This article is for the indie musician who’s trying to turn music into their career. If you’re ready to do both the creative side and the business side of things, this post is for you. So by asking Are music videos worth it for indie artists?, I mean financially and strategically.
The Purpose of a Music Video
The main reason you create any kind of content surrounding your music is to promote your music. And any music video you create is content.
Wendy Day is a well-known name in the hip-hop world for her mentorship and partnerships with indie rap artists. And she had some things to say about music videos in an interview on the NDPNDNT podcast.
“I don’t want to have a great video because I don’t want people watching the video because it’s a great video,” she said. “I want them listening to the song.”
Music videos should not be a mini movie, she said. If you make a music video, it needs to be one that you can easily chop into smaller bites of content for social media. She said a music video is a “turbo boost” for promoting your music.
The Cost of a Music Video
How much does a decent music video cost?
In a Medium article, filmmaker Garrett Wesley Gibbons says a “shoestring budget” for a music video is $2,000 to $5,000, based on what he would charge. This includes everything – one full day of shooting, a small crew, editing, maybe one or two paid actors.
You can obviously shoot a music video for less than this, but it means you’ll do more of the work. If you have a small or nonexistent budget, you (and maybe your bandmates) are probably going to be the script writer, camera operator, director, actor, and editor.
If you can do all of that and you enjoy it, go for it. But most indie artists may not have the skills or desire to do all of that. And that’s why, if you want to make a music video on little to no budget, you have to make sure it will actually be worth it.
Music Videos vs. Short-Form Content
Right now, short-form content has way more ROI than a full produced music video for indie artists who are growing their fanbase.
You can shoot content on your phone, edit it yourself using a service like Kapwing, and get your music in front of tons of new people on social media. And all of this costs you nothing.
And remember, the point of a music video (or any kind of content) is to promote your music. So if you can make content that costs you nothing but gets your songs in front of strangers, why wouldn’t you focus on that rather than a full-fledged music video?
Should Indie Musicians Make Music Videos?
“Should” here depends on your music career goals and your artistic endeavors. If you want to make a music video to scratch a creative itch and you have the budget, go for it. But if you’re trying to grow your fanbase, focus on making short-form content for social media.
And the content doesn’t have to be super fancy. Burstimo, a music marketing agency, says that “a music video of you just performing live is perfectly fine.”
“If you have more than 100,000,000 streams, then absolutely [a music video] is worth it,” they say. “But I wouldn’t go spending huge amounts of money.”
Whenever you’re wondering if you should focus on a certain music marketing method, like music videos, ask yourself: how many artists have I discovered from this method?
For example, nowadays I discover artists on TikTok and Spotify playlists. So as an artist, that’s where I’m putting my marketing efforts.
So are music videos worth it for indie musicians? If you have the budget and you want to express your creativity – sure. To grow your fanbase – no music videos, just focus on simpler, more affordable content that promotes your music.