Learn What a Music Video Director Does in the Professional Video World

Page content

Directing the Music Video

A music video director creates a synthesis of two often opposing worlds: narrative filmmaking and commercials. In this there is actually a new form, one that takes an existing song and property and then interpreting it in a way that will satisfy two creative forces, the director and the artist who created the original track. Music video directors have a very specific area of the professional film and video market and, depending on the artist and music label hiring them, can tend to make a very high-end product and a nice profit. Here is a look at how the music video director works in the professional field.

Starting Out

Though most people think of the large scale music videos that utilize huge production budgets, name actors, and win awards, that is not the only place music video directors work. Instead, a whole range of different artists will often need professional music videos to promote their work. In general, music video directors will start off working in regional commercials and corporate videos. This may get them enough professional clout to be approached by smaller artists, which will increase their music video director reel for when they are going for larger projects. All lower level music video directors will look for that crossover video that will bring them some mainstream recognition, but the best way to make this leap is to focus in on a specific musical genre. For example, if you are focusing on local country and gospel singers it may be a way to break into the larger country music market.

Business and Operations

When you are known by labels and have a solid resume of past work, you will often be considered for work when specific songs are in need of videos. You will likely be called in along with several other music video directors and production companies, and they will provide you with the track, a spec sheet, a full budget that they are allowing, and some other information. From this you will create a treatment for the project, including things like a story outline and information about the look, and you will pitch it back to the label and artist. If they like your take on the video then you could land the job.

When working on a music video, the director will make ten percent of the total budget, and the producer will make five percent. In general, the production company takes in 15 percent of this total budget. This may sound like a lot on larger jobs ranging from $200,000 to $500,000, but that kind of budget is only allotted to the highest level of artist. Most emerging or smaller artists will be capped between $40,000 and $80,000, and budgets are lowering as the record companies shrink. What this has meant is that more and more artists are in need of videos, but the music video director’s take is going to be smaller and smaller.

Shooting a music video typically takes one to three days, but it is most common to have single day shoots. Including the pre-production and post-production, you will find the entire video being taken care of over a month’s time, but this will not be the only thing that the music video director is likely to be working on.

Making the Music Video

Music videos are a great way for new directors to learn how to really tell stories because you have to do so in such as short, and specific, frame of time. What is also difficult is that you are confined by not just the song you have, but the intentions of the song by the original artist. A music video presentation that provides a different interpretation of the song than the artist intended can completely devastate the original property.

On top of this, most artists are not used to working as actors in such a directed space. Instead of allowing free movement, music videos are shot with the artists playing and lip-syncing along to the recorded track so that it will match. It can then be difficult to coordinate their movement and behavior for this purpose.


Private interview with working professionals and author’s own experience.

This post is part of the series: Film Career

Articles concerning different aspects of starting a career in the professional film and video industry.

  1. How to Become a Production Coordinator
  2. Job Description of a Music Video Director
  3. Film Producer Schools With Intensive Programs
  4. Finding the Best Film School for Screenwriting