Making a successful music video that is true to your vision, visually appealing, and accessible to your audience is one of the most important skills you need as an artist.A well-executed music video brings your song to life and provides a visual narrative for your audience. For that reason, learning how to make a music video properly is of the utmost importance when you're trying to get recognized as a musician.

There are many factors that go into producing a successful music video and there are many genre-specific guidelines to follow, as well as more universal guidelines you must know to help you successfully put together a show-stopping video.In this article, we'll give you all the knowledge you need to make a music video that will get you recognized in the music industry.

What Is a Music Video?

shooting a music video

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A music video tells a story inspired by your song and creates a lasting visual image in viewer's minds. You may be an amazing musician, but you also must have an eye for visual design and know the basic principles of film to create a successful music video.

Regardless of genre, all successful music videos will have a clear visual theme and direction that is carried out through the duration of the video to tell a certain story or create a certain atmosphere. Your music video will reinforce the theme and story you are telling with your song through the use of aesthetics and visual imagery.

There are many directions you can take when shooting your music video, but the most important thing to remember is to keep it simple and pick a clear direction that can be maintained through the entire video.

Music videos vary in quality and even great musicians have the potential to make bad music videos, but with our guide you can avoid making this mistake.

To fully understand what makes a music video successful, take a look at some of the music videos we've listed below. They span many genres and styles and give you a good idea of how to approach your music video when it comes time for shooting.

Examples of Good Music Videos

Before starting your music video, consider studying music videos that span every genre, despite the genre in which you actually play. Take what you learn from studying music videos from vastly different genres and apply it to your own to give it depth and universal appeal.

Doing so will give you an opportunity to see what works, what doesn't and what elements you'd like to incorporate into your own music video.

Learning how to make a music video that is successful will take some studying on your part, so take a look at the list of music videos below and take notes of the elements that made them successful and apply that knowledge to your own work.

Beyonce “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)”

Like Michael Jackson's Thriller, everybody knows the moves to Single Ladies. This music video solidified an iconic dance routine with only three basic elements: color, choreography and camera use.

This video uses a classic black and white color scheme to further draw attention to the main attraction of the video: the choreography.

Unique, iconic choreography is a key element of many music videos and if you're an artist in this genre, you really need to nail this. This video showcases this ability to an expert degree, and even musicians with tight budgets can pull this off.

Missy Elliot “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)”

Missy Elliot is known for captivating, visually striking music videos complete with strong dance numbers, and this video is no exception. The image of Missy Elliott rapping in a trash bag is something many young adults remembering seeing on MTV, and it shows how to create an iconic image through the medium of a music video.

It brilliantly showcases her iconic futuristic style and demonstrates how to use close-up camera angles and unexpected images to create a memorable video.

Childish Gambino “This Is America”

Childish Gambino created a video that is a strong example of how to make a music video that tells a captivating cultural narrative. The video itself is disorienting and jarring in exactly the way it is supposed to be. It was made to evict an uncomfortable, visceral response from the audience and it did that in a genius way.

It achieves both shock value and well-received cultural commentary. If this is the direction you want to go with your video, it's important you are clear in your message and present it in a manner that pushes the envelope without alienating the audience.

Nirvana “Smells like Teen Spirit”

This music video is a good lesson in establishing a specific atmosphere. The dingy, garage lighting and ironic use of cheerleaders all scream “grunge.” It was simple enough and revolutionary enough at the time to get cement Nirvana's place in the music industry.

It is a good example of creating a mood and tone that is consistent throughout both the music and the music video itself.

Lauryn Hill “Doo Wop Doo That Thing”

This music video celebrated women's empowerment and featured the use of a split screen to show Lauryn Hill singing at a New York block party in both the modern age and in the 1960s.

There are many cultural implications behind this and it proved her point in a brilliant way. Going this route for your music video requires little more than a great video editor and some creativity on your part.

Tool “Sober”

This music video is an excellent example of the use of claymation to tell a story. It can be used in most genres and is usually a budget-friendly way to tell a narrative or story.

