8 Do's and Don'ts Of Making Your First Video

So you’ve spent hours in the studio tracking your epic debut concept double album. Now what? If you’re thinking of making your first music video as the next step in your career, don’t get all flustered yet. You don’t have to be OK Go to make an awesome budget-friendly video but you do need some good ideas, a healthy amount of pre-planning, and some serious dedication. With that in mind, here are a few things to strive for and to avoid when shooting your first silver screen masterpiece.

Do: Stage a live performance

The live performance video is a classic for a reason. It’s simple, easy to set up, and doesn’t require your awkward bassist to pretend that he knows how to act. Perfect. Just remember to have adequate lighting “ even workman’s halogen lights will do “ and a tripod so that you can capture at least one full steady take of the band in addition to your cameraman’s love of zoom-in close-ups. Just remember to synchronize your playing with what’s actually happening in the song. You don’t want to look like this:


Anthems of Awesomeness

The Yearbooks

The Byrds, the Zombies, Fountains of Wayne, OK GO ¦ mop-topped power pop has a long history here in the U.S. and overseas. Its combination of hooks, guitars, swagger, and rhythm has proven to be an indelible attractor. So if you’re into power pop, it’s likely you’ll be into The Yearbooks. The Chicago-based band is made up of singer Sars Flannery, guitarists Eric Hehr and Bill Friel, bassist Drew Potenza, and drummer Adam James. Together, they crank out hooky rockers with karate chop guitar riffs and propulsive rhythms. Start your introduction with She Did It With Her Eyes. It’s angular, edgy, and jagged with airy vocals”part Strokes and part Death Cab For Cutie. Season of Love, with its staccato guitars, throbbing bass, and strutting drums, is the sound of being cool. Listen and learn.

OK Go: From Band To Brand

The big music moments of this year’s Super Bowl weren’t just limited to Madonna’s Roman Empire-inspired theatrics or M.I.A.’s middle finger gesture during the halftime show.  OK Go debuted their new music video for “Needing/Getting” right before the game. As we’ve come to expect from the band, the video was a wonderful little piece of musical engineering ingenuity.

The clip is probably the most technically impressive video effort from the band so far. MTV reported that the video used over 1,100 instruments”many found and reappropriated from junkyards”and that the cost for the production, over six figures, was the most expensive for one of their videos to date. But OK Go must be laughing all the way to the bank. After all, that’s not just any car that they’re driving. That’s the new Chevy Sonic that they’re rolling in, pounding on trash cans and whipping at electric guitars.

So this is it, then. OK Go has moved from being a band in the conventional sense to being a literal vehicle for marketing. And the transition happened so naturally that nobody even noticed. It doesn’t hurt that the days of bands being decried for selling out, for “going corporate”, are long gone.

OK Go had their popular beginnings like many bands that came up in the alternative rock sweepstakes of the early aughts. They had a minor hit when their single “Get Over It” earn them some radio play and some features on MTV and VH1. Then their backyard choreographed, no budget video for “A Million Ways” debuted on YouTube and became a viral smash. Instead of writing off “A Million Ways” as a happy accident, the band brought out the treadmills for “Here It Goes Again” and the rest is history.

No matter what you think about OK Go, they do their videos well. Also, according to lead singer and mastermind behind much of the band’s visual works, Damian Kulash, they’re not conceived of with a cynical, money-oriented agenda. After all, Chevy wasn’t the one that approached the band with the concept for the video. It was the other way around.

“”It was an idea I had about a year ago. Our co-director, Brian L. Perkins”he’s a old friend of mine, he was in my college band, and he’s directed some of our other videos”works for an agency that works with Chevy. I told him if you ever have a car company crazy enough to try something this awesome, then I have this idea,” Kulash said in a feature on MTV Buzzworthy. And surprise surprise, Chevy liked the idea too.

To his credit, Kulash stays hands on with all of his projects. The filming of the video seems like it was shooting the video was a big headache and Kulash was there for every step of it. Damian himself spent days before filming began tuning instruments in the desert. Car and Driver Magazine has an excellent feature on the “making of” process, sharing schematics for the tricked-out car to documenting the various technical issues that the crew encountered in the Mojave. But the band, and Damian, remained upbeat through the whole process. Then again, they were getting paid to do stunt driving in the desert in a musical rally-sport course. If you want to spend your day making stuff, somebody is going to have to help you pay for it, says Kulash. If only all of our day jobs were as cool.

