Music Video Producer  What They Do

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dotMusic video producers make music videos. Many in this career do all kinds of work, and music videos are just a small portion of that. Productions can include commercials, documentaries, training videos, short films and just about anything under the sun.

Music video producers are constantly under pressure trying to keep within budget, meet schedules and ensure the smooth operation of the whole production.

But what is being a music video producer all about? It's hiring the cast, directors and production staff. It's negotiating contracts with artistic personnel and coordinating the efforts of all involved.

dotGabriel Napora runs a video production company. He describes his main responsibilities as executive producer as, "acquiring work, hiring directors and crew, making sure the creative [aspect] of each job is in line with what I want it to be, and just really taking the company on its course."

dotThis can seem like a glamorous area in which to work, but aspiring producers should be under no illusions. The industry is struggling. If you're going to make music videos, chances are you'll earn most of your money by also making commercials.

"In the last four years, over 67 percent of the (music video production) companies in America have closed and over 90 percent of the companies in London have closed," says Amy E., executive director of the Music Video Producers Association. (Amy E. is the professional name she uses on her business card and in all of her business correspondence.)

"And the only ones that are still around are the ones that are making commercials," adds Amy E. "That's their bread and butter. Music videos are not the bread and butter for anyone at this point."

We all know that video killed the radio star. But what's killing video?

Some will point to the fact that MTV plays far fewer videos than in the past. But the bigger problem is that record companies are hurting financially.

"Music videos are advertising," explains Amy E. "Record labels have always paid for music videos, [but] the record labels have closed, most of them have crashed."

Napora agrees. "I think part of the thing now is, because the record labels aren't doing nearly as well as they should, a lot of that [funding] has dried up. So it's definitely not a growth industry right now," he says. "If anything, it's a shrinking industry.

"Also, the stations are playing fewer music videos, so I don't think it's a great area right now to get into," he adds. "Its heyday has passed for now. I think it will come back around, but not for a few years."

But why are record labels hurting? The answer is as close as your computer's hard drive.

"It's basically illegal downloading of music that kills music videos, because the record labels don't have a lot of money right now," says Amy E.

On the bright side, new ways to distribute music videos are being created on the Internet, with sites such as YouTube providing a worldwide audience for new talent.

A producer must have a working knowledge of new technologies that help make productions look better. And there's always money to worry about -- where will it come from, how much will it be, will it be enough?

"I don't know anyone that makes a video for less than $5,000 that ever gets attention," says Amy E. "There's definitely nothing on MTV that costs less than $30,000."

Even though producing is hard, it's easier to get into than directing. To become a producer, you can start out as an intern in an office and then work your way up and become an assistant producer. Just working in the production office can groom you to eventually become a producer.

"It's an easier route to get paid," says Amy E. "And you can get some set work by working in the office. Any time someone goes out to shoot, you can go with them, and then you move into the role of producer eventually."

dotIt's a different story for someone who wants to become a director.

"As a young person, before you're recognized, to practice directing you have to pay for your own videos, and that's very expensive," says Amy E. "For people who want to direct, there's no way to practice directing other than to practice directing."

dotDon't expect to start off making videos for your favorite bands right away. Most producers start off doing videos for independent bands, making small amounts of money until they build a name for themselves.

Music video producers are organizers. They've got to make sure people and equipment are in the right place at the right time.

You'd better like working with people. Producers are the ones who bring together all the creative and technical people involved with making a video. This means they can sometimes be dealing with difficult people and big egos.

Technology has made music videos cheaper and easier to make, says Prudence Fenton, a producer in Los Angeles. She made her first videos in the 1980s for artists such as Peter Gabriel.

"The landscape for music video production has changed significantly," says Fenton. "You can pretty much do anything on your computer and you can do everything at home -- if that is what your budget dictates.

"It's very easy to composite stuff, you have cameras that are more affordable, and you can probably shoot a whole video on your still camera if there was a certain look you were going for," says Fenton.

"You have so much more of a range and you're only limited by your imagination right now."

Get ready for unpredictable and often long work hours. When you have a project, getting it done takes priority over all other concerns.

"Our working hours are different all the time," says Napora. "When we're in production on something, working hours could be 12 or 13 hours a day. When we're not in production on something, it's probably eight hours a day or less."

At a Glance

Bringing music to life

  • The Internet could open doors for small production companies
  • Hours of work are long, pay varies
  • Talent and education go hand in hand