Why Music Videos Don’t Cost $500.00

Atlanta Georgia is not home to the $500 music video
It doesn’t matter how simple of a concept you have, music videos aren’t cheap. If you expect to make a music video for $500, this is why you’ll be disappointed.

Every week I get at least three phone calls from artists looking to create music videos. While these are occasionally legitimate leads, most of the time the people calling have minuscule budgets of $500.00 or less.  The purpose of this article is to clearly explain why a great music video does not cost $500.00. My hope is that this post will serve as an education for people who are looking to make music videos but have very little knowledge of the business.

So the phone rings….

Having been in the music video production business for many years, I have a standard set of questions I always ask:

  1. Can I hear the track?
  2. Do you have a concept in mind or are you looking to us for guidance?
  3. What’s your budget?

These questions allow me to fully understand what and who we are dealing with.

We like to listen to the song first to evaluate if it has commercial viability or strong viral potential (or both). Often if we like the song, we are more likely to make a sweat-equity investment in the form of gear, reduced crew rates or extra edit hours. If we don’t really connect with the song or make the judgment that the final product won’t really have legs from a viewership standpoint, we will typically pass.

We ask the artist if they have a concept in mind for two reasons. If the artist has a vision for the video, we want to evaluate how much it will cost to realize that vision successfully. If the artist does not have a concept, we will determine what concepts we can effectively execute with the funds available, which leads us to the final question: the budget.

The music video production budget dictates nearly every facet of the music video production and post production process. Without one, we can’t clearly lay out a plan to produce a successful video because we don’t know what tools we’ll have at our disposal.

Music Video Budget Atlanta Georgia
Budget: \ˈbə-jət\, noun – The total sum of money allocated for a particular purpose or period of time.

Believe it or not, at this point, I am often asked, “what’s a budget”? For our purposes, a budget is simply the total sum of money allocated for a particular purpose or period of time.  So, in this case, it’s “How much money do you have available to pay for the music video?”.

As touched on above, the budget determines almost everything about the music video, including:

1. What the concept will or can be

Some concepts, like “performance piece” music videos (i.e. capturing a band playing live at a club) can be made very simply. However, more complicated music videos with high-end visual effects, motion graphics, complicated camera moves, and intricate costumes or props take time and resources. Basically, they cost much more money. In even the simplest, bare bones scenario, the costs are MUCH greater than $500.00. Knowing what funds are available helps us create or refine the concept so that it can be executed properly. Trying to produce a concept that is unrealistic for the budget simply sets you up for failure. When you engage our services, you’re paying not just for the production, but for the execution. You can be sure you’ll get the absolute best video possible for your available budget. That’s what we do.  If you have your heart set on a $100,000.00 concept and you only have $5,000.00, we’re not going to move forward. We want to hit home runs with every project we produce, not just collect checks.

Atlanta Performance Based Music Video Director
Performance piece music videos are typically a more cost-effective solution.

2. What locations will be available

Locations can often be an important component of a music video.  Good locations typically require one of two things: money or a relationship. Even if you can get a “free” location, there is still cost involved. In this business you’ve got to call in favors carefully, because they are like gold. Most people only allow a film crew to take over their property one time, because, let’s be honest, even a highly skilled film crew can be rough on a house/venue.  Often the shoot and resulting video are not directly beneficial to the property owner. That means every time you get a location for free you are potentially losing it as useable location for future projects. Its also important to understand that planning, booking, and cleaning up the location cost time, and time is MONEY (READ: man-hours cost money). A good location will typically run you at least $1000.00 for 10-12 hours, and frequently much more. $500 won’t take you very far in the locations department.

Music Video Gear Atlanta Georgia
There are a multitude of different camera options for shooting video in HD, 4K and beyond.

3. What kind of gear we will use

They say there’s a million ways to skin a cat (who are these people who are skinning cats?). The same can be said for how a music video can be shot and edited. There are a plethora of high-quality professional camera options, countless lights with widely varied wattages and color temperatures, and a myriad of support equipment choices, all of which creates a multitude of options for directors and DPs. All these choices have different pros and cons and, most importantly, different pricing. Typically, the better the gear, the higher the price. The budget is important in this equation because $500.00 won’t even get you the body* for most professional cameras for a single day. It’s important to note here that most gear rents in 24-hour increments. Often you can get three-day weeks and eight-day months to incentivize longer rental agreements. This means that, for example, if you rent the gear for seven days (a full week), you pay three times the daily rate (rather than seven) and if you rent it for thirty days (a full month), you pay eight times the daily rate.  Once again, $500.00 won’t take you very far, even with the price breaks for longer rentals.

Music Video Camera Atlanta, Georgia
RED Epic camera body.

*Body: A camera body (sometimes called the “brain”) is the primary portion of the digital camera, which contains the controls, the LCD, the internal image processor, and the associated circuitry. (Essentially the camera without the lens.)

4. What size & skill level of crew you will have.

Making video is a team sport and a great team usually consists of at least seven to ten people. On larger projects the crew can be thirty people or more. Film and video crews typically work based on day rates. A day rate is typically a set amount of money for a set amount of time filling a crew position. Typically our company runs crews on half day rates (4hrs) and full day rates (10hrs). Crew rates vary based on experience and ability. Yet another reason music videos do not cost $500.00 is that good crew members aren’t cheap.   Highly skilled crew members ensure a high quality music video. And remember, you don’t just have to pay them, you have to FEED them too (see below).

Below are some typical day rate ranges for video professionals in the Atlanta, Georgia area. The crew ECG Productions employs typically fall within these ranges (though rarely at the bottom of the range).

Atlanta Music Video Director Jason Sirotin
Atlanta-based ECG Productions music video director Jason Sirotin on set.