The EditoriaList: Ten Best One-Shot Music Videos

The one-take video. Gimmick? Sure, it’s a bit of a gimmick, but we’re talking about music videos here, folks. These are essentially ads made to sell records, so let’s appreciate that the artists and directors here made the effort. And an effort it must be to coordinate some of these more complicated shoots. Oh, you know what I learned? That Rube Goldberg machine video from OK Go was not one-shot. Cheaters! They make the list anyway for their Internet-burning treadmill video. Cheeky bastards.

10. Undone “ Weezer

The video that launched Weezer. It was years before fans stopped asking drummer Pat Wilson to do his little butt-shake dance.


Exclusive Q&A: Corey Smith Blazes His Own Path

If any mention of “DIY” only brings to mind the unintelligible screaming of safety-pinned punks, it might surprise you to hear about the incredible independent success of a country artist like Corey Smith. On the strength of his devoted fan base and catchy tunes, Smith has sold over 900,000 digital singles and over 200,000 records independently. Though he released his most recent album The Broken Record on Average Joe’s Entertainment, Smith has stayed true to his independent roots, re-recording past crowd favorites such as “Twenty-One” with new studio polish. We recently caught up with Smith to chat about his grassroots success, his collaboration with producer Rick Beato and how a teaching gig isn’t that different from a music career.

OS: You’ve had an incredible amount of success without any type of record label backing.  How did you garner such a loyal grassroots following?

CS: I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this question over the past few years, and unfortunately I’m still a long ways from answering it.  There are many, many tremendously talented artists out there and, for whatever reason, only a few of them are able to break through and gain a substantial fan base.  If I knew the secret formula, I’d be able to make a fortune writing books, teaching classes or running my own record label.

There was a time when I thought I had the answers, when I thought I understood what was going on, but experience has proven me wrong time and time again.  Fans aren’t a product of just the songwriting or just heavy touring or just social media or just file sharing. They are a product of all those things and more.

All I know is I love writing songs.  I love recording them.  I love performing them.  I can’t imagine my life without music in it, without art in it.  Like breathing or eating or drinking, it’s become a part of who I am and ultimately, the joy I get from the process of creating is the only true measure of my success.

Am I happy I have a fan base? Truly.  Do I know how it came to happen?  Not really. But I thank God that it did.


Industrial Revolution: Video Now

In my last post, I suggested that television killed the radio star. That grisly investigation is still ongoing, but meanwhile we should take a look at the previous suspect and whether or not it has been marked for death by the passage of time: the music video.

When independent artists tell people they’re making a video, the most common response, even from other artists, is Why? No one is certain that videos are a bad idea, but many wonder whether spending the time, effort and money on such a venture is worth it.

So, is there a point to making a video? The ample opportunity offered by the Internet and the changing expectations of music fans have made the answer to this question an easy yes. The doubt expressed by some comes primarily from a pre-Internet, old music biz mindset: if there are no longer television outlets that will play your video to millions of people, then making one seems futile. The diversification of MTV into primarily non-video programming has filtered down even though its sub-channels (MTV2 and the like). Though they still play blocks of videos, that time is valuable and isn’t going to feature unsigned and unknown talent. The imminent return of 120 Minutes may change this to some small degree, but there is certainly not much hope now to get your video on TV if you’re an independent artist. Yet to declare defeat is to ignore all the video outlets on the Internet, from right here on OurStage to YouTube to Vimeo to an artist’s own Web site and Facebook page.

Savvy artists understand two primary benefits of having a video to disseminate across the Web.

  1. Music fans, particularly younger listeners, now have an expectation that a band or song will be easy to find and listen to online. While strictly audio outlets exist, the number one go-to site for free streaming is YouTube. Even artists that have not made a video will frequently post a few tracks with just a still photo or slideshow accompaniment, just to have a presence there. But an interesting video is the best way to keep the interest of today’s media-bombarded attention span.
  2. Touring has become less and less financially feasible for independent artists. In place of touring, videos are a legitimately useful representation of an artist for an interested music fan. Many fans actually prefer to check out a few songs by a band in the comfort of their bedroom, rather than see the band live. They might like it so much that they are compelled to seek the live show, but mostly, fans are satisfied with what is perceived as the best possible impression an artist has to offer: their videos. (The pros and cons of this state of affairs is another issue altogether.)