You can get creative and artsy using clever symbolism and metaphors without breaking the bank on expensive special effects or CGI. Conceptual art can easily go from visually striking and intriguing to so complex that it becomes boring.

If your goal is making a video using elements of conceptual art, just know it easily can become so vague and distracting to the audience that your video becomes boring and hard to follow if you don't have a clear message.

The Fugees “Ready or Not”

This music video is a good lesson in the strategic use of shadow, darkness and light and unexpected imagery. It features the group in a submarine with a variation of images from swimming fish to dark shots of each member rapping.

The distinct darkness and shadow play uniquely and cohesively tied the music video to the atmosphere of the song itself. This is a good example of techniques making a music video of any genre successful by creating a moody atmosphere with lighting and shadows.

David Bowie “Life on Mars”

This is another great example of how to establish an iconic image within a music video. The video simply features David Bowie in a full face of brightly colored make up, singing into the camera in front of a blindingly white room. It serves as further proof that the simpler you keep your music video the better and more memorable it becomes.

Plus, this is another perfect answer to a low budget need and can be applied to virtually any genre if done correctly. An expert video editor and film director should be used when doing something this simple.

Every small detail matters and rookie mistakes like a shaky camera can completely kill the mood and overall vibe of the video, and it will quickly go from simple genius to utter failure.

The White Stripes “Seven Nation Army”

This is a good lesson in the branding of your band and music. The White Stripes strategically used red, black and white colors and images consistently throughout their albums and music videos, which serves to establish a memorable identity in the minds of the audience.

Going this route requires commitment, but if you're in a band that already has a cohesive image you can easily play off of this to create a unique brand of yourself as a band. This video is simple, features the band's signature color scheme and is a great use of light and sound editing.

My Chemical Romance “Welcome to the Black Parade”

This is a great example of telling an epic story with your music video. My Chemical Romance, and the entire genre of which this music belongs, is well known for the elaborate stories contained within their videos, and this particular video a shining example of this.

It's the type of music video of which people will talk and recommend. It's inextricably tied to the song and tells a clear story with simple, visually striking images. If this is the route you want to go with your music video, make sure you keep the story concise, easy to follow to reinforce the overall theme of your song.

Kendrick Lamar “Humble”

The imagery Kendrick used in this video is striking, genius and unexpected and the symbolism fit into the music video brilliantly. This is a great example of working with symbolism and religious scenes to make pertinent cultural observations and statements.

The images of Kendrick looking at the camera from below with black men bowing their heads, or Kendrick looking head on at the camera with roped men with their heads on fire behind him is just a small example of the creative genius and aesthetic eye you must have if you choose to go in this direction with your music video.

First Aid Kit “Cedar Lane”

This music video is an excellent example of creating and establishing a distinct mood with color, lighting and camera use. The saturated color scheme of the video goes perfectly with the dreamy atmosphere of the song which results in a perfectly executed mood and atmosphere.

Certain colors evoke certain emotions from the audience that can be used to  tell a story subtly and establish the mood of the video.

Going this route is yet another way around a low budget and is one of the best ways to captivate your audience. This particular song and music video combination is genius because it perfectly brought to life the dreamy, hazy mood of their song with their use of color scheme, lighting and camera tricks.

The Pixies “Velouria”

This music video truly shows what you can do on a low budget. The entire music video features the band running down a cliff side in extremely slow motion.

It is a clever way to get around shooting a high budget music video and really lets your music shine. It just goes to show you can easily come up with a clever, ingenious way of getting around making a high budget music video and produce something that is so simple it's genius.

What Makes a Good Music Video?

We've taken a look at 13 different music videos that are considered good videos in the industry. The key to these artists' success is their use of an organized formula that results in a genius end result. Anyone can make a music video, but there are very specific elements that a good music video will have that unsuccessful ones do not.

Regardless of your particular genre, there is a formula for you to follow if you want to know how to make a music video that will get you recognized as an upcoming artist.

