Steve - Bio Shot - hi res

Stop Whining & Start Doing: Making a Music Video as an Indie Artist

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog post written by Steve “Renman” Rennie, a music industry vet with experience as a concert promoter, record label exec, Internet entrepreneur, and artist manager. Learn more about his Renman U Insider’s Guide to Today’s Music Business here!]

Making videos has been an important piece of the brand building process for artists and labels for quite a while now. And the reason is pretty simple. Videos put a face on a great song. A great video helps paint an image of an artist and imprints it indelibly into the minds of the music consumers. The impact and reach of a great song can be magnified exponentially if it’s accompanied by a great video.

Back in the days of MTV, making videos was really the domain of the major labels. The reason quite simply was the cost of making videos. Record labels would routinely spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and in some cases millions of dollars to make a video.

But making a video was only part of the challenge. Getting it played was an even bigger challenge. Back in the day MTV was the ultimate gatekeeper when it came to videos. If MTV didn’t play your video, nobody saw it, and you were toast. And all the money you spent making it was down the tubes.

But, in today’s music business all that has changed.

The power of MTV and its programmers no longer rules the video landscape. Today, YouTube has supplanted MTV as the #1 source of video distribution. Instead of putting your video in the hands of the MTV programming team, YouTube allows every artist, big or small to post their video for the world to see.

Now the fact is that there are still all kinds of gatekeepers in the music business that are looking to hold you back. But more often than not the number one gatekeeper is you. If you want to make a great video, you’ll need to focus on what is going to take to do that instead of all the reasons why it’s tough. You’ll need to develop a little bit of that “Fuck the Gatekeepers” mentality and make something happen.

Start with a great, clever idea. That won’t cost you anything. Once you’ve got that great idea accept the fact that making your video will need to be a triumph of imagination over budget.

I can hear everybody whining right now I don’t have any money, or I don’t have a camera, or I don’t have any experience shooting or editing videos. But the bottom line is that’s not an excuse in today’s music business. Technology has put great presentation in the hands of any person that’s got a great idea and is looking to bring it to life.

While it’s probably true that most indie artist don’t have a lot of money, I’m betting that almost all of them have a smart phone. And almost every smart phone today comes with an incredibly powerful camera. So if you can’t afford one of those badass video cameras, go out make a video with your smart phone.

Once you’ve shot that video you’ll need to edit it. The good news is that almost every laptop you can buy today comes with video editing software. While you are working to get your video up on YouTube you can spend some time watching countless how-to videos on editing in whatever software you choose.

If you want to get a bit more ambitious, go out and get one of those Canon 5D cameras, which give a spectacular cinematic film look to every video. That’s what we use to shoot many of our videos.

Now I understand not everybody can go out and buy an expensive camera. But it doesn’t mean you can’t use one. There are a number of websites out there where you can rent these cameras for a couple hundred bucks for a couple days. One of our favorites here at Renman MB is BorrowLenses.

Perhaps you don’t have the filmmaking skills to shoot a video on your own and you’d prefer to work with a director. Well the fact of the matter is that there are as many people looking to be filmmakers as there are people looking to be musicians. And I can assure you that in almost every city across America somebody is dreaming about making a movie. Your mission is to find those people and get them on your team.

For those of you that have a bit of a budget but don’t know how to connect with more experience directors, there are also some great tools out there on the web that can help you do that. One of my favorites is a website called Radarrmusicvideos.com that matches experienced directors with artists and record labels that are looking to make great videos on the cheap.

If you have to make a video on your own there are resources out there like Renman Music and Businesswhere you can watch interviews with top video directors like Jordan Bahat and Brantley Guttierez. You can hear how they think and get advice on how to make a great video.

Bottom line is this: If you are serious about building a career as an artist, the visuals you create, photos and videos are a hugely important piece of the marketing and brand building process. If you want to stand out in the crowd, you’ll need to find a way to create videos that can compete with the biggest artists and labels in the business. It’s tough, but it’s not impossible.

Don’t spend your time whining. Spend your time doing.


Over the last 36 years, Renman Music & Business mastermind, Steve Rennie, has become one of the most successful and respected professionals in today’s music business. He has amassed a broad swath of experience as a concert promoter (Sr. VP Avalon Attractions now Live Nation 1984-1990), record company executive (Sr. VP GM Epic Records 1994-1998), internet entrepreneur (ArtistDirect 1998-2000) and artist manager (Incubus 1998-2014). Now, he is dedicating himself to mentoring this next generation of artists and music pros who will shape the music industry of the future.

Steve Rennie founded Renman Music & Business in 2012, an online education portal for the music industry featuring a YouTube channel with over 500 video clips with tips from industry pros, a web show, ‘Renman Live,’ which has livestreamed over 100 episodes so far, and more. Earlier this year, Rennie launched Renman U, an online course designed to be “an insider’s guide to today’s music business.” Course lessons are based on Rennie’s more than 36 years of experience at the highest levels in the business, and include quizzes, written exams and more.

  • MOJOrule

    That’s the exact spirit of this band’s videos…!!!

    Check them out: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL7tkxUX3HUXFYjr6IvfkG9PTv76JTpJtv

  • Aaron Conaway

    Here is one I did for an artist in Los Angeles in 2013, low-budget, was recently in a music video awards show, people texting while zombies chase them https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ypnoRJ0JJo

  • Kat Capone

    All it really takes is a little creativity. I’m an unsigned artist and I do all my videos myself. From the art directing to the editing with little to no money every time. Here’s one of my videos loosely based on the Black Swan https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSQEpjhRhIc

    • Supa Turbolocity

      What camera did u use ?

  • 2greendollars

    I just want to say that everything in this article rocks, and casually drop a link to my latest track :) thanks for the great read! ant. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yi75bDoFEAY

  • Dale Rowles

    Here’s one we made on a £50 camera from ebay for free.

  • Dale Rowles

    and another, for free one the same camera :-)

  • Ulises Civico

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASB1qb06sWUid I did this one on my own with no money

  • M. Khanqwest

    I agree with this post completely. We are looking to help artists create and distribute videos on our social network community call Independent Flowz which can be seen at http://www.independentflowz.com

    We highly recommend Tunecore and companies like it to sell music once the videos bring interest. The industry has changed and using videos is a must for any emerging or relevant artist

  • Rhema George