Day rates based on 10 hour days:

  • Director: $800 – $3500
  • Producer: $600 – $800
  • Director of Photography: $600 – $2000
  • Camera Operator: $400 – $600
  • First Assistant Camera: $250 – $500
  • Assistant Director: $400 – $600
  • Second Assistant Director: $250 – $500
  • Gaffer: $300 – $600
  • DIT: $300 – $600
  • Rigging Grip: $200 – $400
  • Dolly Grip: $200 – $400
  • Electric: $200 – $400
  • Steadicam Operator (With Gear): $800 – $1600
  • Crane Operator (With Gear): $800 – $1600
  • Production Assistant: $75 – $200
  • Hair and Makeup: $400 – $800
  • Wardrobe: $400 – $800
  • Production Designer: $500 – $1500
  • Art Director: $400 – $800
  • Set Dresser: $200 – $400
  • Sound Engineer: $300 – $600
  • Boom Operator: $150 – $300

As you can see, $500.00 isn’t even enough to get you one crew member in most cases, let alone a full crew plus post-production and delivery.

Let me stress it again: music videos DO NOT cost $500.00.

5. How long will you have to shoot the video?

Most music videos will take at least ten hours (one full day) to shoot, but some will take significantly longer, especially if there are a lot of company moves*. Because your gear and crew rates are all based around time, the longer you shoot the more it will cost.

*Company Move: The act of a film or video production team packing up all their gear from one location and moving to another location to continue shooting.

Atlanta Post Production Video Editing Premiere
ECG Productions recently made the switch from Final Cut Pro to Premiere Pro CS6.

6. How long will you have to edit the video?

The amount of time it takes to edit a music video can vary based on the complexity of the concept, the number of cameras used, the total amount of footage captured, the need for animation or special effects, and color grading to name just a few. Editing, color grading, animations, and compositing are all typically billed at an hourly rate. At ECG Productions we bill at $125.00/hr for editing and $150.00/hr for animation and compositing. We tend to fall within the median price range in the Atlanta area. So, as you can tell, $500.00 does not go far in the post-production phase of the project either.

Music Video Production Atlanta, GA Craft Services
In film, television and video production, craft services (or “crafty”) refers to the department which provides food and beverage service to the other departments on set.

7. Food, beverage, and snack costs: (AKA Craft Services)

Almost no one outside the production business thinks about this, but on set you need to buy food & drink not only for the crew but for the cast and in some cases the client/investor as well. A crew of ten on a hot day can burn through beverages and ice quickly.  Combine that with one (sometimes two) meals in a day, plus snacks, and costs can add up quickly. Even having your mom make food will still have some cost associated with it.  I won’t even mention “that” number again.  I’m sure you get it by now.

All that said, we absolutely LOVE making music videos.  However, after doing a number of them, its frustrating to be constantly asked for such a huge, all-encompassing undertaking for such a tiny amount of money.  We aren’t greedy, we just won’t take on a project that we can’t make successful. The reality is that the proper amount of money and resources is the key to making any video endeavor successful. The music business has changed drastically over the years and a good music video can be the cornerstone of creating your band’s online image. Recently Billboard even started calculating their charts based on internet views, downloads, and listens. A great music video is an opportunity. It’s a business expense and must be funded properly. Having a compelling video can mean the difference between making a living making music or waiting tables. I know it’s cliche but you only have one chance to make a first impression.

Music Video Cost Atlanta, Georgia
Five hundred dollars will not get you a professional music video.

And this is why MUSIC VIDEOS DO NOT COST $500.00!

In closing (and I mean this in the absolute nicest way possible), if you have $500.00 to produce your music video, you should probably be looking for a college student on Craigslist, not calling on professionals. We are happy to talk to you and offer our advice, but please don’t be offended if we can’t make your vision a reality at such a low price. I promise that we will always be honest with you, listen to your ideas and try to point you in the right direction. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that if you were thinking of picking up the phone to call me about your $500.00 music video, that after reading this post, you’ll go back and try to raise the proper capital to do it the right way before you reach out. We’ll be here when you’re ready, and I can guarantee you’ll see every dollar you spend with us up on the screen. We’re not lining our pockets here, we truly do love to create high-quality music videos at a fair price.  That fair price may seem expensive, but that’s only for one reason: we’re worth it.

If you’re interested in producing a music video (and you’ve got the proper amount of monetary resources to do it RIGHT), please don’t hesitate to contact us at info@ecgprod.com. We’d love to help you make your vision a reality and tell the story of your song with the power of the moving image!

READ PART 2 NOW: WHY MUSIC VIDEOS DON”T COST $500.00 PART  or check out our latest music video with The Armory.

Read more articles by Jason Sirotin:

HOW TO MANAGE CREATIVES: Why being more appreciative of your creative vendors actually makes YOU money!

131 Responses

  1. Dude…good article but your PA rate should be $350/ day. PAs have to know every job on the set from cinematography to lighting to sound as they assist all of the pros on a shoot. Unless they’re runners and such.

    1. Been in the business twenty years and never heard of a PA making more than seasoned professionals. Good for you if you’re making that though! I do agree a good PA should have a vast skill set.

    2. I work as a Sound Engineer and Boom Op but I’ve also done Set PA work on big budget Hollywood projects and THEY don’t even pay PAs $350/day. On indie work ($150,000 – $500,000), a PA makes about $100 to $150 a day. On big budget movies and TV, a PA typically has their day rate ($175-$200), and then gets paid time and a half after a certain point (normally 8 hours) and then double time if the shoot goes even longer (normally past 12 hours). Also, on union gigs, the PAs are strictly forbidden from even touching equipment that is used by another department. Do people still tell PAs to grab equipment sometimes? Yes, they definitely do, but it is completely against union guidelines and, if caught, the whole production can face serious fines.

    3. A Key PA (ie experienced) or one with some kind of equipment rental might take home $350, but your average gofer coffee type college intern PA won’t make any more than $150.

  2. Great article! Though i was looking for you to state talent fees in your budget breakdown. I’m a casting agent and my clients get ridiculous with their requests sometimes and their ‘budget’ or ..lack of… while they want the best for their videos (dancers models animals etc) i can’t imagine why they would believe there isn’t a cost associated with that. 8-10 hrs on a set (on a good day) can’t possibly equate to $0.00 or not much more

    1. Karelle! You are 100% correct. I missed that. Talent fees are another huge expense especially if you have dancers and choreographers. I am writing Part 2 currently and will make sure I include talent. Thanks for pointing that out.

