Working with Music Video Directors [GUEST POST]


Caroline Bottomley is the founder of, a fast-growing web platform that helps musicians find music video directors, and effectively promote their music videos worldwide.

Music videos are pretty essential for any artist promoting music online. However, it can often be difficult to create an excellent music video if your budget is really tight (or nonexistent). Here’s a few tips to help make your music video happen on limited resources:

What’s your offer to music video directors?

If you’ve got limited funds, what else can you use to make your video more attractive to directors? Have you access to free locations or can you arrange free extras? Do you have a good-sized fanbase and a great marketing plan that will help get the video seen? Try to attract new or student directors who want to start or build their showreel.

If you do have a good budget, naturally, it’s much easier to attract a more experienced director. Having a professional plugger and PR on board also makes your offer much more attractive. A “good” budget is, of course, a subjective thing. On Radar, great tracks and a budget of around $750 usually attracts decent directors, and higher budgets, upwards of $7500, can attract the best directors on the site.

Where to find music video directors?

  1. Ask around. Friends, fans, local art colleges, etc. This is probably the best bet for musicians with little to no budget.
  2. Video competitions. Directors are always trying to get their name out there, and online video competitions are breeding grounds for amateur directors that could be a perfect fit for your music video.
  3. Scout them out online. Most videos on sites like YouTube, Vimeo, Dailymotion, MySpace have “description” sections where you can find the details like production credits. Specialist music video blogs like, PromoNews.TV, and many others can be great sources for finding excellent directors. Radar also runs a Facebook page where we feature directors we’ve scouted.
  4. Use an online service. There are different models. 99 Dollar Music Videos selects bands and provides a $99 budget to directors, then promote the finished videos on their site. Radar Music Videos (our site) allows anyone to post a music video brief, which is advertised to all directors on the site. Selected videos are channeled into the substantial distribution network.
  5. Contact a “real world” production company. Unfortunately, commercial production companies usually only work with bigger budgets. However, it’s a less risky experience for artist, since you get to work face-to-face with the director.

Write a music video brief.

  1. Decide what and who you want to be in it. IMHO, I think it’s better to make a non-performance video, because those tend to be more creative.
  2. Nowadays, animation can be done on lower budgets, but it is still time consuming. If your budget isn’t big enough for the director to hire other animators, allow for generous production timescales (at least 6 weeks).
  3. Many briefs are “open to all ideas.” Directors opinions vary on this – some appreciate being given completely free rein, and some prefer guidelines, like links to other videos you like or a general mood you’re after. I think either way can work well, and if you have preferences it’s better that directors know what those preferences are.
  4. Don’t be overly specific. Some briefs read more like a shooting script and leave little room for directors to make creative decisions.
  5. Include useful information and assets with your brief. Some examples are a downloadable/emailable Mp3 (ie small), your lyrics, a production and delivery deadline, and what kind of deliverables you need (DVD, digital file, etc).

Working with the director.

  1. Do your homework. Research directors you’re interested in – previous videos are a better guide than showreels, which just give edited highlights. Get biographies if you can, and check what roles directors have had on previous videos.
  2. Get References. Before you hire a director, get references from someone who’s worked with them before, especially if you’ve only met online.
  3. Make a written agreement. Contracts vary from country to country, and I don’t have stock contracts to recommend, but these are some key areas that both parties should agree on upfront:
  • The budget.
  • The end product video delivered will be as described.
  • Copyright. All content supplied by the director is either the director’s own content, or copyright-free and cleared if they are using third party content.
  • Insurance.
  • Cashflow. Be prepared to fund production up-front, but hold some budget back against both rough cut approval and final delivery. The rough cut is as it sounds, a nearly finished version of your video. All the structure will be in place, with minor editing, color corrections and etc to do. It’s not fair to ask your director for major structural changes or re-shoots at this point, so be sure your agreed treatment is specific enough.
  • Specify deliverables. DVD’s and digital files are fine for most purposes. If you know you’ll need tape, consider offering extra money as it’s a fixed cost, and directors can’t usually call in favors on tapes and tape transfer.

Remember: some things might go wrong. I don’t recommend paying more money than agreed. Your producer/director should be in control of their expenditure and asking for more funds might be symptomatic of worse problems. Working through third parties like a production company, or an online company like us or $99 Music Videos gives you some degree of protection against worst case scenarios. But mainly, if things aren’t going right, make that known as soon as possible.

[Image credit: Click here]

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