Musicians: How to use Video (The road to 1,000,000 Views)

December 19, 2017, 11:58 AM · Video is essential for any musician in 2018. In this article (and video and podcast below) I'll share how making videos will benefit your musical growth, how and why your career is likely to suffer if you don’t have videos, and what has worked for me on my road to 1,000,000 views on my YouTube channel.

Variations are available here in article form, podcast form, and video.

Watch the video here:

Listen to the podcast version here:

Making videos is important for your improvement as an artist.
The best and easiest way to improve your work as a musician or teacher is to record yourself and listen back.

The reason for this is that we are generally limited in observing our performance while we are performing.  Listening or watching back allows us to tune into mistakes and fix them in future performances. 

Many people are uncomfortable with watching themselves on camera or listening to recordings of their playing, but by refusing to observe yourself, you are missing the opportunity to notice things you could easily change and improve.

Here’s an example: In college I gave a junior recital after months of practicing. I was prepared and I thought I had nailed everything. Afterwards my teacher gave me a cassette tape and suggested I check it out. It turns out I played the entire recital about a quarter tone flat! It was only from listening back to a tape that I could notice and then easily fix this issue for future performances.

Your business will suffer in 2018 if you don’t have video.
Many people will not hire you if they can’t learn more about the thing you do, or who you are, via video.

Whether someone is looking to “get a vibe” about how you come across personally, or they’re looking for a specific skill or service you offer, most people want to see you on video, even after they’ve been referred to you by someone they trust.

Here are a few examples of how I’ve seen people miss out on opportunities because they lacked video:

I was on tour and needed to hire a drummer. A drummer was referred to me, so I looked them up on YouTube. Even though I was given a referral, I ultimately passed them over because I couldn’t find videos representing the specific skill set I was looking for.

Recently I referred an international student to the directors of three jazz departments in the U.S. The student got back to me saying they would pursue TWO of the directors, and not the third, because the third contact had no YouTube videos.

When I moved to a new town and was looking for a violin teacher for my son, video search helped me and my wife to evaluate prospects based on videos presenting their philosophies, personalities, and teaching style.

If people cannot find videos of you on YouTube or elsewhere, they will often pass you over — even if they’ve been referred.

Besides this, you’ll miss out on being discovered in a Google search by someone who types in "piano teacher in Chicago”...

What you need to showcase on video and why:

1. Show who you are so they can know, like, and trust you.

Most people will hire a less talented teacher, performer, composer, or producer whom they know, like and trust.

Most clients don’t know the difference between the skill of you vs your competitors any more than you can distinguish the difference in skill of web designers, landscapers, or rocket scientists. Think about it: You hire the plumber who is responsive, trustworthy, and easy to work with - (not the “best” plumber). The same is true for your clients.

Videos you can shoot that show your human side and inspire trust in prospective clients:

2. Demonstrate specific skills and/or services.

Show your skills in as many sub-categories as apply.
Describe the benefits to your customers of services you provide

Video Prompts for Performers:

Pro Tip: Make a list of all the styles or skills you have as a performer and make a video showcasing each one.

Video Prompts for Teachers:

Pro Tip: Make a list of all the things you say more than once to your students and then teach all of these things one by one. 

Make sure to demonstrate your skillset or services in as many sub-categories as apply. You can also compile playlists of related content for easier access to your viewers, and to increase the chances that your viewers will watch more content that is relevant and useful to them.

There are a number of other things you can feature in your video content, including:

3. “Behind the Scenes” documentation of any tour, project, initiative, etc.

4. Interviews (of yourself and/or of other people you collaborate with)

5. Testimonials from students, colleagues or clients

Get Started on Video — A Friendly Invitation and Challenge

Make a list, based on the examples I gave above, of 5-10 videos you could make right now.

To make it easier for you, I’ve created a worksheet and checklist for you. Download it here and simply fill in the blanks. Find a decent setting with some lighting, prop up your phone somewhere, and shoot a video.

