Music Video Productions Don’t Cost $500.00.


Every week, I receive no less than three phone calls from artists interested in creating music videos. While some of these calls may present genuine opportunities, the majority of callers have meager budgets of $500.00 or less. The purpose of this article is to provide a clear explanation as to why a remarkable music video cannot be produced with such a budget. My intention is for this post to serve as an educational resource for individuals seeking to create music videos, but who possess limited knowledge of the industry.

And so, the phone rings…

Having been immersed in the music video production business for numerous years, I have developed a standard set of questions that I consistently ask:

1. Can I listen to the track?
2. Do you have a concept in mind, or do you seek our guidance?
3. What is your budget?

These questions allow me to gain a comprehensive understanding of the situation and the individuals involved. Listening to the song initially enables us to assess its potential for commercial success or strong viral appeal (or perhaps both). If we find the song appealing, we are more inclined to make a vested effort by providing gear, reduced crew rates, or additional editing hours. However, if we fail to connect with the song or determine that the final product is unlikely to attract a substantial viewership, we typically decline the opportunity.

Inquiring about the artist’s concept serves two purposes. Firstly, if the artist has a vision for the video, we assess the cost of realizing that vision effectively. Secondly, if the artist lacks a concept, we evaluate which concepts we can execute successfully within the available funds, thus leading us to the final question: the budget. The budget significantly influences every aspect of music video production and post-production. Without a budget, we are unable to develop a clear plan for creating a successful video since we remain uncertain about the resources at our disposal.

Music Video Production Services

Frequently, I’m confronted with the query, “What exactly is a budget?” Allow me to provide some clarification. In our context, a budget denotes the total sum of money set aside for a specific purpose or duration. Thus, in this particular case, it pertains to the inquiry: “How much funding do you possess to cover the expenses of the music video?”

As mentioned earlier, the budget profoundly influences various aspects of the music video, including:

1. The feasible concept.

Certain concepts, such as “performance piece” music videos (e.g., capturing a band performing live at a venue), can be executed relatively simply. However, more intricate music videos involving high-end visual effects, motion graphics, complex camera movements, and elaborate costumes or props necessitate time and resources. Essentially, they require a more substantial financial investment. Even in the most basic and stripped-down scenarios, the costs far exceed 500.00. Being aware of the available funds enables us to craft or refine the concept in a manner that ensures proper execution. Attempting to realize a concept that is unrealistic for the given budget only sets the project up for failure. When you engage our services, you’re not only paying for the production itself, but for the successful execution. Rest assured that we strive to deliver the absolute best video within your allocated budget. That’s our expertise. If you harbor aspirations for a concept worth 100,000.00 but only have $5,000.00 at your disposal, we won’t proceed. We aim to achieve remarkable results with every project we undertake, rather than merely collecting payments.

Music Video Production Services

2. Which locations will be accessible?

Locations often play a crucial role in a music video. Securing good locations typically requires one of two things: money or a strong connection. Even if you manage to secure a “free” location, there are still costs involved. In this industry, you have to be cautious when calling in favors because they are highly valuable. Most individuals allow a film crew to utilize their property only once because, let’s face it, even a highly skilled crew can be rough on a house or venue. Often, the shoot and resulting video don’t directly benefit the property owner. This means that every time you acquire a free location, you potentially lose it as a usable option for future projects. It’s also important to recognize that planning, booking, and cleaning up the location require time, and as they say, time is money (and man-hours cost money). A good location typically comes with a price tag of at least 1000.00 for 10-12 hours, and often much more. With a budget of 500, you won’t have many options when it comes to locations.

There is a wide range of camera options available for shooting video in HD, 4K, and beyond.


3. What kind of gear we will use.

They say there are countless approaches to accomplish a task (who are these individuals skinning cats?). The same can be said for shooting and editing a music video. There is an abundance of top-notch professional camera options, a multitude of lights with varying wattages and color temperatures, and a wide array of support equipment choices. All of these factors provide directors and DPs with numerous options. Each choice comes with its own advantages, disadvantages, and, most importantly, pricing. The budget plays a vital role in this equation because 500.00 won’t even cover the cost of renting the body* of most professional cameras for a single day. It’s worth noting that equipment rentals typically operate on a 24-hour basis. Often, there are discounts for longer rental periods, such as three-day weeks or eight-day months, to encourage extended agreements. For instance, if you rent the gear for seven days (a full week), you pay three times the daily rate instead of seven, and if you rent it for thirty days (a full month), you pay eight times the daily rate. Once again, 500.00 won’t take you very far, even with the price breaks offered for longer rentals.

