Whatever your genre or style, visuals are always great assets to musicians. Everything, from music videos, live shows to musicians’ fashion and social media presence, can be considered a visual asset. Collectively, these visual tools create an image and brand with which existing and potential fans can identify.
Great visuals made early rock and roll a big hit with young folks in the 1950s. Later, they helped attract many people to the sonic and intellectual liberation of punk rock and its aftermath. And if you look at hip hop, from its roots with 1980s fashion and graffiti to its more recent use of social media marketing and music videos, it’s undeniable how powerful and effective visuals can be at communicating to fans.
Music artists with big record deals have a lot of resources at their disposal for visuals. However, the vast majority of musicians these days can and do create their own visual image. And it’s not just a matter of necessity—many musicians enjoy choosing how they want to visually present their music and image.
One way of creating visuals on various platforms is by using stock footage, and there are a few different ways musicians can use it for their visuals, which we will discuss below.
Going back to the 1960s, when music videos were fairly primitive, the medium was a way of giving a song some visual accompaniment. While they were obviously marketing and publicity tools, music videos were also a type of artistic expression for musicians. Look at The Beatles’ short promotional film for “Strawberry Fields Forever”—it captures the band’s trippy, experimental mentality in 1967.
While technology has made it possible for anyone with a DSLR or smartphone camera to make music videos, it’s still a time-consuming and complicated undertaking. Remember, a music video acts as a musician’s calling card, so it has to look right. If you choose to hire professionals to shoot it, the costs start to mount up.
Stock footage comes in handy as a tool that eliminates the need for shooting days if you’re looking to make an entire video or helps you get b-roll that complements your own video work.
For instance, if a musician wanted only aerial shots of a desert for their next music video, they wouldn’t need to physically go to a desert and start filming. All they need to do is go to a stock site like Artgrid and type ‘desert’ in the search box and get plenty of videos of deserts from around the world in various styles, like close-ups or extreme wide shots. If an artist wanted stock footage of a city like New York City, Paris, or Shanghai, they could also find it on such platforms.
For inspiration, you can look at this video by Italian pop singer Napo (Luca Napolitano), who mashed news footage of current events with Artgrid stock clips and created a powerful video relevant to what’s happening in the world today.
Artgrid’s catalog is organized by stories, which consist of several videos from the same production. It gives you various clips with the same actor that you can use to create a more emotionally captivating video. A perfect example is this beautiful music video for ‘Break the Lock’ by Jake Schlegel (available for licensing on Artlist), which finished in 3rd place in our Edit Challenge:
Alternatively, musicians could use stock footage and apply visual effects to them or their music videos. Using Adobe After Effects or similar software, the musicians themselves or their hired director or visual effects artist could create all sorts of uniquely abstract looks using stock footage.
Background Visuals for Live Shows
Building off the previous section’s last idea, stock footage can create dynamic background visuals for the live show of a musician or a band. Again, the musician/band or their VJ could use a folder of stock footage to either play visuals on a high-definition screen in sequence or randomly in real-time.
If a musician wanted to pair a song with a choreographed dance (check out our tips for making a dance video), they could search a stock footage platform for ‘dancer.’ With some clever editing, including cutting from one shot to another and slowing down or speeding up the clips, the stock footage could look like it was shot specifically for the live visuals.
Similarly, if you wanted aerial shots, several such clips exist on stock footage platforms. Or maybe you like shots that include nature, time-lapsed events, and objects seen in extreme close-up through a macro lens. Whatever the goal, there will be plenty of options with stock footage and only the need for editing the footage without the hassle and expense of shooting original footage.
Video Album Visuals
The last decade saw the rise of the visual album. Major label artists like Beyoncé (“Lemonade”), Kanye (“Runaway”), and Frank Ocean (“Endless”) as well as independent musicians such as Animal Collective (“ODDSAC”) each used the format in unique ways to enhance their visual aesthetic and brand. The format actually goes back to films like Pink Floyd’s The Wall and The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night.
As noted before, these projects demanded big budgets and resources, which many bedroom producers and independent label artists just don’t have. For those who want to create entire video albums out of stock footage alone, that shouldn’t be a problem. Or, if you want to supplement your footage with some complimentary video album clips, stock footage would be instrumental.
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Social Media Marketing
Obviously, a big part of music marketing and publicity these days is the social media presence or campaign. Since so many people are on social media, video clips on platforms like Instagram and Snapchat should be pretty familiar to musicians.
Much like with music videos and live visuals, it’s helpful for musicians and bands to think of social media marketing is another medium for showcasing their visual image. Stock footage could be used for short music clips that give existing and potentially new fans a taste of their sound and visuals.
Very often, when musicians release a new album, they will have visuals that are uniform across a variety of media. We’ve already discussed how musicians do with music videos, live background visuals, video albums, and social media marketing. Yet another medium open to musicians to express their visual identity is on their website. The website will more than likely resemble album imagery seen in music videos, live visuals, and album sleeves.
Once again, stock footage could be used to display visual loops that reload on the musician’s website.
If you’re a musician or band, by now, you should realize that there are plenty of formats and media available to you for creating a visual image or aesthetic. You can take advantage of all of them or selectively choose which ones you would like to use.
And remember, the Artgrid license allows you to not only download as many clips as you want but also use the footage on any platform. No restrictions. So stay creative!
DJ Pangburn is a New York-based journalist, videographer, and fiction writer, with bylines at Vice, Fast Company, Dazed and Confused, and other publications. DJ records ambient techno and IDM under the name Holoscene.