  3. Great post, Jason! Even in Los Angeles where everybody and their Uncle has a video production company, music videos don’t cost $500! Thanks for spelling it all out. Looking forward to part two.


  4. They need to up that producer’s fee. As a producer, I don’t know ANYONE who would take less then a director lol

  5. Dude, this article is was a GREAT read. Not only did you hit it out the park, you totally verbalized for me how frustrating it is trying to make something out of nothing. Granted, I’ve been gifted and lucky to have done so so far but it comes a time to take a stand and that is just what this article will help me do. Thanks for the words of wisdom for not only myself but my clients as well!

    1. Brian, that comment is the best! This is exactly what we were hoping for when we put it together. Stay tuned for more great content and thanks for participating in the discussion.

  6. Thank you so much for this article, the frustration of these calls. Trying to explain this to an artist with a DSLR who thinks cause he has a DSLR it shouldn’t cost much if you use his camera. This is one of the best articles I’ve read in a very long time. Oh and about the day rates. I’m in New York and your rates don’t match these we have here. You have your camera assistance making equal or more then your camera opt. That’s cray. But gr8 read anyhow

    1. Hey Harry, thanks for weighing in. The rate ranges are just that “ranges”. I wanted to be as broad as possible. I typically pay a good AC anywhere from $250.00 to $450.00 a day. I agree I would never pay an AC more than my ops or DP! That would be cray cray! Thanks again for reading! You’ll also be happy to know I adjusted the rate in the post. It was a mistake. Good catch thanks!

  7. Thanks for the article!! I was just berated by an artist who suffered sticker shock from me quoting him a rock-bottom $4k for his music video. He was literally looking for a tenth of that. I spent some time talking about insurance, permits, crew rates, etc. He was just a deer in headlights… Glad I am not alone in my music video struggles.

    1. I feel for music artists. I know they don’t have endless piles of money but they just need to have realistic expectations. I guarantee they would not create a radio ready song for $500.00. In the end we are all artists and we need to understand both sides of the coin. Thanks for contributing to the conversation!

    1. If you’re talking about the video for “Praise You” it was supposedly made for $800 in 1998 with most of that money going towards a replacement boombox and food for the cast and crew. Also it was made in 1998.

  8. I like this. Very helpful to see the mindset.
    I also however had pulled teams for 24 and 48 hour film festivals and made films for less than 100. I think a lot of what this is is people trying to make money for their skill set. Not a crime.
    Trying say you can’t do something for under X amount of money is silly.

    I was going to pay someone to shoot a video they sent me this link as a response. It inspired me to take 75 dollar intro to DLSR class buy a used canon 650D for 400 bucks. You don’t need all this jazz to shoot a video. You need an idea and talented people. If I get a call for 100 bucks and some grub, and I respect the artist I’ll do what can for them. It may not be the professional way, but it works for me.

    I pay my bill and I love the work.

    1. I see what your are saying here also. May I add: If you can pay your people, they will be there for you in the future and they may have more to offer than you can imagine. I like the brake mechanic analogy. When my friend fixes my car as a favour, I insist he takes payment. Otherwise one day I may find his shop gone one day and there’s no mechanic for anyone.

      1. Enjoy.

        16 OS – 3’s Company

        Bodega Brovas – The Freshest Facade

        Elder Jones – Hard Work

        Vitaly K – Universe

        MattyB – New Kids

        P-Dash – George Stinney

        The Armory – If I Ever

        16 OS – Invictus

        P-Dash – Adickdid

        The Armory – Burn the City Down

  9. Jay thanks for adding your point of view and doing it in an intelligent way. It’s appreciated!

    I spent ten years of my early career doing great work for very little money. I just think there comes a time where you need to make a living and you can’t put a ton of time into a project and not be paid for it, otherwise you’re sitting in a studio apartment eating ramen noodles. There is a huge difference between professionals, young artists, and hobbyists. The main goal of the article was to explain why a professional video takes time and money. I’m all about helping artists and I encourage anyone who loves the art of making music videos to do it! I just want musicians and small time mangers to realize that professional work comes with a price.

    Again thanks for contributing to the conversation!

  10. I certainly agree, expectations need to be set, especially in my industry where everyone expects something for nothing. You just can’t work for free. At the same time, dropping the fancy equipment and working within tight constraints really gets the most creative solutions

    I think bands are coming in with a budget of $500 because they see other things on youtube getting made for $500, getting lots of views paving the way for bigger and better projects and rocketing other bands to stardom. They maybe dont realize that it was the band themselves that did all the work and got investors.

    Biting Elbows Stampede here was shot for $500 -> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYm-dT24iRY
    With that they pulled the idea together, got the money they needed and followed up with a bigger budget sequel- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rgox84KE7iY which has gone viral, even getting praised by Darren Aronofsky, Frank Ocean and Samuel L. Jackson

    So instead of telling them “no, it costs more than that” why not point them to something like this tell them to put their $500 into a camera or software. Tell them to be creative, do the work, get the film experience, hash out the idea, and cut them a deal on specific shots or equipment the second time around?

  11. 0????? Wow! Who the heck are you working for? PAs never make that much. For commercial shoots PAs can make 0 a day but never anything near what your talking about. Oh and PAs don\\\\\\’t have to know EVERYTHING, they just have to know their job. Rather it be locking up set, first team, background wrangling, basecamp pa, or just getting coffee. \\\\\\”Jack of all trades\\\\\\” people only exist within production houses. Freelancer positions are highly skilled people who know one or two things VERY well.

  12. excellent article, people want you to literally work for nothing, production business is not a hobby, it is WORK! They don\\’t go into a doctor\\’s office and ask him to perform surgery for 0 well think of us as doctors of your vision and when it is all done, you want it to look healthy and great! Thank you for this article!

