Breakdowns: How Much Does a Live Music Video Cost?

I’ve been studying Alex Chaloff’s music videos recently, as they’re incredible examples of live music captures. It’s a testament to his work that even though I’m taking notes on camera angles, lighting, and sound all the way through, I can’t help but get lost in the performances.

Part of breaking down these videos is figuring out how much it might cost to put together a production like this. That’s helpful for me as it puts my rates into context; it’s also helpful for my clients to understand what goes into creating a video at this level. Let’s start with a minimal shoot like this one:

There’s two parts to the cost of a production; rental costs and labor costs. Rental costs cover the equipment and the space, and labor covers the efforts of all the individuals involved. Whether you own the gear or you’re renting it directly, you’ll be charging about 5% of its value per day; let’s start there.

Video Equipment

Alex is shooting with a Blackmagic Ursa Mini, which retails for $6,000. Lenses on major productions can easily run into 6 figures, but let’s assume he’s using something on the lower end of cine lenses, like a Canon prime ($4,000). He’s using a gimbal, and I’d bet he’s using something in the range of a Ronin or a MōVI ($7,000), with which he’ll need a monitor to see what he’s shooting ($1,000). There are lights overhead, probably Kino Flos or similar ($3,000). Lastly, you can figure another $1,000-$2,000 for all the necessary accessories; batteries, media, stands, cables, and cases. Total: $23,000 (rental cost: $1,150).

Audio Equipment & Studio Rental

Chris is singing into an AEA KU4, which retails for $4,500. The piano’s being captured by two AEA R84’s, which retail for $1,000 each. Let’s keep it simple and assume this is all being provided by the studio; they’ll be spending at least 4 hours there, which would equal a half day rate, or $500-$750.

Labor

Camera ops make between $500-$1000/day, so let’s assume $500 as this was a shorter shoot. A colorist would likely charge around $500 to color correct & grade the footage, and an editor might only charge $250 as all they’re handling is titles. I’d guess $500 for the mix, as it’s a simple 3-track recording.
Total

I’m going to round down the rental cost to $1,000, which gives us a grand total of $3,500 for a single-camera shoot. Now, let’s break down a more complex video.


Video Equipment

Assuming Alex is using the Ursa Mini on this shoot too, this time I count five cameras; with lenses, that’s a total of $50,000. One of those is on a dolly, so add $5,000. There are overhead lights out of frame illuminating the band, and you can see a row of tungsten bulbs behind the artists; assuming they’re comparable to Arri 300’s, that would add about $2,000 to the lighting total, bringing it to $5,000-$7,000. With this number of cameras, I’d (very conservatively) add $10,000 to cover monitors, viewfinders, batteries, media, stands, and cables. Total: $75,000 (rental cost: $3,750).

Audio Equipment & Studio Rental

I see a KU4 & a 4099 on the sax, N22’s on overheads, guitar cab & snare, an N8 on piano & rack tom, an R84 on floor tom, and an R88 capturing the room. Again, let’s say it’s all being covered by the studio; 17 Hertz doesn’t advertise their rates, but I’d assume at least $1,000 for the day, which you’d need for a setup this complex.

Labor

With 5 camera ops, let’s assume $1,000 for the director and $500 each for the other four. With multiple angles to match, a colorist would likely charge around $1,000 to grade the footage, and I’d guess an editor would charge at least $1,500 to cut everything together. I’d say $1,000 for the mix, as that’s a full day in the studio and there are a lot of elements to manage in this recording.
Total

Adding up the rental and labor costs, we’re looking at around $11,000 for this multi-camera shoot.


Now, I’m not working at this level and I didn’t do the shoot myself, so I can’t guarantee that those numbers are accurate. But even if I’m off by 50%, those figures may be much higher than expected. There’s no way around that; shoots like this involve expensive equipment in expensive spaces with experienced people.

If you’re hoping to bankroll a shoot on your own, these figures could be discouraging. I see them as a great reason to seek outside funding; I’d look into attaining sponsorships from audio brands (such as AEA, in the case of both of these videos) or pursuing a deal with a record label that can finance productions like these in support of its artists. I also hope these numbers help put the value of video and audio work into perspective. The next time you’re working with an A/V professional, consider the cost of their gear and the value of their labor; with that in mind, they’re probably giving you a great deal.

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