and just need help translating their vision into a motion picture. Either way, a great music video starts with a great idea. If you can’t come up with a dynamite concept on your own, you’d better hire someone who can.
2. Locations, Wardrobe, and Props
These items determine the look of your video, and their importance cannot be understated in terms of the overall impact of the final product.
Good locations can be pricey – and often require existing relationships. Even free locations generally end up costing some money. Using a friend’s country chateau may require location vehicles, crew transportation, insurance, lighting, generators, damage waivers, construction, and cleanup. Some music videos are shot in literally dozens of locations. Plan your budget accordingly.
Props and wardrobe, plus the prop masters and stylists who put it all together, are essential in creating a video with a cohesive and stylized look. Do you want your music video to look like a Hollywood movie? No problem, if you’ve got the budget for it.
3. Production Equipment
There’s world of difference between videos shot on consumer-grade cameras, and videos shot with top-of-the-line professional cameras with great lighting – plus dollies, jibs, cranes and other high-end gear.
There are numerous professional options out there, from 4K camera packages and lighting kits, to all sorts of other amazing production equipment. But this stuff costs money to rent, maintain, power, and insure. The better the gear, the better the image, and the higher the cost.
And please… don’t let anyone talk you into shooting your epic music video on an iPhone. You’ll be sorely disappointed.
4. The Cast and Crew
A great music video requires a lot of talented people.
A shoot generally involves at least seven to ten production professionals. On larger projects the crew can be thirty people or more. These people work on day rates, and the project must be well-managed to avoid cost overruns.
Even if you invest in the best equipment and the best post-production facilities, if you don’t have the right people operating all this stuff, then the tools are useless.
Does your concept call for actors, dancers, or a cast of thousands? Somebody’s got to cast them, rehearse them, and pay them. Volunteers are nice, but they’re usually unreliable.
5. Shoot Schedule
A well-planned music video can be shot in as little as a day or two. Larger-scale productions often take a week or more. Factor in the rental rates for equipment and day rates for the crew… you can quickly see how each additional day of shooting adds to the budget.
Yes, food. The crew and talent have to eat on set. A 10-hour shoot (at minimum) requires physical and mental stamina. If the team is not fed regularly, their performance will suffer. This is often overlooked when thinking about making a music video.
7. Editing and Post-Production
Editing costs are determined by factors like the complexity of the concept, the need for special effects, the number of cameras, lighting design, the amount of footage shot, and continuity issues.
The post-production phase of a music video can take weeks depending on the complexity of the project. Plan and budget for it accordingly.
For $25K you could make a music video with these production values:
For $35K – $50K you could make a music video with these production values:
For $50K – $75K you could make a music video with these production values:
For $100K you could make a music video with these production values:
For $150K you could make a music video with these production values:
For $200K you could make a music video with these production values:
For $250K – $300K you could make a music video with these production values:
For $500K+ you could make a music video with these production values:
And for the record, here’s a list of the most expensive music videos of all time, many of which are from the 80s and 90s, during MTV’s heyday, when they still played videos all day:
- Michael Jackson & Janet Jackson – Scream (1995) $7,000,000
- Madonna – Die Another Day (2002) $6,100,000
- Madonna – Express Yourself (1989) $5,000,000
- Madonna – Bed Time Story (1995) $5,000,000
- Guns N Roses – Estranged (1993) $4,000,000
- Aqua – Cartoon Heroes (2000) $3,500,000
- Puff Daddy – Victory (1998) $2,700,000
- MC Hammer – Too Legit To Quit (1992) $2,500,000
- Michael Jackson – Bad (1987) $2,200,000
- Will Smith – Miami (1998) $2,000,000
At the end of the day, money (or the lack thereof) won’t stop your creative ambitions, nor should it. Ambitious people will always find a way to make things happen. That’s what succeeding in the music business is all about.
Our advice: Put together a realistic production budget for your music video, then hire a good video production company, and let them figure out the optimal way to allocate your resources, based on their expertise and your aspirations.
Interested in making a great music video? Give Indigo Productions a call at 212-765-5224 or visit our contact page.