Industry news & advice blog

5 common pitfalls to avoid when commissioning music videos, album/EP design & music photography

This blog is contributed by Radar Creatives, the biggest & best creative directory of filmmakers, designers & photographers for music marketers worldwide.


Music videos, design and photography are an incredibly important part in any artist or band’s promo campaign. Visually striking content is vital, and with music video production in particular being the most costly line item of the campaign budget - not to mention quite time-consuming, the music video experience can be disastrous if things go wrong. This article and our service aim to help you get the best music video, photography and design possible, every time - plus we’ll share a great discount for a contract...

Radar is an award-winning content commissioning service. We connect promising new creatives to labels, managers and artists worldwide. Radar is a free service for commissioners - we make our money through charging creatives a monthly subscription.

Having already helped thousands of commissioners, from major label commissioners to brand new up and coming artists, here we hope to help you focus on success and avoid common pitfalls.


1. Set a good budget and write a good brief

The music video, design or photography should be consistent with the artists’ look and feel; make sure to give guidelines about what
        you mean by your look and feel.

‘Open to all ideas’ isn’t as helpful as you might think. Give creatives parameters to work within, share your likes and dislikes with
         them. Give examples of other content you like and say why you like it.

The opposite - giving creatives a shot-by-shot description of what you’d like - is unlikely to be successful either. Creatives naturally
        will want the opportunity to express their own creativity.

A good brief will strike a balance between making it broadly clear what kind of content is going to make you happy, and giving the
        right creative enough room to contribute their own expertise and creativity.

Spend time preparing your budget - there’s no such thing as the ‘right’ budget.

If you’re using Radar, you have to state the budget up front, as part of the brief. As over-runs on budget are a common feature in
        music video production, we have a valuable feature to deal with that - fixed budgets. Commissioners have to agree they will pay the
        budget stated if they commission - and equally, creatives agree they will make the content they pitch, for the budget agreed.

Bigger budgets are likely to attract more of the better creatives.

You can indicate you’re willing to release more budget for the right ideas - this encourages creatives to pitch on spec for a bigger


2. Shortlisting pitches and creatives

Research and analysis are a critical part of shortlisting a great creative.

Is the pitch well written and presented, does it give you a clear realistic picture of what you can expect to see in the video, design or
        photography? Does the idea seem achievable within your budget?

Past work is the single best indicator of the quality and type of content you’re likely to get with this creative. What is their other work
        like? If they are a director can you see complete videos? Don’t rely on reels - it's easy to edit excerpts from average videos into a
        fantastic-looking reel. All pitches on Radar contain a link to the creative’s profile, where you can see the creatives’ work. 

References. Check the creative’s Radar profile for reviews (this is a new feature, so don’t be put off if creatives don’t have many/any
        yet) or contact the creative and ask for people you can speak to.

Social proof. Do all the website and social links in the creative’s Radar profile work? Are there any weird gaps in their story? eg they
        say they've made 6 music videos but you can only see 3.

Beware of creatives offering to work for less than the budget to get the work - it may encourage you to overlook other issues you
        might later decide are important after all.

How do you feel about working with these people? Ability - can they be clear about how they’ll create the content, or are they a bit
        defensive or obfuscating? Attitude - are they responsive and polite? Or a bit arrogant or smarmy? If the creative is active on social
        media, do they talk like someone you’d like to work with?


3. Storyboarding

Being able to see a preview is one of the two most useful tools you need as a commissioner, particularly for commissioning music
        video. It will give you a way to better understand what your prospective creative is planning and will give you some essential insight
        into how the finished content will look.

As you’re still shortlisting at this stage, it’s not fair to ask for too much detail from the creative - but you do need enough information to
        build a competent picture of what the content might be with this person. (nb, It is fair to ask for more detailed storyboards or shotlists
        as soon as you have commissioned a creative) 


4. Contracting

A contract is the other most important commissioning tool at your disposal. A good contract will take you through all of the below issues and more:



sign off/ approval on casting, not forgetting dancers - check dancers’ credentials.

delivery date.

rights ownership.

cashflow. We recommend 50% up front and the rest on delivery. Never pay 100% up front. Ask creatives during shortlisting how they
        are planning to cover the 50% costs which won't be paid until you get the finished content.

approval schedule (often tied into cashflow). Clarify what you can expect at each point, eg first cut, rough cut, fine cut, delivery (you
        don't need all these stages - discuss with your creative).

production insurance.

kill fees. These aren’t necessary, but you could agree to make a payment less that the total budget to finish the relationship if you’re
        not happy with the quality of the content by a certain point in the schedule.


5. Delivery and Production

The discussion and agreement you’ll have had when setting up your contract will act as a confident guide, taking you through the making and delivery of the content.

We cannot emphasize strongly enough how important it is to have a contract. If we ever hear about things going wrong with a commission, invariably it’s because they haven’t used a contract for whatever reason (“we got on really well at the beginning”, “it was such a low budget it didn’t seem worth it” etc). Just make your life easy and use a contract!

NB - if you’re in the UK, here’s a contract for £25 for music video, courtesy of Radar and via respected media production lawyers Wiggin. Login here and choose the Video Production Contract at the bottom. When you’re given the option to apply the discount code, use 1PY3WQYC for your special Radar discount.

Want to post a brief for your next video (or to find a designer or a photographer?) Radar's service is free, no fee, no %! Post your brief here or contact [email protected]



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