What You Need For a Fan-Made Music Video – We All Make Music

What You Need For a Fan-Made Music Video

Yesterday afternoon, the venerable dance label !K7 announced a fan-made music video contest to promote the latest installment in their celebrated DJ Kicks! mix series.

The label wants fans to create a music video for “Lonely C” by Wolf + Lamb, one of the DJ duos at the helm of this mix CD, and it got us thinking: do you really want fans making your music video? And if so, what do you need to make a good one?

Though it might seem hot this month – see last week’s launch of Danielson’s “People’s Picture Partay [sic]” – the concept of the fan made music video is nothing new. Two years ago, Metro Station asked fans to create videos for their hit, “Shake It,” and they got 200 submissions. That kind of participation’s impressive enough, but what’s amazing is how well so many of them did: 25 of them, or 12.5% of the total, racked up over 100,000 views each. Five got over a million each.

So what do you need to help make your fan made music videos a success? In no particular order…

In some ways, Metro Station’s success was to be expected: the band’s strong tween following is well aware of what makes a successful YouTube video, and spends a lot of time consuming video on it. But it was “Shake It”‘s use in an iPod ad that put things over the top. The allure of attaching oneself to a beloved song seems to be powerful: almost every one of the top-viewed fan videos on YouTube was made for a well-known hit.

If you’re going to try this, use the best-known song in your catalog. Or, if you’re about to cover a well-made hit, ask them to make a video for that instead.

No Experience Necessary
Even in an era of unprecedented access to video editing software and increasingly powerful consumer cameras, low (or even non-existent) production values remain endearing. YouTube user SenoritaDiabla‘s video for Evanescence’s “Tourniquet” looks like it was shot with a crappy little camcorder in somebody’s house, but that didn’t stop it from racking up over 1.7 million views. If anything, its creator’s stubborn insistence on shooting a major label storyboard and structure with shoestring equipment and expertise was probably the key to its success.

Or look at Jon Salmon’s video for the MGMT song, “Kids.” The imported clips don’t sync with the song’s audio, the lighting is terrible, and the idea behind it (if there is one) is almost impossible to discern. Yet Salmon’s fan made music video has 29 million more views than Ray Tintori’s official one.

Piracy Encouraged
If you’re going to give your fans an opportunity to make something, don’t place any limitations on them! If they want to make a video for you out of Golden Girls episodes, or Will Ferrell characters, or anime movies, don’t you dare start telling them about copyrights! Let them make what they make, and then decide what to do with it after they’ve all come in. No one said this was going to wind up on MTV or become this huge money-maker for you. Let it grow organically, even if that means a little bit of fair use.

Obviously, the best case scenario involves some fan with celebrity connections getting inspired and tricking his famous friends into participating. But even if you don’t have that kind of luck (or that kind of fan base), you can make your fans’ videos a success, both for them and for you.