  13. I think this sort of parallels what has happened with the music industry as technology advances. Twenty years ago it was unheard of for a band to come out with a professional recording without someone investing the money in expensive studio sessions. Now flash forward to 2013 and I have as much power in my iPhone as the first DAW�s ever did. The larger studios still have to charge the big bucks in order to pay for all of their high end equipment; meanwhile there are many examples of so-called bedroom producers that have been able to make the most of the technology that was available to them and create something that rivals a �professional� product. We are beginning to see the same thing happening with video production as well which is very evident by all the incredible �amateur� work that is put out on YouTube these days. In the end it isn�t the expensive gear and large budgets that makes the final product worthy but rather the amount of creativity, innovation and talent that is put into it�s creation. If you don�t believe me just look at all the horrible crap that Hollywood produces on a regular basis with budgets large enough to support a 3rd world country�

  14. Anyone else find the use of light-gray type on a white background annoying to read for large blocks of text? Otherwise good article.

  15. Although I agree with most of this – I have had $30k+ videos shot for my band, but my 2 favourite(and best) music videos shot for us, were done for around $700 and $200. Sometimes the more stripped down and creative the project, the better and more memorable.

    Great and simple concepts go a long was.

  16. Thanks and ouch. I was doing research for a music video and came across this article. It breaks it down and hurts all at the same time. Those of us who make music scrape by to get the music done, but the marketing is so much more involved than the writing. I was able to create the music for under 8K, but sounds like I’ll could double that with a single video. But it is still one of the best tools to get the word out.

  17. This is a great article but you can produce good music videos for 0! Obviously you are VERY limited but any thing is possible and I\\’m doing it! Check out the music videos i\\’ve produced. I charge between 0-0 and usually keep 60% off each video. http://www.brannustudios.comNote – I would never get rich charging so low but I do it because I love making music videos and I have another full-time job. I\\’m working on \\”franchising\\” and then it will all pay off 🙂

  18. Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    This is a great article but you can produce good music videos for 0! Obviously you are VERY limited but any thing is possible and I\\’m doing it! Check out the music videos i\\’ve produced. I charge between 0-0 and usually keep 60% off each video. http://www.brannustudios.com

    Note – I would never get rich charging so low but I do it because I love making music videos and I have another full-time job. I’m working on ”franchising” and then it will all pay off 🙂

  19. true.

    I produced and directed this video for $600, it played home page of Daily motion USA and Canada, in Les Inrocks in France and Tape.Tv in Germany and was chosen best music video of the year 2013 by the blog Silent Shout. We used 2 iphones, 2 just because we always needed space and battery.


    I tried to stay under $500 but it was impossible.

    But I understand that was an exception, I did videos few years ago with my band, and the budgets were more between 5000 and 20 000$.

    it’s good to explain those things sometimes, but still, don’t be afraid to do what you really have in mind, even without budget.

    1. Sweet vid, Julien! But producing and directing for $600, how much help did you get and what was the post bill? I’m almost sure that it cost you more than that overall just that you didn’t have to overtly pay for it. A group of friends could shoot a good video for ‘free’ but really they’re just bypassing monetary compensation for skill/tallent/effort/time.
      Many thanks for the info Jason.

  20. These sorts of prices are very location specific and depends on the team you get and the prices you’re paying. I can make a full feature film self produced for under $5000 in my area with everyone getting paid (rates that are fair for indie projects in the area) and been hired to direct feature films with budgets under $20,000. I charge a project rate versus a day rate, but my pay as the film’s directed ended up being about $150 a day. Far lower than the claim that you CAN’T get a director for less than $800 a day.

    It’s why even though I worked in LA and Jersey and stuff in the industry, today I stay away from the coasts for my film career. Everything was stupid expensive for no reason.

  21. This article should be titled why TRADITIONAL music videos dont cost $500. Everything in your article has mertit but this what you describe is how your industry has done music videos for 20 years . Obviously with the rise of the internet and digital cameras… this standard process of video making is becoming increasingly NOT the standard.

    The crew rates you quoted… who came up with those rates in the first place?? these were implemented relative to the record business –when LABELS paid for music videos not artists. lets take a look at the music industry as an example of changing times..
    The record business was driven by greed. They had standard rates for music production. To make a industry song in 1995 you were looking at booking a 24 track studio for $200 -$500 an hour! music producer fees to make a song ranged from $100,000 for a depending on the producers track record. In the era of platinum selling artists, these rates seemed reasonable because so much money was being made from CD SALES. and this rate structure passed over to the world of music video production. well all thats changed– cuz now this generation is making hit music on their ipads while sitting on the toilet ! most of the big hit studios went out of business. and record labels have extremely diminished production costs for music and VIDEOS. record labels ARE paying $500-$1000 for music videos today.
    why? besides production gear becoming cheaper and more accessible to the layman– take a look at the market for music videos. MTV used to be the main source for videos but no longer– they barely show videos. Where are videos watched now…on Youtube and Vevo –on tiny lil ipads or laptops. the target audience who are watching these videos –todays TEENS– could care less if a video cost 500k or $5 . most kids dont even watch the whole video– they are clicking thru youtube every 30- 50 seconds. They couldn’t tell –nor care if the video was shot on 35mm fillm, 5k red camera or an iphone like the bloke above did… all that matters is that the song is hot and the video is legible. thats it! The music industry has changed and so too must the music video industry. and artists will get videos done with or without you…so its best to adapt to their needs.

    1. Hey there Udonno are you someone who shot Music Video are knows someone with that mindset. If so can you pass that info on to me. Thanks

  22. Thanks everyone for all the feedback. Everyone makes very valid points. Well…some of you. I guess I should have called the article “Why OUR music videos don’t cost $500.00”. That being said….This is how I make a living. How I feed my family. I’m not a hobbyist. I’m a professional. If you want to make a living in the creative space you must be business savvy. You must value your talents and time. I use to do tons of stuff for free or cheap as I was coming up. Thankfully I’m in a place in my career where others value my skill and creativity and they pay me well for it. I hope that everyone who reads this has the opportunity to get paid well doing what they love.