As the target vehicle for videos has changed from television to the Internet, so has the artist’s intent or goal for the video. The music video that finds the most success today is not just a creative meeting of music and imagery. Going viral is pretty much the holy grail of media exposure for everyone from a 12-year-old kid with his dad’s camera to an international mega-corporation trying to promote its new product. Music videos are no different. For many bands making videos, the desired response has shifted from Oh, that’s cool to I gotta post this on Facebook. There have always been creative videos being made, though by 1986, they had arguably exhausted their potential for innovation, from the excellent extremes of Peter Gabriel’s landmark claymation video for Sledgehammer to The Replacements’ defiantly minimalist Bastards of Young clip, which pretty much focuses on a speaker the whole time.

Cool videos continued to come and go, with declining public interest and consumption. Fewer and fewer were made, making the quality videos stand out even more, which kept the genre alive. When Internet technology and home computing technology got to the point where watching a video online wasn’t a frustrating mess, things started to pick up on the video front. Then in 2006, OK Go released the carefully choreographed DIY video for their single Here It Goes Again and it exploded, with over a million hits in a week, a 2006 YouTube Award and a 2007 GRAMMY Award. Not only was it fun to watch, but it looked reasonably low-budget, thus inspiring a new generation of indie bands. Their kind of viral success is still unlikely for most bands (Rebecca Black notwithstanding) but OK Go breathed new optimism into the making of music videos.

Videos started as promo clips and that is what their primary function has always been. To perseverate on one medium” television”is understandable, because that’s where music videos found the greatest success. But that ignores their promotional value in favor of the cultural. Music videos will always serve a unique and practical purpose apart from pop culture, and now is a great time to take advantage of their usefulness.

Discourse & Dischord

The Good

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame winners announced

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced its selection for 2011 inductees this week. Those who made the cut: Neil Diamond, Alice Cooper, Tom Waits, Dr. John and Darlene Love. Eligible nominees like Bon Jovi will have to live on a prayer for another year.

OK Go lead GPS parade around Los Angeles

For their latest video caper OK Go took to the streets with their fans, friend and total strangers for a parade along a 8.5-mile route in LA. But not just any route, a route that spelled out OK Go using the Range Rover’s Pulse of the City App. Check it out below.

The Bad

Remember when Miley Cyrus was busted smoking salvia out of bong?

Scandal erupted last week when a video emerged showing Miley Cyrus smoking the legal herb salvia out of a bong. Billy Ray Cyrus poured out his achy breaky heart on Twitter, and the blogosphere erupted in posts about Miley going bad. This week Miley was spotted partying on the town in New Orleans with Kelly Osbourne. See guys, nothing to worry about!

The Ugly

Fans outraged over documentary on Michael Jackson’s autopsy

A documentary called Michael Jackson’s Autopsy: What Really Killed Michael Jackson is scheduled to air next month in the United Kingdom on the Discovery Channel, enraging some of the King of Pop’s fans. Because the show’s medical examiners don’t have access to Jackson’s actual body, an anatomically correct synthetic cadaver will be used to demonstrate the autopsy instead. Fans cried foul, saying Jackson should be allowed a minimum of decency and respect. We cry foul for that reason, and cause face it, the thought of a naked Michael Jackson cadaver is kind of foul.


Discourse & Dischord

The Good

OK Go releases Last Leaf video

If you read this column with any regularity, you know that if OK Go releases a video, it’s likely to show up here. Today we present you with Last Leaf, wherein a few slices of toast provide the backdrop for a poignant, stop-motion vignette. We still can’t tell if the animation is etched onto the toast itself, or projected. Either way, it’s a bread-winner. Hope you like.

Best duets this week”Conan and Jack or Rihanna and Jon?

Does the joy on Jon Bon Jovi’s face when a culturally relevant (and minxy) pop star joins him onstage do it for you? Or is it seeing Conan O’Brien wield an axe and do his best rockabilly snarl? You don’t have to answer yet”watch the clips below and then decide who wins the week’s best duet.

The Bad

NKTOBSB co-headlining tour

Muffle your squeals, 30-year-olds! New Kids On The Block and The Backstreet Boys have joined forces FOR THE OLD-ENOUGH-TO-BE-YOUR-DAD TOUR*. Stop thinking about your mortgages and toddlers and rediscover the glory of A.J. McLean’s goatee!

*Not the real tour name, but it should be.

