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Making Music Videos: My Experience as a DIY Music Artist (+ Q&A with Nick J. Townsend)

The world is visual. People want to SEE you as well as HEAR you. I don’t know about you, but as soon as I hear my favourite songs, I’m automatically playing the music video in my head – these two things link together and stick around! In this blog, I’ll be giving you an insight into my experience of creating music videos as a DIY music artist, I’ll also be catching up with Midlands Music Video Director Nick J. Townsend to ask him a few industry questions from his own experience. Nick has won some great awards for his work, so his advice is well worth a read!

Photo Credit: Nick J Townsend/WEAK 13

A bit about my experience…

My last video ‘Third Degree’ was filmed at the stunning Far Forest Studios with Director Nick J Townsend, photographer Don T’Death and MUAH Alex Warilow.

Along with this, I’ve filmed two other videos with Nick, “Oops” and “Rain Again”. Throughout his career, Nick has had an amazing and varied working life, including roles on TV (Shameless, Channel 4 and Doctors, BBC), writing as a columnist for various music magazines, and performing as the frontman and guitarist for his band, WEAK13. I asked him a few questions on the importance of music videos to get his thoughts.

Why is it important for a DIY Music Artist to have music videos to accompany their song releases?

For starters, it removes one of the “what if?” question normally thrown at performers, musicians or songwriters by the hive minded critics out there; what if he or she had a music video?

You write and record an amazing tune then show it someone only for them to think “Wow, imagine you became good enough to be in a music video for this song I’m listening to?” A good solid music video shows an audience that you’re a superhuman and not only should they listen more carefully to you but also open their eyes.

Video alters (often in a positive way) how you’re perceived. For example, radio DJs traditionally don’t deal with visual media but if a music video accompanies a single release then it provides more to talk about and usually encourages them to give you airtime. It’s like a 3D calling card.

You’re well-known within the Midlands music scene (and beyond) for your work as a musician, but what made you want to get behind the camera and start directing music videos?

When I began my music career, I encountered a few ignorant music video directors calling themselves filmmakers despite them never actually making a film.

I grew up watching movies that inspired my music but I had to put my trust in videographers who ignored my input or vision because I didn’t have a filmmaking degree.

So I got myself a degree in filmmaking, directed a feature length film; got it in a theatre and then afterwards produced whatever music videos I wanted. I’ve had plenty of awards for music videos that I’ve directed for myself and others; filmmaking can be a lot of fun but it’s hard work.

There are some brilliant filmmakers out there who I’ve worked with, but a lot don’t listen to musicians or understand them; I understand musicians, I get them. Although I admit there are some musicians who really don’t understand filmmaking at all.

Obviously, there’s much more to music videos than just filming them. Can you tell me a little more about the editing process?

Editing can either be a smooth fun uplifting process or a complete hell of an experience spent mostly screaming at a computer monitor at 3am; depends on your standards I guess and what you’ve got to work with. As long as the end result is professional, then it’s all worth it.

99% of shoots that I’ve been involved in are generally well organised but occasionally some issues can appear during the editing stage and it’s not necessarily anyone’s fault. Things may have been overlooked during filming and in order to combat this then extra hours will be spent in the editing room.

I try to ensure everything flows, quality remains high, the cut stays interesting but, most importantly, shows the performer at their best on screen. Budgets can be restricting but that’s where using your imagination is important to make things appear more shiny.

Editing is a relationship between you and the tune. Your head will live in the song for hundreds of hours so what you see on screen has to complement the music.

What are the top 5 things DIY Music Artists should do before their music video filming day, to make sure that they are well prepared?

  • (1) Understand and be aware of the limitations of the film set that you’re going to be on. Even if you can’t practice on the set beforehand then look at photos and imagine what you can and can’t do in your head. It all helps your confidence.

  • (2) Know the tune even better than the time you recorded it; good miming is crucial. If you are able to do any practicing beforehand it can only be a good thing.

  • (3) Be very aware of time management. A film set is often hired so time is usually your money; make allowances for costume changes and have paced out planned breaks - you’re only human. If you, and everyone on the set, know what they are there to do and how long it takes then it’s overall more productive.

  • (4) Provide the filmmaker with as much information (within reason) before a film shoot. Photos of costumes, props and the location are useful. Last minute surprises on the day of filming can create stress so research and prepare.

  • (5) It’s important to look forward to a film shoot; negativity can hinder your performance so never dread it. A music video is a time capsule for a particular stage of your career so enjoy every second and plan to give your best on the day.

Further Thoughts

Every single process within music making (and the extras that come along with it) can be costly. For my last music video, Third Degree, I managed to gain funding from Arts Council England to support this next step in my career via their Developing Your Creative Practice fund. Funding organisations are well worth looking into, if not, you could always consider at-home DIY music videos, just like the video that Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber created during lockdown...

Ultimately, I really do feel that visuals play an important part within releasing music. If you plan in advance, you can make the most of your time and money (for example, when booking studios, I make sure my music videos and photos are done on the same day). There’s so much that can be done once you’ve created a video, like using little clips to share our on social media, screenshots and behind the scenes footage. More recently, I’m seeing that the funding applications that I’m applying to are asking for links to previous music videos, making me think that it’s quickly becoming the standard/norm within the industry.

Let me know your personal experience with music videos, I’d love to hear your thoughts.


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