We've all seen music videos that have blown us away with their ability to convey a narrative and storyline, such as the ones listed above, and learning how to make a music video that is impactful comes down to certain key aspects.

take a shoot of music video

Image via Flickr

Have a Clear Message

Good music videos need to convey a message and ignite an emotional response from the audience, otherwise they will fail to be memorable.

The best videos have a clear, focused direction and a message that's consistent throughout the video. Think back to some of the iconic music videos we've listed. All these videos succeed because they have a clear message the audience can recognize immediately.

Whether you want to fill your music video with conceptual art elements such as symbols and visual metaphors or take a more literal route, you must make sure your music video clearly defined and easy to follow. Your audience should be able to sum up your music video immediately after seeing it, so make sure it maintains consistency.

Focus on the Basics

Remember to always focus on the basics of filming and apply the principles of design to your music video. Things like jarring camera angles or inappropriate lighting for the mood can really detract from a potentially good music video. Having a director with a good eye and experience filming will help to eliminate these rudimentary mistakes.

If you are new to filmmaking, you'll need to learn everything you must know about the basics of it if you want to know how to make a music video that is successful. This includes everything from what camcorder to use to the camera angles and image composition of every frame.

You could always save yourselves the hassle of learning how to shoot a film and find either a friend who knows how to shoot a film or room in your budget to hire a professional cameraman.

Either way, learning everything you can about proper filmmaking will keep your music video looking professional, which in turn, will make people take you and your band seriously as artists in the industry.

Nothing reveals your inexperience more than a poorly shot video, so make sure you can film your music video professionally no matter what route you choose.

What Do I Need to Know before Making a Music Video?

Before you're ready to shoot your music video, there are many steps you need to follow to make sure you are prepared and have a clear direction.

Before beginning the production process, you'll need to make sure you know how to choose the perfect song for your video, what direction you want to take, how much money you have to work with and where you want to shoot your video.

Consider this stage the 'rough draft' of your music video and focus on getting everything organized before the day comes to shoot your music video.

Choosing Your Song

This is quite possibly the most difficult decision you'll have to make throughout this whole process of how to make a music video, but it's important you and your band members work together to pick the song that will get you the most exposure as an artist and the most listeners.

When deciding on a song, objectively consider all the songs on your album and pick the one that will be transferred easiest to a visual medium. Although you may be tempted to include your epic, 10 minute song, you may be better off keeping it simple and starting with a shorter song at first.

It would probably be best to ask people outside of your band to help you pick the best song to make into a video, after all this is who will be buying your music. Plus, music videos aren't a cheap enterprise, so picking a song that will get people to buy your music is of the utmost importance.

Decide on a Direction

Although much of what you will and will not be able to accomplish with your learning of how to make a music video will be determined by your budget. It's important to decide in what direction you want to go with your music video and what you want to convey to your audience with it.

No matter what your genre, you must decide if you want to create an artistic storyline or keep it simple and focus on the musicians and the music itself.

If you are new to making music, keeping it simple at first is probably the best option. Focus on certain aspects of your music video like lighting, color scheme and environment to convey a certain mood or atmosphere in place of expensive special effects.

Choose one unique visual element and carry it throughout the entire video, this will get your message across and save you money in the long run.

Know Your Budget

Despite what you may think of learning of how to make a music video, making a successful music video doesn't have to cost you a fortune. In fact, it probably shouldn't. Realistically know what you and your team can put towards the music video and go from there. There are a lot of things you can do to make a visually striking music video on a budget.

Experimenting with camera angles, location, color schemes and lighting can all have a huge impact on your video and can create an emotionally powerful atmosphere for your video.

Instead of trying to add dramatic (and expensive) special effects, consider collaborating with a skilled video editor to create a certain mood by editing the video in a particular way.

Scout Out a Location

One of the most important things or steps of how to make a music video, you need to establish it before shooting your music video is the right location. You must make sure it has the lighting you need to establish the mood of your video and the potential to enhance the overall theme and quality of the music video.

It also is important to consider whether you want to use a green screen for your music video. This would keep things simple location wise, but if you go this route, you should make sure you have a very skilled video editor on your team to avoid looking cheesy and inexperienced.

guitarist on beautiful location

Image via Pixabay

Hire a Crew

Since you're still in the planning process of how to make a music video, now is the time to decide whether you will be hiring a crew. This can include cameramen, video editors and actors. If you are on a budget, ask your friends to help you with the acting portions and save your money on the professional cameramen and video editors for the best end result.

How to Make a Music Video

video. No matter how you decide you want your video to turn out, or the elements involved in it, you should follow this process for every video you make.

a video maker

Image via Pixabay

Start with a Storyboard

First things first, you will need to start with a storyboard. This is both the first and most important step in the process. Being organized will keep you on track and let you begin to see how your music video will be brought to life before you actually start shooting.

Your storyboard will be your visual guide to how your music video will be shot. It should be extremely detailed and describe the visuals, camera angles and any acting that you want to take place shot by shot.

You should include notes describing what is happening in each shot and scene so that everyone involved in the project will know how to make a music video that is cohesive and coherent. A very detailed storyboard also will help your video editor piece together you music video in exactly the way you want.

There are many storyboard templates available on the internet for you to download, but they usually will be made up of square boxes with a room for text underneath them. From there, you will fill in your storyboard with the visuals you want recorded from start to finish.

Laying out your storyboard scene by scene will help keep you on track the day of shooting. It will be easy for you to record each and every scene included in the story board and check them off when they are filmed successfully.

Shooting Footage

Thanks to all your thorough and successful planning beforehand, the day of your shoot should be a breeze. There can be a lot going on the day of your shoot, so make sure to follow your storyboard exactly to make sure you are not missing any key scenes or moments during filming.

Checking your storyboard constantly while filming will help you and your team stay on track.

If you're shooting the video yourself, make sure you have thoroughly studied all the rules of filmmaking and image composition. This will make or break your shoot, and you don't want all your hard work up to be ruined by a shaky camera or jarring camera angles.

If you want to know how to make a music video with dynamic imagery, a great way to add in original footage would be to add in footage of your live performances. It's cost-effective and easy to obtain – given you have a good cameraman on your team.

You also can use stock footage to get a similar feel by adding interesting footage that suits your music video without paying in time or money. Keep in mind that using movie footage is often copyrighted, so if you want to add in dynamic images make sure you're not violating copyrighted material and are only using images that are public domain.

Edit Your Final Video

This is where all the magic happens and all the hard work you've done will finally be brought to life. At this stage of in the game of how to make a music video, you will want to add your music to the video and see how it all came together.

The true feel of the music video will be implemented at this stage, and it will probably be helpful to refer to your storyboard to make sure you include all the elements that you planned to include in the video.

Be careful not to edit your video too much, especially during scenes where you're singing and performing. It may look too fake if there are constant, swift camera angles while you're performing. Also, be prepared to do a lot of editing if you included live footage in your video in order to maintain a cohesive feel throughout the video.

video editing how to make a music video

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Promote Your Video

After you learn of  how to make a music video and now that you're done shooting your video, you may think your work is done, but this couldn't be further from the truth. This is the time to start promoting your video to get people watching and talking about your music.

Your video could be the next great hit of the decade, but it won't gain exposure overnight. You still must put in the work and promote your video to the public through every means available to get your music out into the world.

There are so many social media platforms available to musicians now and posting your videos to these sites will serve as free advertising and get you much needed exposure as a musician.

Know your audience and where they go for new music and start by posting your videos there. If you want to gain popularity and traction, posting them to social media sites is a great place to start.


Music videos are an important medium to master and can really help spark your success as an artist. Learning how to make a music video that will appeal to your target audience and leave them with a lasting visual impression of your music will really help your career take off.

Now that you know how to make a music video and how to craft a creative visual masterpiece with your music, go out there and get to work!

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