What challenges do aspiring musicians face

Opportunities and risks of live videos as a marketing tool for musicians and bands

Modern technology enables bands and musicians of all sizes to produce live videos. However, the chances of a good live recording are just as underestimated as the consequences of bad live videos.

The music video has changed dramatically since modern pop music emerged in the 1950s. Promo clips have been broadcast on television since the 1960s, but it wasn't until MTV launched in 1981 that music video began to take off. A golden age of music video production began that lasted into the 2000s.

Success on both sides of the Atlantic

Suddenly everyone was talking about music videos. Record labels excelled at using the latest technology in their clips. Videos such as "Take On Me" by a-ha or "Sledgehammer" by Peter Gabriel developed their own imagery and became style-defining for the following decades.

When MTV Europe started in 1987, the English-language broadcaster, which can be received via satellite and cable, developed into a central musical reference point for many young people. The record companies were happy to serve this market and used music videos to sell records.

The success was so great that VIVA, a purely German-language music video channel, was launched in 1993. Viva established itself just as quickly and embarked on a brief but impressive triumphal march. Celebrities like Stefan Raab, Klaus Heufer-Umlauf and Charlotte Roche began their careers there.

The change in music video

In 2019 the situation changed fundamentally. In the past, only large bands or solo artists with appropriately financially strong labels in the background had the opportunity to produce an elaborate music video. Smaller bands were left with an underground look if they wanted to afford a music video at all.

Thanks to modern digital cameras and smartphones, the technical possibilities have expanded significantly. Today even small bands can produce a more or less professional music video. But the environment has changed just as much: Viva has not been on the air since 2018 and MTV mainly shows reality shows. The music is now playing in a different location: on Youtube and other social media platforms.

The consumer-oriented music video today

The fact that music videos are still suitable as a career springboard is shown not only by spectacular individual cases, but also by the numerous YouTube stars of the present. What counts here is not necessarily the spectacular productions that still exist, but the direct connection to fans and followers.

The music video is still very popular with fans and consumers. But if you are not lucky enough to generate so many followers on YouTube to arouse the interest of record companies, you don't have to give up.

New opportunities

In contrast to previous decades, there is a completely different way of using videos for your own marketing, more precisely live videos. Video recordings of live performances can serve as a marketing tool to convince bookers and organizers of their own live qualities.

Just a few decades ago, live recordings presented directors with major challenges. Film cameras were not suitable for recording concerts that lasted for hours and overheated after long periods of use. A famous case is "The Last Waltz" by Martin Scorsese.

The technical effort and high costs ensured that even well-known bands and artists were often only briefly filmed during their live performances. While there are thousands of live recordings of an indefatigable live band like The Grateful Dead, live videos of the band before the end of the 1970s are extraordinarily rare. That statement can easily be applied to just about any major act of the 1960s and 1970s.

Thanks to digital progress, it is much easier for today's artists. While concert recordings were difficult to organize or finance in earlier decades, thanks to modern digital cameras they are now affordable for smaller bands.

The music video as a marketing tool

The increasing availability has logical effects: when bookers are unable to inspect a band for themselves, they watch live videos of their performances, as it allows them to see how the act is performing on stage. Stage presence, interaction with the audience, instrumental skills, energy, passion, charm and charisma are the keywords here.

A "real" music video is primarily used to bring the music closer to fans and consumers via a visual representation, but it may be difficult to refinance for young, up-and-coming acts. It is different with live videos: As the importance of the live market is constantly growing, it is important for bands to participate in it. A good live video can do just that, as it can convince Booker to sign the band.

Bands can get ahead professionally with good live videos: play more gigs, make more contacts - and ideally earn more money. But not all bands take advantage of live video. There are many reasons.

Many musicians still underestimate the importance of live video. While they are willing to invest a lot of work, money, and studio time into producing a music video, often there is no money to make good live video.

Challenges in picture and sound

In addition, live videos pose no small challenges for bands and musicians. In contrast to music videos, for which numerous filming locations are available, the setting of a live video is naturally limited to places where it is actually played live, namely clubs, halls and festival grounds.

This requires the bands to come to terms with the respective organizers if they want to film the performance. However, the recording of club concerts is often associated with problems. Small clubs are often unsuitable for recording live performances because of the lack of suitable positions for filming or because the light is too poor. Then a band actually needs professional support to make the most of the situation.

An even bigger problem is the sound. While bands can use their studio recordings for "real" music videos, recording the live sound requires additional resources such as an in-house sound engineer, who of course also has to be paid.

Pay attention to quality

Because of the effort and expense involved, many bands choose to post live videos filmed with their mobile phones on their social media channels. The often dark, shaky recordings are not a figurehead, but put off viewers due to their poor image and sound quality.

Bands are faced with a paradoxical situation: They want to document their live qualities, but cut themselves into their own flesh by posting videos online that are not suitable for achieving this goal. Therefore: Better not to have a live video than one that shows the band from a bad, because unprofessional, side.

Talk to professionals

Given this dilemma, what should bands do? First of all, you should get professional support. It helps to actively look for a video producer who will film a live performance of the band.

Sound engineers, studio operators, live mixers, organizers, bookers, befriended bands and musicians are all possible sources of contact in order to find the right person and who may suit you in terms of price. When such video producers come from a music-related environment, they know that a young band doesn't have as much money as established acts.

If several bands have their show recorded in one evening, a video producer can often offer you a lower price per band, as they only have to bring their equipment to everyone once. It can therefore be worthwhile to bring more bands on board.

Take the initiative, react flexibly

It is of course ideal if the festival organizer or club operator has organized a film crew themselves to record the concert or festival. In most cases, bands will have to pay money to get the video, but especially at nonprofit or publicly funded events, the promoters may also provide the videos for free.

Some club operators have even turned it into a business model: They only pay the band a flat fee, but offer them a video of their performance. That can be a good deal depending on the quality of the video and performance.

Overall, it is worth keeping your eyes and ears open and reacting quickly to opportunities if your own appearance is to be recorded on video. It can pay off.

Interesting too