Becoming a Music Video Director: Job Description & Salary Information

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What are the pros and cons of a music video director career? Get real job descriptions, career outlook and salary info to see if becoming a music video director is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Music Video Director

A career as a music video director is creative and fast paced and may be an appealing employment choice for you if you are artistic and enjoy music. Consider the following pros and cons to determine if a career as a music video director is right for you.

Pros of a Music Video Director Career
A leadership position with creative control over projects*
The ability to interact with musical artists, producers and other artistic crew members*
The chance to turn ideas into visual realities*
The crafting of videos that can inform and entertain audiences*

Cons of a Music Video Director Career
Pressure to stick with production schedules*
Stress caused by regularly having to look for new projects*
May need a second job to fill in gaps when directing jobs are slow*
Hours are usually varied and irregular, and may often include holidays and weekends*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Producers and directors, including music video directors, are among the executives in this industry. Directors are in charge of making virtually all creative decisions, though producers hold a higher position than they do. Directors are responsible for selecting the music video's cast, giving direction and overseeing rehearsals to the music artists, cast members and crew. They also select music-based scripts and treatments and coordinate with set designers, costume designers and make-up artists.

Directors are typically a part of the post-production phase of a music video as well. They meet with editors to discuss the objectives of the project. They are often in charge of ensuring such objectives come to fruition and may give the green light when final product meets the producer's and their specifications.

Job Prospects and Salary

This is a highly competitive career path, as there are more than an ample number of directors, but not many projects available. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for all directors and producers are expected to increase 3% between 2012 and 2022, which is slower than average for all occupations. New content delivery methods, such as online and mobile TV, are being tested by many production companies and may lead to job growth in the future, as the technology and public response to it is better understood. Self-employment in this field is also projected to increase by 16%, due to the increase in independent productions.

Salary information is not available specifically for directors working in music videos, however the average salary for all directors and producers was $90,300 as of May 2014, according to the BLS. The average salary for directors and producers in the video and motion picture industry was $106,000, while those working with independent artists, performers and writers earned an average of $125,570.

Career Requirements and Skills

There are not any formal training programs absolutely required for a career in directing, but prospective directors may wish to enroll in a film education program. Alternatively, some directors may study writing, acting or communications. According to the BLS, the majority of directors hold a bachelor's degree in a related field, and some go on to earn a master's degree as well.

Education and Training

If you enroll in an undergraduate film program, you can take classes in acting, writing, editing, set design, storyboarding and lighting, as well as courses in directing. It is essential that directors have a keen understanding of all aspects of video production since they play such a large role in creating the final product.

Although rare, certificate programs or individual courses specific to music video directing are available and may help you to hone your skills in this specialty. Courses that focus on music video direction generally cover how to create storyboards and shot lists, dealing with record labels and advertising agencies, and communicating effectively with artists, composers, producers and other crew members. Hands-on experience is normally gained through class projects.

Essential Qualities for Music Video Directors

As the mastermind behind the final creative product, directors shoulder a great deal of responsibility. Therefore, there are essential skills that you may wish to develop to help achieve success in this career, such as:

  • Creativity to interpret and turn a script into a visual reality
  • Ability to manage time constraints
  • Adeptness in communicating well and providing artistic direction to others
  • Leadership
  • Aptitude to work under pressure

Job Postings from Actual Employers

Finding job postings for music video directors is difficult; however, prospective music video directors may gain experience by landing other types of directing or producing jobs in video and TV in general, since what's required overlaps. Though the skills listed are not necessarily what all employers are looking for, the following are real examples of jobs listed for directors/producers in April 2012:

  • A large cable operator company in California is looking for a producer/director to direct, produce and edit various sports programs across the state. The job requires a bachelor's degree or equivalent experience. Applicants are expected to have working knowledge of Windows-based software and personal computer hardware.
  • A radio and TV broadcasting company based in Cleveland, Ohio, is seeking an assistant news director to work with senior members of their news management team. The assistant director is expected to perform tasks such as collaborating with team members regarding story selection and story angles. A college degree and five years of related experience is needed for the job.
  • The public affairs department of a college in Columbus, Ohio, is looking for a video producer to help create promotional videos for the college to be viewed on their website and appropriate social channels. The video producer reports to the department's social media director and is responsible for shooting, editing and promoting the final products. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree and 3-5 years of experience in a related field.

How to Stand Out in the Field

Industry Experience

Directors often gain work experience by starting off as actors, writers, set designers or film editors. This kind of training can provide them with practical experience in directing, as they gain a greater understanding of what it entails through the other roles. The BLS advises that any work experience on a movie set can also be beneficial. Some would-be directors begin their directorial career by working as assistant directors. As directors' reputation for talent grows, higher-paying jobs and bigger projects may open up to them. Building a strong resume and industry connections are also essential.


In lieu of going to film school, doing an internship is another way to break into the business. According to UCLA, the Los Angeles entertainment industry depends heavily on interns. Prospective directors can also try approaching various production companies and ask about current opportunities. Be aware though, if you are able to snag an internship, you may be required to work for free.

Alternative Career Choices

If a career in the music video directing industry doesn't sound like a perfect fit for you, than there are other professions that may use similar skills and offer similar benefits that could possibly be a better match.


If you'd like to try your hand in front of the camera, then acting may be the thing for you. Actors portray characters through various forms of media, such as television and theater. As a result, they sometimes have to learn new skills, like dancing or speaking a different language - which is a factor that may appeal to creative thinkers, but the physical demands may be discouraging to others.

Unlike directors, actors don't necessarily need any educational training, though many may choose to do so to help them understand the theoretical aspects of acting, to practice performing and to build connections. On-the-job training is a major facet of this line of work. The trade off for this artistic career choice is the lack of jobs; according to the BLS, job opportunities are projected to increase only 4% between 2010 and 2020. Although more jobs may begin to open for actors with the implementation of new content delivery methods, it still remains unknown just what kind of impact these technologies will have. The median hourly wage for actors was $19.00 in May 2011.

Video and Film Editor

If you'd rather stay behind-the-scenes in a career where you have a hand in developing the final product, you may consider a career as a video and film editor. These individuals typically follow a director's requests and edit scenes based on the director's creative aspirations for the piece. They complete the majority of their work on a computer using editing software. While most editors work full time, their schedules may vary depending on the type of editing they do. They may also have to work long hours, weekends and holidays to meet project deadlines. The median annual wage for video and film editors was about $53,000 as of May 2011, reports the BLS.

Camera Operator

Camera operators work closely with directors to decide the overall goals for the production. They record the images used to entertain or educate audiences. In general, they follow the director's instructions for shot angles, but due to the fact that they often have one or more assistants that they give direction to, they also have some leadership responsibilities. Since camera operators work closely with directors, this career path may help prepare them for producer/director positions and teach them more about the industry.

To remain valuable, camera operators may have to frequently learn about new technologies and equipment. Sometimes camera operators have to work in uncomfortable conditions, such as bad weather, and they may have to stand and hold heavy camera equipment for long periods of time. The pay is also lower than that of a director or video editor - the BLS states that the median annual wage for camera operators, as of May 2011, was about $40,000. Unfortunately, like many creative careers, job growth is slow and employment is only expected to increase by 2% from 2010 to 2020.

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