    1. Exactly as Jason said. Top tier quality never comes cheap. From my experience you don’t have to see the tenders being passed but consider the cost of the equipment, food, utilities and then the human elements. Your video will never truly cost below the thousands. One may underpay themselves to their detriment. Udonno, for some reason I sense satire but, if anyone is taking it literally, you’ll probably just have enough to pay your rent and buy some food(no other expenses) monthly if you get about 4 vids to do(good luck with getting two).

  23. Get with the times old man. I\\’ve been in the business 20 years too but stopped hanging on to old school ways 10 years ago.

  24. No sarcasm intended. I agree that top tier talent should be appropriately compensated. I used to work in distribution in the record industry during its hey day and I heard the same sentiments when mp3\\\’s began to appear. The record execs went on full attack –refusing to adapt, remember even suing consumers for downloading napster music. they argued the quality of mp3 were not as good as cd, (true) , music shouldn\\\’t be free (very true), and host of other valid arguments. but the market didn\\\’t care.They refused to change and look what happened… an entire upheaval and shift of the industry into what it is today a–digitally sustained music industry- where my particular job (music cd distribution) has been extinguished lol -today I do brand management for companies and artists.The same thing will happen to the film/ video world… its just a slower process. but it will happen as production technology improves and becomes cheaper. Its already visible On sites like Vimeo where talented filmmakers showcase amazing work, that yes takes time and effort to produce but doesn\\\’t necessarily require a massive film crew army anymore .My advice to larger production companies is to embrace the change and work with artists. here in NY I have witnessed and hired a new breed of young production houses that offer various production packages with different rates. low budget to high. I\\\’ve used them to do excellent work for independent artists where the budgets ranged from 0- 00, and i\\\’ve used them for videos for label financed artists: 6k- 30k. Hell the average media intern for a small website or a larger MTV is required to know how to edit and shoot! Back in the day when these were highly specialized niche skills – it was easy to demand exorbitant rates , but now the talent pool is vast. And gone are the days of the 300k videos that were the norm ( only global artists–beyonce, justin timberlake etc can command those budgets now) These new companies seem to be doing very well– always booked.

  25. This article is out of pocket!…..

    I witness a lot of music videos being created, and here is how it typically looks.

    2 Cameramen
    1 Set of lights and diffusers
    1 Boombox type of item
    They shoot for about 3 hrs a day, for about 2 days to get all shots.
    The band usually has storyboarded the video to a good degree.
    The video guys edits it.

    Shooting for a couple days about 3 hrs each = about 6 hrs.. REMEMBER SONGS are ABOUT 3 MINUTES Long, not an hr and 20 minutes!!!!!!
    I can only guess on the editing, but if everyone has the shots planned out well, I can’t see it taking more than 6 hrs to edit the video to an awesome level.

    So there, 12 hrs of work….. Take like 70 pr hr and there it is.. like $840 to $1000 for some real independent video making…..

    If there are wardrobe and prop expenses, that is typically on the Band to come up with that, but I can’t see them not already owning most of the gear they would need to have during the video. As far as “Actors” they would usually be the band members themselves… any props, like cars etc, would be brought in by band or their friends acquaintances… This can be done at either NO COST or some very reasonable rates. Even if this did cost money, that money wouldn’t go to the video company… So let’s say they paid like $300 to get some of these people/things incorporated….

    The video Company can make $3.3K per week, at 52 weeks, thats $173k per year.. and you wouldn’t even have to pay the assistant camera guy all that much for his 6 hrs of help per video …….

  26. We shoot videos for 0 all the time. Depending on how skilled you are, you can create something amazing under this budget…. Just don\’t spend over 5 hours on the production. That includes shooting and editing. I sometimes will take advantage of the opportunity by turning a low-budget music video into a personal project, without the client knowing. Its an opportunity to experiment with shot ideas, camera settings, and editing techniques. Depending on the talent, you can boost your photography portfolio in the process…. They usually don\’t turn down a photo shoot offer. I know It sucks that guys like me are cheapening the market… But you can\’t fight the inevitable.

  27. I\’d be curious to see what you guys think of my music videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PoXPPMrtASY


    I am NOT a professional, I don\’t charge, I make music videos / music productions as an artist because its what I love to do. All videos are made to songs I\’ve produced and were made basically just because I wanted to make them and the artists did 2.Its me and my camera and I do all the editing. I make no claims that the videos are of professional quality but I think they aren\’t bad considering I\’ve only been at it 1 year. I think Udonno\’s comments were valid. You have outlined the traditinal way but its unlikely that will hold in years to come… Just a thought. I\’d love some professional criticism of my work.1

    1. Thanks for the youtube link you posted in the discussion about music videos with small budget… as cause of your note i not only have discovered a great artist today but also i think the video you did for her is great!!! i hope you are keeping up the good work-:) and nice meeting you…i am glad i ended up doing search on this subject today… ve been learning lot again…..

  28. Ah yes. The idea of providing a service for a ample market rate. A living wage no less. That\\’s just crazy talk. Thanks for calling this out. I share your ideals (and pain). This is indeed an epidemic and BTW – the production world outside of music videos is hardly immune either. I work in commercial production and the way things have gone there are – laughable. Please, new wave of filmmakers. Charge appropriate rates. Just say no to incorrect budgets. When you don�t charge enough, it reflects negatively on a local working market and does nothing for the infrastructure of the future.I will share your link Jason. Perhaps it will stick with some out there that are genuinely interested in the sustainability of this business. To those who are not, stop calling yourself a professional.I share with you my post from 2010 about the other infection known as FREE http://jamievesay.com/2010/08/03/free-the-non-cents-of/

  29. nicely written article. you articulated it perfectly without being overbearing to people who really just don’t understand the business or what goes on behind the scenes. great read!

  30. Thank you for this article! Everything we’ve ever wanted to say. Been in the business (as in “professional business”, not hobby… including music videos and indies) for 17 years. Add in the talent (which you did on Pg. 2) plus insurance and permits, and the only way you can make something for 0 is if you call in all your chips and everyone on crew does it for a favor. And your crew will tell you… those “favors” get old really, really fast.

