A Cheap Video Can REALLY Help Your Band! Part 1

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We all know that YouTube is the new TV, and its no secret that an awesome video can get your band tons of easy promotion. With shrinking budgets and a more even playing field in the music business today it becomes harder and harder to get noticed. That said, if you have a little creativity you could make an awesome video to get your band noticed in one or two short days just using a little effort. With the advent of cheap editing software and digital video recorders, the playing field is even if you are creative enough.
Below we will go over some examples. All of these videos are going to fall into two qualifications and can be done fast and on the cheap:


Weezer “Sweater Song”(Weezer being the misers they are, they won’t allow me to embed this video) -

Impact: When I first saw this video as a teenager it made me immediately take note. The band’s unique look, and great songwriting were introduced to the world and it set them up to be one of the few bands with a career 18 years after being formed. Obviously, the fact that they sounded totally different then any band out at the time left a huge impression and helped the video be effective.
Cheap: The video uses one camera, and while proper lighting and a high quality film helped make this video work, this is much easier to attain today. It is done in one shot and the only real production trick is when the dogs run out into the room in the middle of the video, which could easily be had for nothing if your girlfriend works at a dog working service. Though I am sure this video cost a ton of money, it COULD be done for pennies on the dollar today.
Why it works: Not every band can pull this video off. The fact that the band looked totally different then any band in the mainstream at the time was a great vehicle for the video. In order to properly market the band, you needed to see that they were rocking the “early 90′s indie rock” fashion. It was unlike anything in the mainstream at the time. Though it was similar to what Pavement was doing at the time, they were too intellectual and Lo-Fi for mass consumption.
See Also: “Islands In The Sun” A video that can be shot in one day reinforcing the bands cute, cuddly nerd thing. One camera, a bunch of nerds playing with animals. Not a video that could make or break a band but if you have a real esoteric pet you may have YouTube gold!

Nirvana “Sliver”

Impact: Well not much, this video never seemed to play on MTV, at the time of Incesticide release. Anyone who did see this had Nirvana’s image all the more reinforced. Seen as broadcasters of the underground in the age before the internet, one of the only ways to find new bands was by recommendation and Kurt Cobain was the king of “Up with what I’m down with”, promoting every band he felt the least bit of passion about. Seeing that the band was just like you, dressing poor and dirty, with posters of their idols on the wall, collecting weird items and on TONS of drugs. This kinship made you feel even more a part of the movement.
Cheap: Shot in one day on a handicam! No budget, just the band having fun, anyone who has ever marketed a band knows it is essential to make your fans feel a part of a movement and a video like this could not be more perfect for that purpose. When you see Kurt Cobain’s baby dancing at the beginning you get the sense that they are just stoners having fun with a camera, JUST LIKE THEIR AUDIENCE!
Why it works: Not many bands have as much personality, depth and song writing skills as Nirvana. No modern band has ever equaled Nirvana in the perception of being on the same level as their fans. Many bands try to do this video style of showing what it is like to hang out with them, unfortunately usually this turns into the usual MTV video of pretending you are rich and hanging out with models (AKA missing the point). This is a classic video form and can work easily with a band with the right character.

Sum 41 “Fat Lip”

Impact: Though Sum 41 had a previous EP; this was their introduction to having any real fan base. Another video reinforcing a band is just like their fans and showing examples of who is a part of their movement, all done with flawless execution. Sum 41 was the first band to come to the mainstream with the mantra of “punk” fashion and embracing of both metal and rap. For years before this it was condemned in the world of punk to be interested in hip-hop and metal. This video goes face first, showing the band beat boxing and rapping while dressed in the mall punk gear of the time.
Cheap: One day of hanging out filming a band playing and a bunch of kids being kids. The video shows a stream of kids showing off their dancing, talents, as well as the bands performing prowess.
Why it works: From the get-go you see tons of kids dressed very differently all enjoying the bands music. When a band sounds as diverse (I know, I am being generous here) as Sum 41, it really helped to show kids wearing a variety of band shirts, fashion stereotypes, that it was OK to like music like this. Since the band was sailing into uncharted mainstream territory this was very important for kids being afraid to express admiration of this “new sound”. The lyrics were a condemnation of conformity and having kids being rude to cameramen, cops and adults reinforced this message.
See Also: “The Hell Song”, another video by the band done on the cheap. A hand camera, a bunch of dolls and a lot of imagination are the sole ingredients. It reinforces the bands brand as just a bunch of retards that play with dolls, do a bunch of drugs and have fun. (See a pattern?)

Battles “Atlas”

Impact: A totally nerdy video of a bunch of nerds playing nerdy music. The exact image they are portraying embodied in a video. This video went viral around indie land; the futuristic look of it went hand in hand with Battles image as the band of the future.
Cheap: While not the cheapest video on the list, the concept is easy, a dark background and a band in a glass box being shot from all around. While being shot in a day, like many of these videos it took quite a bit of editing to make great. This still can be done easily! What band worth its salt today doesn’t have a director/motion graphics artist willing to work for little or nothing to get their name on a video?
Why it works: Having a good-looking, but not too slick video brings Battles out of the indie rock ghetto. It is visually pleasing and a lot of the appeal of the band is to watch them doing all the odd things they do with their instruments, which can be seen clearly through out the video.

LCD Soundsystem “New York, I Love You”

Impact: Obviously the song deals with a pretty rarified subject, so the impact wasn’t going to be huge, but this video went viral in one second. Another reinforcement of the personability of a band, having fun with a song. Anyone who heard this song and has ever watched The Muppets pictured this instantly, once they made this video it showed the band got the joke.
Cheap: If this video took a day to shoot and edit I would be shocked. No location clearance, no fancy tricks just a handheld camera and a doll.
Why it works: It’s cute and anyone who has ever scene “The Muppets Take Manhattan” find the idea of Kermit teasing Mike Bloomberg pretty hilarious. It embodies the feeling of the song to a T and any other video for the song would have missed the point.

Cartel “Honestly”(embed disabled again)

Impact: Despite this song being your average high gloss pop ditty, the video tapped into the zeitgeist as the MySpace boom happened. Just like Sum41, a diverse bunch of youngins are shown, giving example of who is a part of this bands movement. The video shows these fans indulging in an activity every kid in America is doing at the time. The band got national attention on the heels of a viral video, played non-stop on every video network.
Cheap: Despite the expensive look, and motion graphics, I know this video was done for pennies on the dollar since the director is a close friend of the site. This is the testament to how far you can go if you can find a talented, hungry-to-work director while they are still on the rise.
Why it works: A fun pop song with a teenage visual. Everyone feels a part of what is going on in the video since everyone who embodies the target demographic has participated in what is going on in the video.

Replacements “Bastards Of Young”

Impact: Admittedly, this song contains some of my favorite lyrics ever written, so I feel one of the reasons this video works so well is you aren’t following the video too much and just taking in the song. It’s a classic video and embodies the angst of a band famous for falling off the stage drunk on a regular basis.
Cheap: Camera on a tripod in black and white, camera never moves and the video is done in one shot, so the editing is null.
Why it works: This song is incredible and if you don’t have amazing lyrics and melody this video is never going to work. It does show exactly who the Replacements demographic is: a guy who puts his shoes up on the couch, smoking a cigarette, and then breaking his stereo cause he is punk and pissed.

OKGo “Here It Goes Again” and “Million Ways”


Impact: Probably two of the most famous cheap videos. Supposedly, the “Million Ways” video was made after the band hated the original high budget video, they enlisted a band members sister to do some choreography. They were dealt a shitty hand and came out as a band that has had over 40,000,000 people watch their video.
Cheap: One shot, handheld camera, and a few days of their time in exchange for millions of people to hear their song.
Why it works: Have you seen the bald guy in the band? Anyone that awkward dancing is total comedy. So many bands over the years have made the one member who doesn’t match their image into their biggest asset instead of a thorn in their side. Turning your weakness into strength can be game changing. Additionally, these dudes are indie rockers to the max and seeing indie rockers command a treadmill harmoniously is a site to be seen. A crucial aspect to the video is the lack of quality. If the video were too good looking you would assume it was CGI.

While Imitating any of these videos will defeat the point, but they are great inspiration to figure out your own thing. Did I forget any videos? Let me know in the comments!

Flickr Photo by user Logan Antill

Jesse Cannon is the editor of Musformation. He produces records at his studio Cannon Found Soundation. Follow him on Twitter at @JesseCannonMusF. For more info please visit his website.

  • http://www.apellmusic.com/new-music-video-clips-animation.html Apellmusic

    I have made a few videos & uploaded onto YouTube. They were relatviely easy to make with the latest one being made using 2 shots – one on a tripod and one handheld at a rehearsal.
    These 2 shots were then overlapped, had some video effects applied and synched to the CD audio track. I also used the diitial zoom feature in Adobe Premier to focus on hands and faces etc. throughout the video. The effects used also helped to minimise the pixelation caused by the digital zoom.
    You can check out this video for my electronica cover of Neil Youngs “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” and my other videos here – http://www.youtube.com/apellmusic