Keith Richards attacks Swedish journalist

Strangely enough, it seems a lifetime of soaking your liver in Jack Daniels doesn’t mellow you out. Keith Richards found this out when confronted with a reporter who had negatively reviewed a Rolling Stones concert in 2007, calling the band amateurs. Richards hoisted himself off his rocker* and demanded the reporter, Markus Larsson of the Swedish publication Aftonbladets, apologize. When that didn’t happen, Richards proceeded to give Larsson a couple wallops about the head, hissing, You’re lucky to get out of here alive. Don’t feel bad, Markus. At his age, Richards is lucky to get out of anywhere alive.**

*not really

The Ugly

Courtney Love shows The New York Times what class looks like

Courtney’s school of class involves getting tipsy before your interview with The New York Times, sending the reporter and photographer up to your room at the Mercer Hotel, then showing up an hour later drunk and completely naked. Read this indelible tale of elegance and refinement in its entirety here.


Discourse & Dischord

The Good

Ke$ha, Ciara, Jewel, Jake Shears and more tell bullied kids, It Gets Better

This week, several artists took to their webcams to record heartfelt messages for Dan Savage’s It Gets Better project”aimed at bringing hope to bullied gay and lesbian teenagers. Ke$ha, Ciara, Jason Derülo, AJ McLean, Joel Madden and Jake Shears are just a few of the musicians who’ve posted their own messages. You can check them out here.

Hollerado go 8-bit for Americanarama video

Watch your back, OK Go. Canadian rockers Hollerado have come out with their own ambitious video choreography, and it’s pretty bitchin’. Watch them create a larger-than-life 8-bit video game with a big box, some placards and a couple well-timed sound effects.

The Bad

Weezer offered $10 million to break up

How mean-spirited and pointless can people get? Head over to www.thepoint.com and see firsthand. That’s where Weezer-hater James Burns established his fundraising campaign to come up with $10 million to offer to the band in exchange for them hanging up their guitars for good. Beard writes:

Every year, Rivers Cuomo swears that he’s changed, and that their new album is the best thing that he’s done since Pinkerton, and what happens? Another pile of crap like Beverly Hills or I’m Your Daddy. This is an abusive relationship, and it needs to stop now.

Tired of Weezer, too? Throw some virtual money over to Beard. He’s already got nearly $300! Who’s your daddy now, Cuomo?

Saudi Arabia Photoshops Mariah Carey

What to do when you’re an ultra conservative country promoting a concert for a scantily clad pop singer? You Photoshop the poster, duh. In this case, Saudi Arabia officials covered Mariah Carey’s whorish shoulders with extra cat. Problem solved.

The Ugly

Lil’ Wayne gets solitary confinement

Lil wayne

Most inmates get solitary confinement when they try to shank somebody. Lil’ Wayne got his for having headphones and an MP3 player charger. We’re no criminals, but seems like that would make a really ineffective shiv.


Discourse & Dischord

The Good

OK Go get dogged in new video

If you’ve ever watched an OK Go video, you know choreography is key. Exhibits A, B, and C right here. This latest installment is no different, but adds man’s best friend to the mix with heart-warming results. If one of these furry little rapscallions doesn’t get a gig on Dancing With The Stars then there is no justice in this world. Oh, and 10 points if you can spot the goat.

And then, these guys jumped on the bandwagon …

Ever heard of a band called OK Go? Quirky, ambitious videos? Winsome electro-pop? Subject of blurb Number 1 in this column? Here’s video that lampoons their whimsical, electro-pop methodology … using a giant pie!

The Bad

Aretha Franklin’s son beaten at Detroit gas station

Eddie Franklin, 52, son of soul singer Aretha Franklin, ended up in the hospital on Monday night after three men jumped him and beat him severely in a Detroit gas station parking lot. Franklin underwent emergency oral surgery and was released on Wednesday. Charges have not yet been filed.

The-Dream and L.A. Reid fired from Def Jam

L.A. Reid and The-Dream

Word on the street is that producer L.A. Reid (responsible for cultivating the careers of Mariah Carey, Pink, Usher, Ciara and countless other stars) and R&B singer/producer The-Dream were just fired from Def Jam Records due to disappointing sales figures and exuberant spending. If true, this would be The-Dream’s second break-up of 2010. If he gets strapped for cash, maybe he can sell the pointless hyphen in his name.

The Ugly

50 Cent threatens his dog with a knife

50 Cent and Oprah

In an attempt to be funny, 50 cent posted pics to his Twitter page of him threatening his yorkie, Oprah Winfrey, with a knife. Totally lame, and kind of disturbing. Seriously, someone call animal rescue on this tool. In happier news, here’s a video of kittens massaging each other.