You probably won’t like the first one, so after watching it, make some notes to yourself and shoot it again.

After you shoot your first video or two, it will get easier and you’ll improve quickly. You’ll learn a ton about yourself and your work in the process. You can share your first video with a couple people you trust and ask their opinion before sharing publicly.

Worried about Video Production?

Production values are not as important as the substance of your content; You can work up to better production values over time. 

A video is a chance for someone to get to know you. They will forgive the production values if you show a good performance, a human moment, or anything that is authentic.

This video was shot in one take with my phone in the woods, and several Music Biz consulting clients reached out to me after seeing it:

There are lots of great tutorials about production, but I’m just going to give you what has worked for me in my road to one million views through over 200 videos on my channel. 

DIY Approach - Stand against either a neutral or interesting/attractive backdrop in a quiet room, ensure the light is facing towards you, dress appropriately, and record from your Phone.

Production Upgrades (In order of importance):

Batch Creation: It always makes sense to shoot IN BULK, especially if and when you hire someone to help with your shoot. Shoot tons of videos in one day and then deal with edits later and roll them out over time. The same applies with Batch Editing.

To DIY or Delegate?

I look at the process in three components, i.e., shooting, editing and sharing videos.

Each of these stages can be done DIY or by delegating and there’s no one right or wrong way.

There are lots of young people looking for experience who will work for less for the chance to get experience and build a relationship. Or you may choose to learn video editing and there are plenty of apps for an affordable price on your phone or laptop.

What’s worked for me on my road to 1,000,000 views:

Disclaimer: Currently I have yet to reach one million views on my own channel (although I’ve exceeded this amount when you consider other channels and other platforms). Part of why I’m making this article and video is to reach it! 

Making more videos and sharing them more or less guarantees at this point that I'll hit 1,000,000 views. More importantly, it shows prospective clients, students, fans what I can do and who I am, so they can make an informed decision about whether to work with me.

My strategy has been to publish LOTS of videos. Different types, different reasons, different settings; some in the moment, some planned and produced. Some of my videos have gotten over 80,000 views, and others have gotten less than 200.

When I first began releasing videos they were awful in terms of production values, but the content resonated with enough people that I attracted and nurtured relationships with clients, students, and fans.

Here are some of the types of videos I’ve used on my channel:

I’m always surprised by which videos other people like, so I’ve stopped second guessing myself and just put stuff out there.

The goal is not to become a viral superstar, but rather to be able to showcase different services to whomever wants to know. From reading this post, you now have a better sense of who I am and are more likely to want to learn about my Music Business Consulting services. You might want to sign up for my Music Biz free E-course or join my Mastermind Group.

The point for me is not whether one million people are reading this, but rather just that YOU are, and that this gives me a chance to provide value to you up front and develop more of a basis of trust. This is worth doubling down on, because chances are, part of the reason you don’t make videos currently is because you’re worried about how embarrassed you’ll feel when your YouTube channel shows a view count of FOUR people who watch your video.

It’s not about about how many people watch your videos. It’s about having the ability to show the right people, when the time is right, what they need to know about you. (Plus there are ways to hide those view counts.)

What do you think? Has this been helpful to you? Please let me know in the comments below either way.

I created a checklist and worksheet to make it easier for you to move forward with your own videos, so you can improve at what you do and attract more opportunities to serve your audience.

Download my free Video Starter Checklist


This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music: Check out our selection of Celtic music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Philharmonic
Los Angeles Philharmonic

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Thomastik-Infeld's Dynamo Strings
Thomastik-Infeld's Dynamo Strings

National Symphony Orchestra
National Symphony Orchestra

Violins of Hope
Violins of Hope Summer Music Programs Directory
Find a Summer Music Program Shopping Guide Shopping Guide

ARIA International Summer Academy

Borromeo Music Festival

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop


Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine