Do bands need videos? Much Music and MTV don’t even play videos. Mind you, every music industry marketing person will tell you you need more video content than ever for your Instagram and TikTok. Should you just set up your phone and record yourself singing? Do weekly live streams? Put your artistic process on display, warts and all?
Like everything, the answer to whether or not you need a video or videos, and what kind, depends on a lot of things: your creative vision, your means, your goals, etc.
There’s a million ways to go about making a video for your band, but I thought the best thing I could do for other bands with limited means, was simply showcase some of the ways I got around the Venn diagram of “I want music videos,” “I don’t have money to hire people to make videos,” “my bands aren’t suited for intimate acoustic performances,” and “I don’t have the time or means to stage anything super elaborate either.”
For Napalmpom, we felt we needed a video to accompany our debut album. As a loud, hyperactive rock & roll band, we wanted it to have the energy of classic rock videos we grew up on, but also knew we’d never have the money or means to stage a super well lit stadium concert flooded with people. We also had a stubborn streak about us, where a lot of contemporaries didn’t take us seriously, or questioned our sincerity, because we were playing “dumb rock music.” So, we took a two birds, one stone approach.
The goal with the video was two fold: to cheat our way into the epic rock video by using footage that already existed, and to confront the authenticity question by mocking an endlessly mockable band in Mumford & Sons. The central point was: it’s way more authentic for us to be playing guitar solos behind our heads, because we grew up on that shit and loved it, than to cosplay Americana as some sort of shortcut to humble, authentic, from-the-heart songwriting. But mostly, it’s just really funny to see a ukulele shredding some solos? The video won some awards and got us a lot of views and it’s maybe the thing I’m most proud of in my entire life.
Self-Cut Bangs introduced ourselves in a similar way, though because of a different constraint. Formed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and releasing an album during it as well, by the time we needed a music video, we still weren’t in a position where we could gather with other bandmates or filmmakers. So, we were challenged with introducing ourselves for the first time, without being able to be in public. This time we solved the problem of “how do you have a big rock video without a budget or people” a different way – we used the Create-A-Character mode from a wrestling video game to create our avatars and those of famous rock stars (that we don’t love), recorded various matches, and then spliced the footage together to make a big budget-ish looking video on no budget.
On the other hand, for Self-Cut Bangs’ sophomore album, we took a different approach altogether. We decided to make a music video for every song on the album. There were many reasons we chose to make so many music videos. Cynically, you could say it was to create social media content. While that’s a bonus – having a dozen videos to post to promote our new album before and after the album’s release – it’s not the actual truth.
Ultimately, we were extremely proud of the album we had made, but also knew that a lot of our best friends would buy the album, out of support, but maybe never really give it a full listen, start to finish. We knew they’d come out to our shows, bless their hearts, but would they ever really sit down and give the songs a listen with their full attention? We decided we’d make a video for every song on the album so that each of them had their own spotlight. And then, rather than do a release show, we held a visual album release. All of our best friends in one room, a captive audience, watching and hearing our album front-to-back, as intended, because of the screening of the videos associated with them.
These videos ranged from “shot on an iPhone” to “found footage edits” to even creating a playable video game from which to capture footage. Some took days to make, while others were banged out in minutes. While the mileage varies, as a whole, I think they represent a pretty good cross section of ways bands can make videos on the cheap, without compromising what they are trying to do creatively.
All videos were either edited via the free iMovie that came with our Macs, or via a 1 month free trial of Final Cut Pro.
PS: It took a hell of a long time, and I’d not wish the process of making 12 music videos in a month on anyone. Don’t do it.