How To Shoot A Showreel That’ll Actually Get You Hired!
In today’s Front of House Management blog post, I’m going to talk about how to shoot a great showreel that will actually get you hired as a musician for cruise work and identify some major pitfalls that we’ve seen many acts fall into.
So first things first, I want to qualify what kind of showreel and gigs we’re talking about. I'm focussed solely on party band showreel’s for cruise work in today’s blog - as with any piece of promotional material, you need to make it with your audience in mind; if you’re looking to set up a great wedding band for UK gigs, some of this advice won’t apply.
In terms of content, you’ll want to make sure that you cover the key genres ranging from 1950’s through to modern pop; along with any specific requirements of cruise lines/itineraries that you’re targeting (such as reggae for the Caribbean or country for the USA).
You’ll only need to record around 45 seconds of each song and should aim to have your showreel show 12 song clips - ideally the video should be 8-12 minutes in length when all is said and done. Every line has different requirements but this will usually get you off to a good start.
Try to think about what you want to show off about your act. What make’s you stand out from the crowd? If you have more than one lead vocalist, make sure to show them all off along with lots of harmonies! Does your lead singer also play an instrument? Then show it off! Anything that your band can do that others can’t or don’t will likely be of interest to someone, the key to remember is that versatile acts represent better value for money to clients.
Next up is a super important point, and I can’t stress this enough, perform everything 100% live!
I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to see videos of bands that aren’t 100% live being submitted for professional work. It’s impossible to make an informed decision to book a band when the lead vocal has been overdubbed or errors have been corrected in post production. The people that make the decision to book acts for these gigs are experienced professionals that understand what a live performance is at it’s core. Live. More concerning, is that some acts try to pass off dubbed performances as live - this will certainly shake a clients faith in your ability to perform!
Finally, I’d like to answer a question that I get asked a lot - does it matter if some musicians have changed since we filmed our promo? The answer is a resounding YES! Given the amount of money, time and risk associated to a cruise line hiring a band they will certainly want to see the exact line up in the showreel that will be performing services on board. Whilst having an exceptional lead vocalist is important, they will want to see that the instrumentalists in the band are the same as in the video.
So, no one’s expecting you to be the next Speilberg BUT that doesn’t mean that you should just record it on a camera phone from 2004 in a dimly lit room churning out footage that’s so pixilated not even MI5 could depict the identities of the musician’s in the video. Some attention to transparency and quality is necessary but you don’t need to spend any real money to achieve this.
Here’s the 4 main considerations;
1. The Camera - The key here is to use the best camera you can get your hands on. Some modern smartphones are more than good enough to achieve great results but if you can borrow a decent DSLR it’ll usually leave you with better results in the typical environments that you’ll probably record in. You don’t need to go out and buy a camera though - try borrowing or even renting one if needed. One camera that captures the whole band is plenty!
2. The Light - The camera you use is only as good as your light source. Make sure you have good light - this can be artificial or natural. Some of the best ‘homemade’ showreels I’ve received have been filmed in people’s living rooms with large windows - natural light is usually best and it’s also FREE! You can film this video pretty much anywhere the light will have a bigger impact on the finished product than the venue. Just remember, the key here is that you need to be able to make out, clearly, every individual musician (and their identity) from the video.
3. Audio - As musicians we’re all too likely to concentrate too much on the audio quality. That’s right, I said TOO MUCH. The truth is, the quality of the performance is way more important than the quality of the audio, even the audio directly off of your phone can be used. You just need to take the time to do several ‘sample clips’ - experiment with placing your camera at different distances and try playing with settings (some have ‘input gain’) until you’re getting good results. Obviously, if you can take direct multi-track audio that’s better but it’s really not necessary. If you can make a recording on just your phone that is captivating then your viewer will respond.
4. The Budget - Personally, I believe that your promo should cost you next to nothing to create. I’d always steer clear of any company/agent that charges you for promotional material (especially up front). In the same vein though, you don’t need to hire a venue, buy a great camera or spend £100’s or £1000’s on editing. A great live performance captured cleanly will speak for itself.
Time For My Shameless Plug...
Over the years we’ve become a massive video nerds and subsequently invested heavily in some nice video gear that we use for promotional videos at Front Of House Management, in addition to that we invested in Western Audio (www.westernaudiorecording.com) - a commercial recording studio with a 700sq ft live room, this is where we create our promotional videos.
For acts that are engaged with Front Of House Management, we create promotional material free of charge when we feel that the act is someone that we’ll be able to get enough professional work for - this is one of the ways in which we try to take the stress out of the booking of your act.
Good luck making your showreels, feel free to ping us a message with any questions regarding this you might have - if there’s enough interest I might even follow up with a video ‘How To’ on shooting a good enough showreel using just your phone.