Ideas for Music Videos

When you are designing a music video of your own, your use of production elements such as camera, lighting and editing will be very similar to how you would use them in any other media form.

The major question for you to consider is what kind of music video you are planning on creating. Regardless of the kind of video you are wanting to construct, it is important for you to ensure that the tone and genre of the song itself suits the tone and style of the video that you design.

If we were to put music videos into three incredibly broad categories, they would be Performance Videos, Narrative Videos, and Concept Videos. Many videos cross between these three categories of course, but in order to help you generate ideas, it can be useful to think of these three kinds of video to help inspire some ideas within you.

Performance Videos

Many music videos are based around the band performing their song. This might be at a live gig (see Arcade Fire’s ‘Ready to Start’), or in an unusual venue (see The White Stripes’ iconic ‘Hardest Button to Button‘), but wherever it it set, the artist becomes a central feature of the video.

Like all good music videos, it is imperative that the tone of a video matches the tone of the song itself. Take a look at two of the most famous performance music videos as examples. Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ is performed in front of a stylised crowd of riotous teens at a gig, while Gotye and Kimbra’s ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’ uses colour and the expression of the singers to effect in what is the most viewed Australian music video of all time.

Narrative Videos

The New Zealand Ministry of Education define a narrative video as portraying “a story either that features in the lyrics or is suggested in the lyrics” of the song. These videos are not always precisely literal representations of the lyrics, but often use some symbolism to express the story or theme that is told by the song. Some examples of these are fairly self-explanatory, such as Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ and Radiohead’s ‘Lift’.

Many narrative videos still have moments in them where the audience are shown the artist performing the song as well.

Again, a good narrative video utilises symbolism and visuals in a way to suit the tone of the song. Below are three more famous examples. Pearl Jam’s ‘Jeremy’, about a depressed high schooler who shot himself in front of his class; Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick in the Wall’, a song protesting against the education system.

Conceptual videos

Music videos can follow a purely conceptual narrative rather than being explicitly connected to the song’s lyrics or theme. There are no limits to the creativity that artists can explore here – they can create a clear narrative, but often they also design something far more surreal, as Katy Perry did in ‘Chained to the Rhythm’. Music videos can also parody of a genre or style, as Miike Snow did for ‘Genghis Khan’.

Two more interesting examples are below. Radiohead’s ‘Man of War’ is a video about paranoia, while The Smith Street Band’s ‘Birthdays’ is a song about a guy who’s fallen for a girl he’s only just met, while the music video is about growing up.


Some other common styles

A few other styles and tropes are used in music videos, many of which are covered by tvtropes in their Music Video section and their Other Common Music Video Concepts page. A few of these are worth mentioning, as they are often styles that students like exploring.

These include…

The use of stop-motion animation:

The use of a monochrome backdrop:

Videos in which the action in the narrative is presented in reverse:

And “Lyric Videos”:

Importantly, while many students feel it is a potential way to go, it is very rare that a music video would actually create a visual representation of precisely what the lyrics to a song are saying. Perhaps the most famous Australian example of a video of this kind is Vance Joy’s ‘Riptide’, which stands out because of the way it uses this style:

To watch other music videos, check out the music video page on Opening Class, which is designed to give students inspiration for their own music videos. Some of the videos there are professional music videos, while others are some of the best student music videos from Victorian Year 12 students. Alternatively, you could also look at the videos that have won the MTV Video of the Year award or NME’s list of the 100 Greatest Music Videos.