music video

4. What crew size and expertise level will be involved?

Creating a video is a collaborative endeavor, and a successful team usually comprises a minimum of seven to ten individuals. On larger projects, the crew can exceed thirty people. Film and video crews typically operate on day rates, which are predetermined amounts for specific time periods allocated to crew positions. In our company, we generally follow half-day rates (4 hours) and full-day rates (10 hours). Crew rates vary depending on experience and skill level. Another reason why music videos cannot be produced for $500.00 is that competent crew members come at a cost. Their expertise ensures the delivery of a high-quality music video. Additionally, it’s important to note that you not only have to compensate them but also provide them with meals (refer to below).

Outlined below are the typical day rate ranges for video professionals.

All day rates based on 10 hour days:

Director: $800 – $3500
Producer: $600 – $800
Director of Photography: $600 – $2000
Camera Operator: $400 – $600
First Assistant Camera: $250 – $500
Assistant Director: $400 – $600
Second Assistant Director: $250 – $500
Gaffer: $300 – $600
DIT: $300 – $600
Rigging Grip: $200 – $400
Dolly Grip: $200 – $400
Electric: $200 – $400
Steadicam Operator (With Gear): $800 – $1600
Crane Operator (With Gear): $800 – $1600
Production Assistant: $75 – $200
Hair and Makeup: $400 – $800
Wardrobe: $400 – $800
Production Designer: $500 – $1500
Art Director: $400 – $800
Set Dresser: $200 – $400
Sound Engineer: $300 – $600
Boom Operator: $150 – $300

As evident, 500.00 is insufficient to cover the expenses of even a single crew member in most cases, let alone an entire crew along with post-production and delivery. Allow me to reiterate: music videos CANNOT be produced for 500.00.

5. What is the allotted shooting time for the video?

Most music videos require a minimum of ten hours (a full day) for shooting, although some may take significantly longer, especially if multiple location changes are involved. Since gear and crew rates are time-dependent, the longer the shooting duration, the higher the cost.

6. How much time is allocated for video editing?

The editing duration for a music video can vary based on factors such as the complexity of the concept, the number of cameras used, the volume of footage captured, the inclusion of animation or special effects, and color grading, among others. Editing, color grading, animations, and compositing are generally billed on an hourly basis. Our pricing typically falls within the average range. Therefore, it is evident that $500.00 does not stretch far during the post-production phase of the project either.

7. Costs for food, beverages, and snacks (aka Craft Services):

It’s often overlooked by those outside the production industry, but during a shoot, it’s necessary to provide food and drinks not only for the crew but also for the cast and, in some cases, the client or investor. On a hot day, a crew of ten can quickly consume beverages and ice. Add to that one (sometimes two) meals a day, along with snacks, and expenses can escalate rapidly. Even if your mom prepares the food, there are still associated costs. I won’t mention “that” number again. I’m sure you understand it by now.

With that being said, we absolutely LOVE creating music videos. However, after working on numerous projects, it becomes frustrating to be consistently asked to undertake such a massive endeavor for such a small amount of money. We’re not driven by greed; we simply won’t take on a project that we can’t make successful. The reality is that adequate funding and resources are crucial for the success of any video project. The music industry has undergone significant changes over the years, and a well-crafted music video can be the cornerstone of establishing your band’s online image. Billboard even factors in internet views, downloads, and listens when calculating their charts. A remarkable music video is an opportunity. It’s a business investment that must be properly financed. Having a captivating video can make the difference between making a living from music or waiting tables. I know it sounds cliché, but you only get one chance to make a first impression.

And this is why MUSIC VIDEOS DO NOT COST $500.00!

In conclusion (and please understand that I mean this in the kindest way possible), if you have 500.00 to allocate for your music video production, it might be more suitable to seek out a college student on Craigslist rather than hiring professionals. We’re more than willing to have a conversation with you and provide advice, but please don’t be offended if we can’t bring your vision to life at such a low price. I promise that we’ll always be honest with you, listen to your ideas, and try to guide you in the right direction. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that after reading this post, if you were contemplating calling me about your 500.00 music video, you’ll likely go back and attempt to secure the proper funding to do it the right way before reaching out. We’ll be here when you’re ready, and I can assure you that every dollar you invest with us will be reflected on the screen. We’re not here to fill our pockets; we genuinely enjoy creating high-quality music videos at a fair price. That fair price may seem expensive, but there’s only one reason for it: we’re worth it.