Musicians, make your video count

Your cousin taped you at your latest gig. Time to slap it up on YouTube and wait for the gig offers to roll in, right? Maybe. Take a good look at that video and make sure someone besides your mama will be impressed. 

Determine your audience

Fans – a shaky iPhone video done at last night’s gig is good for fans on social media because it gives them a you-are-there feeling. It is not a good video to send to a potential venue, especially if you can’t understand the lyrics and it’s shot from a weird angle like this one:

Potential fans – a video that clearly shows a song is great. It doesn’t have to be for a live audience, although you definitely want to play it live. (We get enough lip syncing from big mainstream artists.) Here’s a great example:

Potential venues – a video done at a recent concert is perfect for a venue because they can see how you are with an audience. A bunch of slick videos done in a studio without a crowd will only tell bookers that you had money to burn. Here’s a great live video:

Media – again, something for a live audience is great. Make sure the audio is clear. No one can evaluate music if they can’t hear it.

Video tips

Get to the meat fast

A quick intro, fifteen seconds or less, then into the music is best unless you’ve got a great story as an intro. Really great. Like, people want to know when your book is coming out. In the video below it’s a full minute and a half before she gets to the song. Free editing software would’ve solved her problem. Now, a busy booker with 20 artists to evaluate is probably going to skip her:

Fancy is good but not necessary

Have your cousin with the iPhone shoot you in good lighting, straight on or slightly off to one side. While it’s nice to have a huge budget and shoot with three cameras, you don’t have to do that. If your cousin wants to get all arty, reign him in. You don’t want your video to look like this:

Make sure the picture and audio are clear

I can’t tell you how many links to blurry videos have been sent to me, like the one above. I wish I could understand all of the words in the video below:

Look good

You don’t have to be Adam Levine pretty but for God’s sake, don’t chew gum and if you shoot in a guitar store, take off the sales tag:

Look successful

Don’t use the performance from the local coffeehouse where you played for three people, two of them your mom and dad. A crowded bar is great. Almost anything with an audience that makes noise (but not drown you out) is perfect. Don’t edit out the applause.

Look at the camera occasionally

It is your audience. If you’re looking at your hands the whole time I’ll think that’s how you are if I book you for my venue. Only Miles Davis is allowed to ignore his audience. And he’s Miles Davis. And he’s dead.

Now you’re wondering about my videos, right? Here’s one I’ve sent to bookers:

This one has a long intro but it sets up the song well. Besides, I won a RightOut TV award for it so we must’ve done something right:

Here’s a video I shot in a studio with a professional crew. It’s helped me sell a lot of downloads but it’s not one I would send to to a venue (unless it was one of several links, some that were live footage):

All right video star, go make your mama proud.

About jamiebobamie

Musician - teacher - writer - gets bored easily. I write an almost-weekly blog that includes true stories gathered from 20-plus years of touring, how-to articles for musicians and profiles of performers. Also, I love dark chocolate, I can play "Brown Eyed Girl" behind my head, and I twirl the baton badly.
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6 Responses to Musicians, make your video count

  1. lynn sheridan says:

    Jamie thanks. this was really good information. (you did a house concert at my log home in Bear Delaware and burned your name in a log for me!) I have been trying to video a friend of mine at several venues and I really don’t know what to do. We tried a video camera on a stand about 6 to 8 feet from her keyboard and microphone. We were in a restaurant and I got so much background noise, even though no one was between the camera and her. Also, it came out unclear and darker than we wanted. Do I need to invest in some more sophisticated equipment? and can you recommend something that will work on a budget? Thanks again you are terrific.

    • jamiebobamie says:

      Hey Lynn — Great to hear from you. I don’t think you need more equipment, just an android phone, decent lighting and a quiet crowd. How about setting your friend up for a living room concert? Invite a few people over who won’t talk during her songs and will applaud well but not overact.

      • lynn sheridan says:

        Great thanks. When we go to the bars and restaurants to see her we are a loud and vocal group! I will try to ask them to be “normal ” audience.

  2. jamiebobamie says:

    There ya go. Sometimes asking is all you need to do.

  3. endlessleeper says:

    i’m a musician and this is fantastic advice. your entire blog is just begging for a combing-through–thank you so much for all this! i just put your book on hold at the library : )

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