    And for all you “I can do it for $0″… it’s a hobby. Awesome. Good for you. We’ve seen your single-light videos. We’ve seen your poorly synced videos. We saw you as you saturated the market 5 years ago with your DSLRs. But when you try to make it your profession, all this doing it for free is going to bite YOU in the butt. Why? Because the clientele you’ve created is just going to move on to the next set of newbies who are doing it for free. Shoot guerilla style. Go for it. Sneak onto private property without permission or public property without a permit. Better yet… go without insurance. All it takes is one light or set piece falling on someone, and you’ll be sued faster than you can say “But I did it for you for free”. Hope you don’t own your own homes. Hospital bills get expensive.

    Thanks again for the article. We’ll be sharing.

  31. Hi all. Going to step back a bit and look at a bigger picture (video?) here. SaraP wrote \”And for all you \’I can do it for

  32. Don’t forget about additional actor rates. I consistently asked to do Music Videos for free, as if its any less work than, say, doing a commercial. I’ll never understand why people think its OK to ask for free services in this industry. If you had a clogged toilet, you wouldn’t call up plumbers asking for them to do it with the promise that they would get credit, right?

  33. Loved your article. A big reality check for the folks who are great making music but have no clue about making a video for their band.I have run a couple of grip trucks out of the SF Bay Area for years and I feel that some of the young producers have no clue of what real production people charge and WHY they charge it.It costs over 4.00 per gallon right now for diesel fuel. Generators that are worth a shit are 0.00 per day plus fuel. I have over 0,000 invested in ONE truck. That does not even include lights.Insurance is 2800.00 per year. A roll of color costs 0.00 each and you have to stock 20 rolls or more.AND you got to pay a living wage to your crew. Their health insurance is very expensive because most of them don\’t have a job that pays 50% of their policies REAL cost.I don\’t answer calls to people who don\’t know what an insurance policy for their production costs. (yes you must have Workman\’s Comp rider on your policy!)Get real folks. We have YEARS of experience and we know what we are doing. When you take your car to the mechanic he is not doing an overhaul of your engine for 0.00. Trust me on that one.Great article. I\’ll read part two next. Thanks for the wanna be producer reality check!

  34. It’s true people can make a video for $100 – $1000 but only because people working on the production are volunteering there time to a certain extent. Often people under value there skills and don’t charge what they should be making. You have rich kids that buy 4k cameras (which they don’t know how to use properly) and volunteer the gear and themselves at a reduced rate to get a chance to use it in a real world production. They are getting compensation in a different form but still not what they should be earning in monetary value.

    Also, in low budget videos, people are taking on multiple roles/jobs and only getting compensation for one. Often the Director is also the editor and producer. The D.P is also doing the job of the gaffer, 1st A.C, 2nd A.C, Grips etc… But they barely earn enough for one of those jobs. That’s insane!! It’s like working at a restaurant and making one person (lets say the cashier), prep the food, cook it, serve it, bus the tables and mop the floors but only pay him for one role. Can he do it? probably if it’s not too busy. But is it fair?

    People who do low budget shoots with high end gear and say it’s because there’s too much competition would be like the cashier saying he is willing to keep doing multiple jobs for minimum wage because there’s a lot of competition for his job. It’s retarded. You’re being taken advantage of and short changing yourself.

    The day rates above are pretty accurate for big productions. If you’re on a lower budget shoot (lets say youtube content) they are about half. I did D.P work in L.A for a youtube show and the day rate (8hr day) was $350.

    D.P rate for music videos on the low end range between $500 to $800 a day (for my labor and camera body only!! Shot with a DSLR!) If they wanted a higher end camera then they have to pay for it.

    If you’re learning to be a mechanic, you can change your buddies breaks for free or charge him $20 for your time. But once you get certified in your craft it would be ridiculous for anyone to expect to pay you $20 to change there breaks (even if they provided the tools and pads). The time you invested to educate yourself has value. Don’t under value yourself. Coming up with creative ideas is a skill and you should be compensated for that. Don’t let some shitty band become popular from your “video idea” and then they go on to sell a million records while you’re still stuck making next to nothing.

    Sign contracts. Workout deals. Ask for royalties. Invest in yourself.

  35. Long article (I skimmed in parts) but great topic and really cool advice. I manage an Atlanta based artist putting out a new single from her third album. Her last 2 sold well on iTunes and I\’m wondering if you guys are open to doing a video for 0? Tell me how to get in touch.

  36. Not only is your math totally off, but I don\\’t know a single AC worth his salt that even takes half days. \\”Oh but we only need you a few hours!\\”. Yeah but I\\’m not able work on any other \\”half shoots\\” rest of the day. Nice try though lol.

  37. Leland, I would love to know what does not add up. Would you be willing to explain? Also I work as a producer and director on numerous film and TV projects and I often have an AC come out for a half day if I have a complicated crane, Steadicam, or dolly shot. I’m not sure how it works in Chicago but it’s very common around Atlanta. There are a ton of great ACs here who are really talented friends of mine who will pick up the occasional half day. I think many ACs would find it insulting to hear that if they take a half day they must not be any good. I’d love to get your insight and continue this conversation. Thanks for your feedback!

  38. How about this for a reality check- musicians are barely surviving today. Almost no one is making money. The bottom has fallen out for most everyone but the big guys. Does anybody here have any clue what musicians are being paid for streams and downloads? Most big studios have gone the way of the dinosaur. We record at home now using computers and plugins that have replaced the big budget studios. And we will do the same with video. Will it be as good as using an experienced pro? Probably not. But the fact is we can’t afford it any other way. I’m not saying you’re not valuable or worth the big money you think you deserve, but get this… So are the musicians- nobody is being paid less than us.

    1. Hey Mike, I respect musicians so much. In my opinion it’s the toughest career in the world to make it in. So trust me I get it! That being said, when you get ten to twenty calls a week to do music videos you just want to try to educate folks on what it takes to get a professional video made. Can you do an awesome video for $500.00? Hell yes you can, but the director and crew are not getting paid anything. I think we both can agree that artists in general need to be paid more money. Thanks so much for contributing to the conversation.

