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How Producing a Music Video Works and Is Different Than a Regular Film

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Tricia Goss•updated: 8/12/2011

The producer role is central to making a music video, but has different constraints because of the unique format. Here is a look at how to produce a music video, and how the producer position works in this unique format.

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    Running the Show

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    The role of the producer in a film or video project is really one of facilitation, coordinator, arrangement and project management. Though the director may be the primary creative force in a production, the producer is actually the top of the list and coordinates the entire project. On a music video, the producer’s role takes on some interesting tasks because of the unique nature of the production, especially in how much control they have. Here is a look at what a music video producer does and how it is different than working on a narrative or documentary film.

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    Dealing With Record Companies

    One of the primary differences between working on a music video and working on even a studio-backed project is how many more people you have to clear decisions with. Not only do you have to secure proper financing from a specific source, but you also have to represent a commercial property that exists separate from the video. The video cannot violate the concept of the song, which could eventually damage the success of that song and the image of the artist. When you are arranging to create the music video, you will need to clear the director, and the concept, with the record company and the artist, which could end up being a large train. Often, you will pitch to do the project with a concept and a director, and then you may have the ability to be chosen.

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    Running a Tight Ship

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    As with any production, the producer will be in charge of the budget, schedule, hiring and large-scale organization of the music video. What will distinguish the music video producer is that you have to stick strictly to the numbers as there will be two sources of creative decision-making coming in, and you must make sure not to inject a third into the mix. Instead, you need to treat the project logically and be the counterbalance to the creative impulses on set. This will also take special arrangements, since you will usually have to unite narrative film production setup with the plotted filming of a performance, which is staged. To do this, you will have to separate the production into two separate modes: one that is simply filming a choreographed performance, and a second that will deal with the narrative elements. This will require you to bring in staff that can help manage the stage performance, as well as the audio playback that is going to be important for the lip-syncing by the musicians.

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    Speed

    The process for a music video is going to be much faster than almost any other type of production process, but will have a lot of more input once the video has been shot. The music video producer is going to have to speed up the production and turn around process to just one or two days, which is difficult with the amount of cuts and the high production value that music videos require. This means that you have to have the most concrete form of pre-production that has ever come before, where the script has been transferred into an ironclad shot list and storyboard. When in production the schedule has to be set in stone and the crew needs to be adequate to make sure that you keep the shoot time down.

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    Budget

    Financially, the record company financing the project sets the budget. You will not be able to coerce or provoke more money from them as you might with a studio or investor, as the music video is not a commercial property, but instead part of the marketing campaign for the music. This means that, ahead of assigning the project, the company will already know how much they are willing to spend on the video, which at its very highest will be $200,000 to $400,000. The production company, which the producer is acting in charge of, will usually take a five percent cut. This will be your pay as the producer, though if you have a full-service company you will have to then put the profits into the company and then pay yourself. You will then make the claim on the project knowing the budget and working backwards from that, also being aware that it dictates your pay. The rest of the budget is then used on sets, actors, crew, equipment and the rest of the production elements that are necessary. The project is then not intended to turn a profit on its own, but instead work as an entire package that is tied to record sales, Internet profits, concerts, merchandise, and eventually even outlets for the video itself.

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