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Music Video Production for Peanuts - by Jeffrey P. Fisher
Making a video to promote your musical act can be very expensive. However, there are alternatives that you can pursue with a little creativity and compromise. A local cover band was targeting the lucrative college and university market. Those that hired bands wanted to see and hear the act before booking them. So, the band needed a performance video to go along with their promotion kit.

The band didn't have any cash or resources to produce their own video, so they came to me. I suggested that there was a way to make their video, if they were willing to take a somewhat unusual approach. They agreed and together we went to a local public access cable television station. We pitched the idea of producing a 30-minute program comprising the band and their performances. The station producers accepted the plan and we soon had an all volunteer crew ready to produce the program.

Many towns have public access or community television that is available to residents to produce and air their own shows. Most of these productions are amateurish, but occasionally a good one gets made. The bonus to using public access facilities to produce your own show is you can make it for free or very low cost. The downside is the production values may be limited and the expertise is usually minimal. With a little hard work, you can still produce a video that makes for both a fine access show and an even better demo of your musical act. Also note that you can't use public access to advertise or blatantly promote yourself. You can just make a show and air it. Of course, you can use copies of the show to promote yourself in other ways. And that fact is what makes this idea work with the ruthless self-promotion philosophy.

For the band's demo, I decided a straight performance video was too mundane. Instead, I set them up in a circle around the drummer, much like the band was rehearsing and trying new material. (The inspiration came from the Beatles "Let It Be" film). The set used the raw studio with ladders, old set pieces, and other behind-the-scenes matter. We even let the camera and production staff show up in the video. The idea was a relaxed, have fun atmosphere.

For the most control, the band lip-synced to studio tracks that were remixed to be rougher, less produced sounding. We combined these performances with snippets of rehearsal, impromptu jams, short interviews with the band members, and other such nonsense recorded live on the video set. For the demo tape, we only used the lip-synched performances, deleting all the extraneous bits. For the public access version, we kept all the other material to make the half-hour program. The community TV station had a well-rounded show to air and the band had a 15-minute performance video to use to land new gigs.

It cost only about $100 for videotapes (master and copies) and a pizza party for everyone involved. The 30-minute program not only played on the local cable station, but was also picked up by the regional station which meant the band appeared all over the Chicago area. The band's video demo let them land several college and other party gigs, too. It's not MTV, but it sure helped this band be more successful.

Jeffrey P. Fisher is the author of three best-selling music books: "Ruthless Self-Promotion in the Music Industry," "Profiting From Your Music and Sound Project Studio," and "How to Make Money Scoring Soundtracks and Jingles." He is currently working on a fourth title due out during 2002. Get more information on his "Moneymaking Music" Web site at

For even more profitable music industry advice, subscribe to Fisher's FREE Moneymaking Music Tip of the Week by sending an e-mail message to with "subscribe tip" in the subject or body.

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