  39. Have you paid every musician and gotten consent to use their music in all of the videos you’ve done for your own purposes? A lot of the time I see music used in videos without credits, and it leads me to think those artists are not getting compensated for the use of their material.

    1. Hi Kate, people pay us to create music videos for their music. We don’t just randomly do a music video for just any song. They must pay. That’s kind of what the article is about. 🙂

      1. Great discussion.

        Kate actually brings up an important point — but it’s more applicable in situations where still photographers are beginning to do video (weddings and fashion, for example).

        If they want to use a really popular, major label song for the work they do for their more private clients, they will sometimes sneak and try to get away with it without asking anybody – not the label, not the publisher, not even the mid-level musicians if the rights have reverted, or some similar scenario.

        So, Jason — if you’re working with those types of photographers, as an editor or producer (as opposed to the musicians you describe who are wanting you to do their music videos for them for nothing) , just make sure you have them bring along all the permissions with them for the music they plan to use & cut in, so you don’t end up liable as well.

        (someone who’s worked on both sides of the fence — have had photos used without permission; have also had music used without permission. It’d be hilarious if ti weren’t so annoying & exhausting to have to chase down artists who KNOW they’re essentially stealing other artists’ work and just … hoping to get away with it.)

  40. The problem is not that musicians can only afford the $500. music video, the problem is they want to pay $500. and have a product that looks like REM Loosing my Religion or even Katy Perry’s Dark Horse. I’m exaggerating of course, but you get the idea. The things that absolutely set music videos apart, such as other worldly locations, props, effects, art, wardrobe, lighting and camera movement all cost money. It’s not always a worth while investment to lay out your last $500. to do a video if it’s not going gain any traction with the public and go viral. I’ve seen so many artists make video after video for 4 and 5 hundred dollars and their careers have gone no where. I feel for musicians because I know they are struggling too. But please keep in mind, the public doesn’t always want to see your locally produced looking low budget crap video. Just keeping it 1 hunnent…

  41. I highly doubt all of the stuff in your price list is necessary. The Drill artists from Chicago went mainstream with videos that more than likely consisted of a good quality camera and editing software. They are now multimillionaires, and their videos have millions upon millions of views. Nobody needs a set dresser, wardrobe, hair and make up, a boom operator, or a bunch of other crap you claim will make a music video that will get an artist noticed. Do some research on a few of the biggest names in Hip Hop today, for example, and you’ll find that they were discovered via a homemade video.

    If you ask me, I’d say you and your team are thieves trying to steal money from artists who don’t know better, or from bad artists who can’t make hit records, and therefore rely on an extravagant and exagerated video that will suck their pockets dry, along with their possibilities of making it into the music industry.

    In conclusion, shooting a music video is not as expensive as you make it out to be, and you, as well as your colleagues, are disrespectful crooks for trying to convince up and coming artists that it is.

    1. Hey there Jose. I like the way you put that. Do you know of some Hungry Video Directors who can here a Hit and say I will work with you and we can make some commitments on future Projects, When you can show Multiple Hit Records already recorded… The Big Picture people behind the LENS. Would you happen to have some Leads on that. If so let me know and I can pay a referral fee as well. Thanks

    2. Hey there Jose. This is Art once again. Here is my 19 year young son Yung Giant. He is a Rapper/Singer/Songwriter down here in 5th Ward,Texas(BORN AND RAISED) If you can put me in contact with some people who is ready to put there Hard Work and their skillset to WORK let me know.Here is his WORLDWIDE Debut Single: I’MA GHETTO BOY(Livin’ Fa’ GOD)feat. Koffey. The Female singing is his Mom(Koffey) Check it out when you get a moment. Thanks

  42. I see where I lot of this information makes perfect sense, but as someone commented before, this is more “why TRADITIONAL music videos do not cost $500”. Apply a bit of creativity and great things can happen. A group of friends and I made a music video last year and won a Telly award from it, and we spent no more than $100. It’s amazing what good resources and creative minds can achieve.

    1. No offense at all Lilly but winning a Telly Award is not a big deal. All they want to do is sell trophies. We have a ton of them and could have unlimited Telly awards but it’s a scam. Don’t fall for it! Get a few of them for your office to impress clients but know they mean nothing other than you are above mediocre. (They don’t let any garbage in that’s for sure.) I remember my first Telly I thought it was so cool. Also you didn’t spend just $100.00. How much is your time worth?! Are you saying your time is worth nothing? How many hours did you work on the video? How many people worked on the video? Did you not eat on set? Think about that as you grow your business. Thanks for contributing!

      1. I realize they’re not hard to obtain, you are right… it is very easy to win as long as you make a solid, professional production! I was 17 years old when it was made, so time spent making it was definitely viewed as more of an experience than money! We had a crew of 4 people, and food was factored into the $100. Obviously, I would charge more than $100 if it would have been made for a client and not just for pure enjoyment. But the point of what I stated before – creativity can often drive a project much further than money!

        1. Good for you Lilly! Now a Telly at 17 IS impressive! I agree creativity is key but so is feeding your family. 🙂 PLEASE post s link to your award winning video.

  43. Great article and very true. Even the responses are true. The right way to shoot a “professional” or I should say “hollywood” music video is what this article is explaining. And it’s true. However, I’ve done several music videos. Some of which aired on live TV (ie: Video Music Box). And it only cost the artist $300. But, of course the artist did not receive the type of crew and catering listed in the article. That $300 got him…you guest it, a cameraman/director/editor. Video was shot guerrilla style (no permits, etc.) and edited fast. But it looks great. What’s going on is that artists know that all they really need is a good camera person with a good eye who loves to edit and wants to make a buck. The sad truth is, with the way technology is growing, you don’t need an entire crew to shoot a simple music video…unless you’re doing some Michael Jackson “Thriller” type video of course.

