Along with almost every industry feeling the impact of 2020, the entertainment industry is reeling from an especially hard hit this year. We’re being forced to find new solutions to new problems almost daily -- but it’s not all bad.
While COVID has locked us all in our homes and put live music on hold, musicians still have the ability to exist and flourish without access to creative teams as they create new music and content around releases for social media and beyond. We talked more broadly about ways to grow your fanbase, even when you’re stuck at home in this recent blog post, but in this article we’d like to take a more in-depth look at content creation.
The idea of recording music at a home studio is nothing new. Most musicians wouldn’t consider a studio in someone’s basement to be limiting to their creativity as they write and record songs, and the same thinking can (and should) be applied to creativity for the supporting content around those recordings. Don’t let limited resources stop you from creating unique and engaging content at home.
Strategy #1: Start With An Idea and Keep It Simple
Okay, so maybe you’re not a photographer and you don’t even know the first thing about editing videos, but that’s alright. Let’s slow down and back up. Before you start stressing about gear and technical skills, it’s important to focus on creativity. Don’t let your resources stunt your creativity. Brainstorm your ideas for content as if you have no limits; come up with the best ideas you can to promote the music you’ve created.
To do this, I like to start with a mood board (free tools such as Canva or Pinterest are great for these).
Dig through the internet for inspiration, save images that fit the style and vibe that you’re going for. Pull specific examples of certain elements you’d like to include in your photos and videos. Create a pool of ideas from which you can nail down a specific direction for your visuals. From there, decide what you want your final product(s) to look like - sketch it out, create a collage, or just write out a detailed explanation.
Strategy #2: Map Out Your Needs & Be Realistic
You’ve got a clear picture in your head of what your final product will be, now it’s time to make it happen. It’s best to break the entire piece down to its core elements. Identify each part of the final product that you’ll need to create.
Things to ask yourself at this stage might be:
- Is the background/setting a place you can go to?
- Or a space you can create at home?
- What props and other elements are needed?
- Can you build them at home or find them at a thrift shop?
- If there are digital elements, can you find photos or videos to license online?
- Are there technical specs you need to be aware of in advance based on different social media platforms (ie: shoot in portrait mode)?
Once you’ve figured out of the elements of the project, you can start thinking through the technical aspects. Maybe you don’t have a 4K camera, or even a DSLR, but you do have a powerful camera in your pocket.
With the right attention to detail, your iPhone or Android can be an impressive camera for your visual projects. So pay attention to those details; find the right lighting, whether it’s the sun, lamps at home, work lights, or a combination of multiple light sources. Tinker with it until it’s just right. If it’s too bright and exposed, you’ll lose detail in the highlights, and if it’s too dark and underexposed, your phone’s camera will overcompensate by digitally lightening the image, adding grain.
A recent trend online called “The Setup / The Shot” is a great example of how creators have been able to use this approach to create high quality images.
Strategy #3: Once You’ve Got The Shot, Don’t Be Afraid To Experiment
When it comes to post production, you’ve got a few options.
You can choose to keep it simple. Add a preset filter or use some simple effects like contrast and color adjustments in your editing software and let the focus be on the work itself, no need to add extra frills.
If keeping it simple is a little too… simple, you can always experiment. Don’t let what you don’t know slow you down. Throw random effects on your creation, adjust settings and see what happens. Press buttons and play around with them until you’ve got something unique. Troye Sivan put a similar approach to use around his latest releases. In a popular TikTok video, he walks fans through his process of experimenting and creating promotional content for his new album.
Bonus: Experimenting is a great way to really dive into your software and understand all the little, more detailed, bits that you might not have had the chance to learn yet.
Maybe all of this is just way over your head though. If you don’t see yourself being able to edit your project yourself, it may make sense to outsource the work. There are plenty of resources online to get design and edits done for $5, but before you look into that, tap into your own network first. Support your local artists where you can. Maybe you can’t afford a full shoot, but you’ve taken the time to capture the best content you can, so hiring a creative in town to help you edit can still save you some money while also helping support others, especially during COVID when work in this field is harder to come by.
Coming up with your idea and being intentional is half the battle.
More than ever, social media users are engaging with content that is real and genuine. No longer do you need high budget, professionally-produced content to get peoples’ attention, especially as a musician. A piece of content that offers something genuine is going to stand out among a sea of shiny promotional clips on most platforms.
The standards for technical quality aren’t as high as they used to be, but the standards for the meaning and emotion behind the content is higher than ever. Make sure you’re being intentional with what you create.