What should a music video budget be? How much do they cost?

Remember when I was blessed enough to work with an insanely talented group of musicians and performers for Theoretics’ “Higher” music video?

They came back and asked me to direct their next music video, “Jekyll & Hyde” and I’m thrilled. This song is funky, deep and unforgettable. Their entire debut album is phenomenal but this track really shines when performed live.

The band is using Kickstarter to raise money for the video budget (a very modest $5,000). Here’s the video! “Like” it on facebook, send the link to anyone who may dig it, and get excited for the visual and auditory feast to come!

Modest Budget, You say?

For those of you who have been asking, “how on earth can a music video cost as much as $5,000??” I have prepared a rough cost breakdown as follows:

Estimated days of shooting required: 4 days

Actual costs based on specific local vendors, many of whom are offering greatly discounted rates:

  • Producer fee: $500-1250/day
  • Director fee: $500-1250/day
  • Camera operator: $500-1000/day
  • Camera equipment rental: $150-$5000/day
  • Key grip + assistant + lighting gear: $1000-1750/day
  • Wardrobe for 7-10 characters: estimated $20-$200/day per character for this project
  • City permits: $25-$1000/day (depending on the city, exact location, whether roads need to be closed, etc…)
  • Props/furniture rental: estimated $500
  • Set construction: $100-1000

Estimated days of post-production required: 2-3 days

  • Editor fee: $500-750/day
  • Redundant Hard disk archive: $200-400
  • Visual FX designer fee: $75-$150/hour
  • Colorist fee: $100-200/hour

Costs not included above:

  • Band member compensation
  • Additional actors and extras
  • Marketing hours
  • Catering (food) for 4 days
  • Donor perks:
    • T-shirts
    • Buttons
    • Web hosting
    • Graphic design
    • Shipping
    • (etc…)

Recent music video budgets:

Obviously, $5,000 falls far short of what we would need to hire a mostly-professional crew (the lighting/grip truck rental alone would almost use the entire budget). I’m good at being resourceful, maximizing available resources and wearing multiple hats to bring budgets down, but that doesn’t mean that making a music video, short film or TV pilot is cheap.

Have a rebuttal, input or correction? Leave a comment below and let’s discuss this.

Update: Theoretics raised around $5500 via Kickstarter. Once Kickstarter and Amazon Payments had taken their respective cuts we had right about $5000 to work with and the music video turned out well.

Update 2: This excellent mini-documentary features all sorts of music video-related wisdom from some great directors whose work I have enjoyed and respected for years. If you ever plan to be involved in a music video in any way (director, editor, DP, camera operator, producer, band member, actor, etc…) you really need to watch this as soon as possible.

The Videographers Guide Ep. 1 – The Music Video from HBTV on Vimeo.

This entry was posted in Film, How-to, Publishing, Rants, Video.

6 Comments

  1. Stephan Gray September 1, 2011 at 3:11 pm #

    I can’t wait for the day when I can spend $5k on a music video! I’m not going to get into specifics of how I’ve cut corners or stretched the budget in the past. But I will say with my past in commercial production $5k can and will go VERY quickly…..on he first day. Anybody who doesn’t see where the money goes, see if they’ll come out to set for a day. I’ve never had a naysayer of where the budget is going, come out to set and still wonder by the end of the day. It’s always he opposite.

    Have fun with the dough Garret!

    • Garrett September 1, 2011 at 5:21 pm #

      Ha, we’ll see if the fans will put it up!

      But yeah, $5k is nothing, but it’s enough to get something respectable out there if the director, producer, DP, editor, VFX artist and colorist are the same guy and willing to drastically drop their rates to make it happen.

      The steampunk motif is going to be a trick to pull off on that budget, though….

  2. Terry Lee March 3, 2012 at 5:09 am #

    Hi, just wanted to share a video I made with just a simple DSLR camera. I hope you like it. http://youtu.be/LGEl2HGVDck

  3. Nelly Maldonado August 25, 2012 at 11:47 am #

    I shot my music video with my own Camera so my budget was very low but the hours spent were above 60 hours not including sound recordings.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oasFEadGIT4

  4. Matt Williams December 22, 2012 at 5:56 am #

    First of all, I’m a big fan of Theoretics. :)

    I’m working on my second video, now. I agree with what you said about the budget. I shot this video for less than $300. It shot this for my girlfriend, Vocalist, Debbie Poole, so I cut a lot of slack. :) I mostly bartered with people (the limo, the house, the club, the shop, etc.). The actors were friends of my daughter from UMBC. I produced it, directed it, filmed it, edited it….everything. If I had had $5,000..MAN the work I could have done. Typically, that’s what I WOULD have charged for local artists. They don’t have much of a budget anyway, and much of their finances is getting watered down by clubs who don’t pay much to begin with, so I understand what they are going through and cut them some slack, but not for less than $5,000.

    Anyway, check out the video I shot (Nikon D5000). Hope ya enjoy it.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJHTlsdS5PM

  5. Zoe January 22, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

    Thank you so much for this article I am a film student and this was very helpful in giving me a idea of how to build my bid and budget. I love the Jekyll and Hyde scene when he is mixing the potions and they are bubbling and smoking very kewl

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  1. By Institutions (Censorship) | Media Blog (Prodigy) on October 15, 2012 at 2:14 am

    [...] Another thing we have found is that the average music video costing is between $200,000 and $500,000 this is on this link http://garrettgibbons.com/music-video-budgets/ [...]