Welcome budding creative! So you’ve either started to film your own sessions to help your music spread further or you want to get involved with an external group who can do this for you (that’s something we can help with). In this article we’ll discuss some of the finer, non-technical details of how to deal with either setting up the administration side of things on your end as a video producer or what you should be looking out for as a musician when setting up to record a live video with someone else. We'll also be covering the all-important issues revolving around money, because let’s face it, it’s a serious element of the filming process and there is not definitive blueprint on how to handle a live session as a business transaction. Let's get straight into it.
The first thing we do when setting up a shoot is sending over a type of contract. All of the conditions of the shoot are laid out here. These cover the date, the time, the location, the distribution methods as well as what we’re allowed to do with the video and what the artist and their team are allowed to do with the video. We try to be as thorough as possible and so on our contracts we also mention our rates as well as what should happen if an artist cancels. The contract is a great way to cover your back!
Streamline What You Do.
We learnt the uncomfortable way early on - when working on live recording with artists for free or for a small amount we’d find a pattern, a pattern of inconsistencies coming from the various artists. You’d be surprised how many times we were cancelled on, or artists would stroll in 30 minutes late when we’d only have a studio booked for a specific time slot, or how artists would turn up with a full band when that’s not really something we do on the sessions. Having a contract in place meant that we could preempt all of these problems and we’d be well within our rights to continue as planned. It can be very tricky trawling through email threads trying to find some information stating “by the way the shoot is only 60 minutes long” so putting the key information in one place and in no uncertain terms means there’s less room for error. You can literally list the terms and conditions if you like.
It shows the artists and musicians you’re working with that you’re serious about this process and if there are any wrong-doings on their end you won’t be held financially responsible.
Everyone In The Room Should Be On The Same Page.
The contracts are there to make the shoot run smoother, the contracts set expectation so you know that the artist is on the same page as you and that you won’t have to deal with any wild cards, for example a song that doesn’t match your brand, or a band with 15 people (if you’re looking to do something small and stripped), or a number of other possibilities. By having a solid contract or agreement in place you’re eliminating liabilities for the day, meaning you and your team can run more efficiently. Or if you're the artist, going over a contract or the terms & conditions means you know your rights when it comes to filming.
We are sometimes asked “do you pay me to perform on your channel?”. The answer to this is a resounding “no”. As with the contracts above, there is no ‘right way’ of doing things when it comes to payments but we have our own method which revolves around a service.
Do I Charge My Clients?
You might choose not to charge for your work or you might ask for only your expenses are covered. Either way, it’s best to be clear and put everything in your agreement/contract when making the booking. For Reload Sessions, we cover all the fees needed to put the session together; transport, studio space, equipment hire and so on however we then charge the client a single fee which reflects the costs plus the work. We find this to be the best approach because that way there are no hidden fees for the artist, it’s just one payment and that is all, rather than giving various fees for different things, work, space, transport etc. So why do the artists pay to feature on Reload Sessions? As with any profession we believe that you have to invest in yourself before you can realistically expect to start reaping the rewards and the sessions are a platform that we know can propel artists to a new stage in their career.
Are You Providing A Genuine Service?
We produce high-quality live-take stripped sessions showcasing an artist’s musical talents. These videos are ideal for helping an artist book a gig, find an agent, team up with management or build their online audience. You really can’t underestimate the value of a good product and if you can afford it it’s best to not cut corners on the production as this really reflects in the final product. Imagine approaching a venue to play a gig in their space - how will they react to a well-produced live-take video of your performance versus, handheld, shaky, footage from a gig you played a couple of years ago - with audio that doesn’t show you off in the best light? It’s a no brainer to book the artist showcasing the better product. It shows potential business associates that you’re serious about what you do and it’s a visual and audible representation of what you can do if given a chance. You really can’t compare the two options in terms of a return on your investment. Hands down, you will garner more interest with a video with higher production values, one which ultimately has a higher fee attached to it.
While the fee is still there, it’s still a modest one for the amount of work involved, which covers pre-shoot administration, filming, audio recording, mixing, editing and post-shoot administration too. In fact, the shoot is only a very small part of the process and you need to factor this in when pricing your work. Are you providing a genuine service? If so, make the artist understand that from the start.
Your payment methods or model might be very different to this - and that’s totally okay! For Reload, artists are effectively hiring a production team to put together a video or two to be featured on a digital space with other similar, like-minded musicians. Some brands do things differently and might not charge, maybe they receive funding from elsewhere or have a different business model, which leads us on to our next point - online monetisation.
We’ve written about monetisation before, here’s why it’s not the be all and end all of earning money on the internet. It might work out great for vloggers getting millions of views but for a channel getting 10,000 views on covers, that won’t be nearly the same amount of money as one might expect.
YouTube Money From Covers Isn’t Great...
Firstly the videos will be up for revenue share, meaning the original artist - for example, Ed Sheeran, will be earning money from your video as well if it’s one of his cover songs - or at least his publishers will. Secondly, the amount of money earned per view is not as much as you might think and it’s a fluctuating number too. Sometimes we have artists who expect the sessions to be produced for free on the basis that the monetisation will be huge for that video - and that might be the case if the video gets millions or hundreds of thousands of views!
Consider this, one of our videos recorded in 2013 has just under 1,000,000 views and to date it has made £480. This is a genuine rare case for Reload as there are all sorts of complications with what can be monetised and what can’t be monetised as a cover - more info on this can be found here via YouTube's music policy page. But if it takes 5 years to accumulate £480 on a video viewed 1,000,000 times then it’s certainly the long-game. If you’re thinking of using this approach, by all means go for it! But it could take a while to pay off as you’ll have to get your videos viewed hundreds of thousands of times to make any ‘decent’ return. On top of this, work conditions will be harder as some of the lesser known artists won’t bring in those kind of numbers just yet. There’s a lot to consider with monetisation but as a general rule we turned the monetisation off for all of our videos for the first two years. The goal was to attract an audience and we realised adverts would put the audience off for very little financial return as we were just starting out and the figures weren’t high enough to make anything more than a few pounds. If you're an artist looking to work with a production team, don't get too caught up on revenue from the video. You're most likely working with a team to either create the content or to distribute it - that should be your focus in this situation and not on a 50-50 split on £25 which is what it can often be!
Systems Will Save You Time & Trouble.
Each video we produce goes through a lengthy process of work from start to finish and as mentioned earlier, the filming is just a small part of this. Having multiple systems and principles in place means that we can work more efficiently making less room for error. The way we do things as outlined above might not work out for you - maybe you want to work with record labels and established artists, maybe you want to focus on generating revenue exclusively through online monetisation, maybe you want to start out small and do everything for free - all of those sound great and a totally doable with the right mindset!
Whatever you end up doing though, having a practise in place which allows you and your client to be on the same level in terms of understanding will greatly benefit your project and also reduce the chance of ‘mistakes’ and miscommunication between the two parties.
There is no right or wrong way to approach these things, after all this is your project, your business model. Be logical and concise with your business practises and the best solution for what you do will present itself. We hope this information helped and hopefully if you're a production team your workflow will be improved - if you're an artist you should know now what to look out for. Don't forget, these principles can be applied for any contractually-based creative project.