  44. This is a horrible article and is valid only if you are are major record label with tons of money. All the professionals listed with day rates is bs. You need at most 4 of those to shoot s decent video and all you need is a good dslr and lights. The DP can use a 3-axis gimble for smooth shots and play the role of cinematographer, director, etc. An assistant can help the Director with play back, holding reflectors etc. A set designer and make up artist (if you wanna get fancy, cos you can do your own make up). With the righ talent, you can shoot a video for $2000 that one of these over priced companies will try to charge you 10k to shoot

    1. Mbandi, thanks for your comment. I think you’re are missing the point. I am defending your business and your time as a video producer. You will not be able to make a good living to sustain your family or business doing $2000.00 music videos. Yes, you can absolutely make a music video for a smaller amount of money but you can’t make a living off of it as a video production company or independent producer. Thanks for reading my horrible article.

  45. As technology advances and improves we will start to see a lot more alternatives for cheap music video production!

    Our music video productions start at just $700. Currently we are probably the cheapest/ highest quality on all of the east cost but soon enough there will be many companies like us!

  46. Jason Sirotin, I would have to disagree!! Everyone told me I would never make a living producing affordable music videos. First month of 2017 we made $40,000. The trick is being able to build a team and scale!!

  47. Very interesting discussions. I’m a singer/songwriter myself [as is my husband]. We bought a good camera & we juggle the filming & direction. Mostly I come up with concepts & have been a makeup artist in the past [that helps]. I also sew costumes & can do ‘hair’.
    Used to do film & tv extra work & know about the ‘golden hour’
    . Now between the use of 3 editing programs I’m slowing learning green screen as well. Lots of work – A great field to be in. Check out my channel revelation 77 & see what you think. Each video is different & I’m still learning ! Enjoy. See what you think…

  48. Great article, bro. It would be awesome if you could update the reference prices for current ones (2017). Keep it up.

    1. Great idea Daniel! What do you think the pricing should be? Thankfully we have grown our business and people pay us good money for music videos. Should I list what people pay us or choose a middle ground? It’s complex.

  49. Hey Jason

    Thanks for the solid article. It’s important that good work generates good money. This lays out the complexites and why music videos aren’t cheap quiet well.

    That being said, with hard work, ingenuity, organization, and creativity a person or a group can make a music video for quite reasonable. I just released a video that I worked tirelessly on for around $1000.


  50. Hey Jason

    Thanks for the solid article. Good work deserves good pay! It’s well laid out so people can see the complexities of making music videos and why the can’t be made for 500$

    But with some hard work, determination, ingenuity, creativity, organization, planning, and networking. A person or a group can make a solid music video for quite affordable.

    I just released a music video that I made for $1000.


    1. Hey Ditch, sorry I did not respond sooner. I just replied to your most recent post about your new music video. All I can say is… Value your time. Thanks for contributing and coming back. Very cool of you. 🙂

  51. Ok let’s condense this to bring it into my budget…

    Take away craft services, Replace with box of pop tarts and Gatorade powder using water from the water hose

    Take away location and replace with green screen(a green sheet from dollar general

    Take away wardrobe and make up, I’ll bring some got 2 be gel and an extra white tee and hoodie

    Camera crew and gear- scrap that all that I’ll call some homies who owe me and use my new iPhone with this Rad fisheye lens I just bought from Walmart, well I took it I mean..

    Boom operator- replace by doing voice overs later

    Crane operator- I got a drone last X mad with universal phone holder I’ve been waiting to try out

    Smooth Operator- Yes I am, Can’t do much about that…

    So all in all….. let’s see… *click* *click* *Click* (calculator noise) and the grand total is….from the original $500 budget ….. we have $18 dollars left to get tacos after or hit the strip club where most of the dancers are pregnant……. by the same bartender…

    1. Hey Ditch, interesting song. I never said it can’t be done but if you want to make a career making videos you will never be able to support your family giving away your art. Calculate the total number of hours spent on the music video to see what your hourly rate was then add in the cost of the video gear used on this music video shoot. My guess is you are making less than $10.00hr if you are doing it right. The question then becomes do you want to make $10hr forever? My guess is no. Value your work! Value your time! If you are doing it for fun that is one thing but if you are trying to make a career it’s time to rethink your pricing model. Good luck!

    2. I love it when people come up with an anomaly for an example. There are so many reasons why production costs what it costs, as it has been so masterfully laid out in this article. It’s like saying I got a brand new Mercedes for $1000 and then act like that is the standard. You get what you pay for folks. I have a new client who wants to do a video for $5000, and his ideas are closer to a $250,000 production.

  52. Jason

    Thx for your thoughts. I agree as a career (film company)and to support once’s self, you must value your time. As a musician it’s good to be able to know that a video can be made on a budget.

  53. Jason, great article man! I’ve been looking for something like this to back up some of my points when speaking to clients and this is great! I think the only thing you did wrong here is to leave the comment feature on, haha.. I mean some comments, seriously!? – I think that’s just the difference between hobbyist/amateurs and professionals. We, as professionals need to be paid. And I don’t know any crew members that we hire that doesn’t like to get paid either.– We used to not mind much, but that was years ago when we were all young and like you said, ate ramen 🙂

    1. Jorge, thanks for chiming in! I am happy to have all the comments. People are entitled to their opinion and it’s important that we keep an open mind. My hope is that by continuing the conversation around music video cost that we can change the trajectory of the music video game. It’s nearly impossible to now make a living doing music videos because the cost has been driven down so much. My hope is that the art comes back and the video artists are paid appropriately for their art. Thanks for the kind words!

  54. This information was very help to me and all readers. The info couldn’t be any more clear then a clear sky on a sunny.

  55. Great article. Still revelent in 2019. As for those people saying you can shoot a video for 0. Thats the difference between a hobbist and a professional. You just have no respect or appreciation for experience, skills and money invested in gear. Doing stuff for cheap actaully hurts the cvreative/arts industry. I compare it to bootlegging. Yes You can get a movie online for free, but you are taking the food out of someones mouth when you do that. Cheapskates.

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