There's no limit to the approaches and techniques artists can apply to create original music, but in this piece we revisit some particularly effective and often low-budget ideas that have been utilized in the past, that any artist could borrow today.
Guest post by Gideon Waxman of Soundfly's Flypaper
There are many different approaches to creating a memorable music video concept. The sky is truly the limit when it comes to thinking up of creative ways to carry forward your band’s musical message, visually (and you don’t need a big budget, either).
In this article, we’ll revisit classic music videos that feature thought-provoking concepts and communicate the message of their song perfectly, in ways that we can borrow ourselves as DIY musicians.
So without further ado, here are some of my favorite music videos that are engaging, creative, and surprisingly inexpensive to film.
1. Arctic Monkeys – “Leave Before the Lights Come On”
This gripping narrative follows a suicidal lady who is saved by a stranger, but quickly becomes obsessive and forces the man to abandon her in her confused and unsafe mental state. Frustrated and full of anguish, the lady runs back to the very same building to fulfill her earlier wish, before we see her intentionally drop her shoe in front of another man, revealing to the viewer her malicious deception to find herself a partner.
The Arctic Monkeys’ video is highly engaging and memorable. The song is about a one-night stand, and while the video portrays the same concept, it’s framed in a new, creative way. The whole video involves one camera and two actors, and proves that an inexpensive music video can be a success with a truly well-considered, compelling story.
2. Ke$ha – “Tik Tok”
Ke$ha made a smash hit in 2009 with “Tik Tok.” The video went viral and even became a couch gag for The Simpsons. It recounts Ke$ha’s previous night out after waking up in a bathtub and disappointing her family, before going out for a drive and then hitting the clubs again for another round of partying.
It’s a fast-paced narrative with a continuous stream of engaging footage, following a very simple, linear storyline. But it also features a mixture of performance shots of Ke$ha singing to the camera and visuals conveying her “party animal” lifestyle, which accomplishes a great branding feat as these two shots combine to solidify her creative, boundless, and wild persona to fans watching.
This can all be accomplished on a relatively low budget, taking advantage of just a handful of actors and props, and a mixture of free shooting locations.
3. Limp Bizkit – “Break Stuff”
Here we have a powerful, straight-talking music video that perfectly matches the mood of the song. The use of a static camera and extras singing with fast-moving shots communicates a widespread aggression that people often feel inside, but reveals a more powerful message when presented en masse. Limp Bizkit’s video calls upon the song as a release of aggression in a way that is strangely uniting, yet also super fun to watch.
We also get a glimpse into the assumed social life of this band (which, if it is just a bunch of their friends partying, that’s a great way to save money on actors!).
4. Gotye – “Somebody That I Used to Know”
This is another simple, yet effective music video with a strong visual aesthetic to create lasting resonance. Here, the directors make use of distinctive colors, body art, and semi-raw footage to alter Gotye’s physical presence throughout the story. The continual changing of Gotye’s body represents the shifting of emotional qualities when recounting a painful breakup.
The body art style is itself distinctive, and helps to convey the melancholic yet hopeful vibe of the song. This reflects on Gotye’s authentic lyricism as he is stripped away of his clothes, but it also makes a slightly less playful reference to the style of Peter Gabriel’svideo for “Sledgehammer.”
5. Bullet for My Valentine – “Tears Don’t Fall”
This is an exciting music video that takes full advantage of high-intensity performance footage and a gripping narrative. The members of Bullet for My Valentine are soaked by rain throughout the performance, which is both perfectly fitting for the song title as well as an ode to the twist in the storyline towards the end of the video. After discovering her partner cheating, the girl violently pours a can of gasoline all over the man, the other girl, and herself, before dropping the lighter to reveal that it’s in fact water — a cruel joke in retribution.
The combination of footage and rain special effects means it’s not one of the cheaper video productions on this list, but it is an excellent example of a music video that ticks all the boxes. It has stunning visuals that adhere to the song’s meaning and a gripping, unique storyline.
6. OK Go – “Here It Goes Again”
Who knew treadmills could be so fun? This classic, viral music video features such a simple yet quirky concept, but with choreography that blows the mind apart. After 17 attempts, OK Go was finally able to capture a single, continuous shot of the entire impressive choreographed performance. Unlike some of the other videos here, this doesn’t have any deep, significant relevance to the song’s lyrics, but… who cares!
There were virtually no costs for “Here It Goes Again,” and it makes an excellent inspirational showcase for how creativity can be utilized to great effect to execute something memorable.
7. Sia – “Chandelier”
This remarkable music video features an exceptionally talented young female dancer named Maddie Ziegler. Her stellar performance is both hypnotic and mesmerizing. (We love escalating dance performances in music videos — we did a whole thing on it.) The song itself conveys Sia’s struggles with alcohol and drug addiction, and Ziegler’s wild dancing is a striking visual depiction of that mixed with the guilt and pain that follows. She violently jumps and throws herself around the empty room with constantly changing expressions of anger, pain, confusion, excitement, and sadness. The room itself is empty and represents a mind that is distressed and sadly neglected.
This video is also a true masterclass in how to create a dynamic, visual aesthetic that bolsters a song to full effect with just a single dancer and a no-frills location.
8. Coldplay – “Yellow”
Chris Martin’s performance for Coldplay’s “Yellow” is a spontaneous masterpiece. The original concept for the music video was intended to be an elaborate beach party, but the miserable weather rendered this impossible. Martin had already missed a funeral for this video shoot and he was committed to capturing all of the footage despite the weather setbacks, so here we see Martin performing in a single shot as he walks down the beach drenched during the sunrise.
Somehow, this video perfectly portrays the combined joy and sorrow of the song. The random intervention of the weather actually helped to make it even more fitting than the original concept. It’s so simple yet powerful, and it proves that lots of money is not essential for developing a great music video.