It’s been 10 years since I first wrote about why music videos don’t cost $500. While a lot has changed, one thing remains the same – people still have totally unrealistic expectations around what music videos should cost. Back in 2013, my blog post “Why Music Videos Don’t Cost $500” aimed to hilariously mock naive hopes that quality videos can be made on the cheap. The follow-up drove the point home even further by explaining why proper production requires real investment, not garage sale gear and a handshake. Now in 2023, it’s time for another snarky, no-BS look at what it actually costs to produce a legit professional music video in today’s landscape.
Brace yourself, this gets ugly…
DIY Videos Look Like Trash
Let’s address the elephant in the room – all those wide-eyed beginners claiming they can “produce high-quality music videos for a few hundred bucks.” Sorry to break it to you, but that’s delusional nonsense. You really think investing in a clip-on lavalier mic and some duct tape is enough to make videos that compete with Drake and Taylor Swift? I don’t care how many YouTube tutorials you watched, that’s not how professionals work. Here’s a reality check – real music video production requires hiring experienced crews, renting pro gear, securing locations, paying for storyboards, props, wardrobe, editing, color correction, audio mixing, and more. That stuff costs money. If you choose not to invest in legit production elements, don’t be surprised when the results look like trash made for a middle school A/V club. You get what you pay for.
But sure, go beg your “friend who’s good with cameras” to help and see how that turns out…
The Buck Stops With the Budget
Let’s break down where production dollars actually need to go for quality results:
- Storyboards & Concept Work: $500-1500
- Locations & Permits: $250-1000+
- Props, Wardrobe & Art Direction: $300+
- Casting & Talent: $500+
- Travel & Expenses: $300+
What, you thought detailed planning happens for free? Not if you want professionals with experience executing high-level concepts. But feel free to draw some stick figures yourself and let me know how that goes.
Shooting Day Rates
- Director: $1000-$3500
- DP & Camera Package: $850-$2500+
- Gaffer & Lighting Package: $700-$1500
- Grip: $500-$1000+
- Hair/Makeup/Wardrobe Stylist: $55/hour each
- PA: $250-$400 for 12 hours
- Equipment Rentals: $150-$500+
These are starting rates for legit crews with real gear and skills. Of course you can try convincing your cousin who did video club in high school to help out for beer money. But don’t expect Hollywood-level results.
Hidden Costs Sneak Up On You
- Insurance: $500+
- Meals & Craft Service: $300+
- Mileage & Transportation: $200+
- Misc Gear, Purchases, Oopsies: $500+
Shoots seem to cost 20% more than budgeted no matter how much you prepare. Feeding hungry crews who’ve been working 15 hours ain’t cheap. Extra batteries, hard drives, cables, overtime pay – it adds up shockingly fast.
Post Production for Pros
- Editing: $500-$1000+/day
- Color Correction: $300/hour
- VFX: $300+ per shot
- Audio Mixing & Mastering: $150/hour
- DVD & Digital Masters: $200+
You can’t just slap together some raw footage with Windows Movie Maker and call it done. And your “friend who’s good with computers” isn’t likely up for the task. Do it right or don’t bother.
Shoot Cheap, Get Cheap Results
Adding up even the low end of real production costs, you’re looking at $10k+ for a quality one-day video shoot and post-production. For more complex videos at pro levels, double or triple that. Can you produce videos for less? Sure, but you’ll cut every corner imaginable. The cinematography will suck. The editing will be sloppy. The sound and color will feel amateur. It simply won’t look or feel professional. If new artists only rely on super low-budget productions, it severely limits their potential for growth. Fans expect quality work. If your videos look laughably bad compared to artists with real budgets, you’ll struggle to gain credibility and ears. On top of that, you’ll likely need to reshoot entirely once you realize how hacky the work looks. Wasting time and money twice should teach you to properly invest from the jump.
Long-Term Artists Invest in Quality
Beyoncé isn’t out there still shooting videos on a VHS camcorder. As an artist’s career progresses, each video should level up in quality and production value. This brings dedicated fans along the artistic journey. But gear, crews and production standards update every year. Trying to stay professionally competitive on an outdated budget is like entering a NASCAR race with a used Kia Rio. You’ll never keep up. Great music videos open new doors as an artist’s career grows. But ratty, DIY productions don’t get picked up by influential playlists and channels. They leave potential success on the table because the look, sound, and quality screams “amateur hour.” So invest real money upfront or regret it later. We’re talking long-term career strategy here, not just one-off vanity videos. DIY works until it doesn’t.
Artistic Passion Beats Budgets…Sometimes
While this article focuses on typical production standards, there are always exceptions. Some artists achieve amazing results on little-to-no budget based purely on passion and grit. We’ve seen the viral hits shot for $0 because the team didn’t take no for an answer. They begged and borrowed out of sheer will to execute their vision by any means necessary. These are shooter’s shooting – running on pure inspiration and adrenaline to pull off the impossible, budgets be damned. It takes a special kind of crazy creative energy. Respect. But even then, a smarter long-term strategy is leveling up production and promotion budget over time. Relying only on viral hype-lightning-in-a-bottle is not the most sustainable path for most artists. So chase inspiration fearlessly, but be ready to invest to bring visions fully to life. Artistic passion matters more than price tags, but professional investment unlocks careers.
Wrap It Up Already
And that’s why music videos still don’t cost $1000 in 2023. The bottom line in 2023 – quality music videos are essential, but they require real production investment to compete at a high level. Understand this isn’t a one-time cost – it is necessary career strategy baked into your long-term artist development budget. Regularly release videos that showcase your vision and brand accurately. This means paying experienced crews fair rates and using pro gear. Because here’s the deal – you can waste money shooting and re-shooting DIY videos endlessly. Or you can properly invest upfront in quality production that moves your career forward. Stop clinging to outdated budget expectations. If you’re serious about your art, it’s time to get serious about investing in your visual content. Your career will thank you. That’s why music videos still don’t cost $1000 in 2023. Now go make some hot new videos – I expect they’ll be fire!