I’ve fielded a number of questions recently on how to make an effective musician’s promo video. I’m not talking about simple clips of performances on your website, which are of course good to have, but I’m talking about a video with excerpts of several works highlighting the range of repertoire you offer and that also conveys who you are as a person—your mission and your WHY.
This can make a great feature on the landing page of your site, where viewers will want to hear and see you in action. Ultimately, it’s about making a personal connection with viewers—beyond the performance clips. So you might include excerpts of you speaking directly to camera or using voiceover to help viewers get a sense of the real you or your ensemble.
Here’s my mini analyses of three promo videos—why I found them effective. But I’m also very interested in what you think, too—so let me know!
On the website of the LA-based ensemble wild Up there’s an effective short video alongside their written one paragraph bio (at the bottom of the landing page). In the video are performance clips interspersed with the group’s founder Chris Rountree describing the group and its mission. He’s casual, direct, enthusiastic.
The video cuts back and forth between short segments of Chris’ description and clips of the whole group as well as close ups of players and surrounding audience members. The energy is palpable.
Notice how Chris describes the group. He says, “wild Up is a lot of things . . .
First, it’s a modern music collective. . .
wild Up is a bunch of people who like to make music together. . .
We want to pull people in. We want to grab people and go like, ‘We have this art—look at it!’. . .
And our second goal, and we really don’t talk about it much because it’s kind of strange to talk about it as a young musician, but that is . . .
we want to give an experience that is unbelievably joyous.”
That second goal, because it’s not what they usually talk about, makes me feel like I’m being let in on the “inner workings” of the group—like I’m being let in behind the velvet rope. Nice.
For me, the great thing here is the performance clips clearly demonstrate the group’s mission. And Chris’ description energizes the mission. Instead of the usual stiff-sounding statements, this seems real and human. Both the performances and the description come across as authentic—and excellent. See what you think:
My next example comes from the Catalyst string quartet. This promo video has no talking but instead effectively uses text titles on screen. Their promo video, “We are the Catalyst Quartet” opens with a segment out of the fiery first movement of Smetana’s quartet No. 1 “From My Life.” Specifically, it’s a portion of the viola solo—a hair-raising passage that Paul Laraia plays terrifically.
When the quartet gets to the much calmer second theme, the audio continues but for the visuals they use a still shot of the group as background and overlay their written mission statement:
We believe that music has the power to connect all people. In designing our programs, we investigate the human experience, culture and history through musical expression. We defy genre and break down the walls of tradition, redefining and reimagining classical music . . . We are the Catalyst.
This does a great job of telling the group’s “why” but also it explains their name, and because it’s paired with the emotions of the Smetana, it’s especially convincing.
Then the video transitions to a wonderful clip of the group playing a segment of their own arrangement of the Bach Goldberg variations. This makes an excellent contrast to the Smetana and highlights the quartet’s compelling stylistic range and hints at their creative programming.
The rest of the video has a brief statement about the group’s commitment to community engagement and education. And then another contrasting clip of a new work by composer Marcus Goddard, Allaqui. It too is played with conviction and superimposed are sound bites from the group’s excellent reviews.
The video, in just a few minutes, gives viewers a full sense of the ensemble and its many strengths. It makes it easy for a concert presenter to consider booking them.
In a blog post by Edna Landau on the topic of creating Appealing Promotional Videos, Wendy Law, the founder of the group Classical Jam, says, “The most important tip in creating a video is to find a clear and concise narrative. We want the viewers to come away knowing a little more about who we are and WHY we do what we do.”
To introduce their educational offerings, Classical Jam uses a short video with voiceover. Various members of the ensemble speak over a lively sound track of their music. The visuals include shots of the group performing in a wide range of settings and highlight their direct audience engagement and participatory programs. I find it especially effective that they include details of their philosophy and approach to audience participation. Bravo.
Video & Audition Demo Tip Basics
Voice teacher Claudia Friedlander offers an excellent series of articles for Carnegie Hall’s Musical Exchange titled The Singer’s Audition Handbook. In it, she offers basic tips for making demo videos—that apply to all musicians:
- Choose repertoire that you can perform well in a single take (as you’ll have to).
- Choose repertoire that you can execute over and over again start-to-finish without getting too fatigued (again, you’ll have to).
- Position the camera horizontally.
- Keep the environment simple and well-lit.
- Use a tripod, and frame yourself carefully. Viewers should see your whole body and your pianist in the frame. Keep the camera close enough to record facial expression well.
- If you edit your video to include a text introduction, keep it as brief as possible.
In terms of using videos of live performances, Friedlander recommends:
- Use performances recorded on a mounted camera. Hand-held video recordings leave viewers feeling seasick.
- Use performances of repertoire that shows off ‘your superpowers’—your best.
- Make sure that you have permissions to use the recording—not just the license from the composer’s publisher, but permission from the person who shot the video, the performance venue or producing organization, and the other performers involved. Make sure they are all okay with your sharing it for audition purposes and posting it online. You can get this in writing via email—just keep a record of it in case there are any questions.
Finally, the cost for creating a video of course depends on whether or not you need to rent a hall, the rate of your videographer, and the time spent in the shoot and in the editing. Look for examples of videographers’ work you admire, and ask colleagues and friends. And there may be a school’s film department in your region wit students looking to build their portfolio. You also may have clips and photos ready to use, and simply need editing time and help thinking through your messaging.
Having an engaging, lively video intro—one for your performances and/or one for your teaching work—can make a terrifically positive introduction for viewers and potential employers who come to your site.
As always, I look forward to your feedback and comments—and if you have a great promo video to recommend—please send it to me: Angela@BeyondTalentConsulting.com
Have a great week,
And if you’d like to work on a custom-tailored plan to improve your career trajectory, let’s set up a time to talk – reach me at Angela@BeyondTalentConsulting.com
Dream Big, Plan Smart, Live Well