26th July 2017

5 pitfalls to avoid when commissioning videos, design & photography

5 pitfalls to avoid when commissioning videos, design & photography July 2017

Commissioning music videos, design and photography is an incredibly important job in any promo campaign. Good content is vital, and with music video production often being the most expensive line item of the campaign budget – not to mention quite time-consuming, the music video experience can be disastrous if things go wrong. This article and our service aim to help you get the best music video, photography and design possible, every time.

Radar is an award-winning service for commissioning creative content. We look for promising new creatives worldwide and connect them to labels, managers and artists. Radar is a free service for commissioners – we make our money through charging creatives a monthly subscription. 

We’ve helped thousands of commissioners, from major label commissioners to brand new up and coming artists and here we hope to help focus on success and avoid common pitfalls.

Writing a good brief and setting a good budget

  1. Spend time preparing your budget. A good brief will strike a balance between making it broadly clear what kind of content is going to make you happy, and giving the right creative enough room to contribute their own expertise and creativity

  2. The music video, design or photography should be consistent with the artists’ look and feel, give guidelines about what you mean by your look and feel.

  3. ‘Open to all ideas’ isn’t as helpful as you’d think. Give creatives parameters to work within, share your likes and dislikes with them. Give examples of other content you like and say why you like it.

  4. The opposite – giving creatives a shot-by-shot description of what you’d like – is unlikely to be successful either. Creatives by nature will want the opportunity to express their own creativity.

  5. There’s no such thing as the ‘right’ budget.

  6. If using Radar, you have to state the budget up front, as part of the brief. As over-runs on budget are a common feature of music video production, we have a valuable feature to deal with that – fixed budgets. Commissioners have to agree they will pay the budget stated if they commission – and equally, creatives agree they will make the content they pitch, for the budget agreed.

  7. Bigger budgets attract more of the better creatives.

  8. You can indicate you’re willing to release more budget for the right ideas – this encourages creatives to pitch on spec for a bigger budget.

Shortlisting pitches and creatives

Good analysis and research is a critical part of shortlisting a good creative.

  1. Is the pitch well-written and presented, does it give you a clear and realistic picture of what you can expect to see in the video, design or photography? Does the idea seem achievable within your budget?

  2. Past work is the single best indicator of the quality and type of content you’re likely to get with this creative. What is their other work like? If they are a director can you see complete videos? Don’t rely on reels – it’s easy to edit excerpts from average videos into a good-looking reel. All Radar pitches contain a link to the creative’s profile, where you can see creatives’ work.

  3. References. Check the creative’s Radar profile for reviews (this is a new feature, so don’t be put off if creative’s don’t have many/any yet) or contact the creative and ask for people you can speak to.

  4. Social proof. Do all the website and social links in the creative’s Radar profile work? Are there any weird gaps in their story? eg they say they’ve made 5 music videos but you can only see 2.

  5. Beware of creative’s offering to work for less than the budget to get the work – it might encourage you to overlook other issues you might later decide are important after all.

  6. How do you feel about working with these people? Ability – can they be clear about how they’ll create the content, or are they a bit defensive or obfuscating? Attitude – are they polite and responsive? Or a bit arrogant, defensive or smarmy? If the creative is active on social media, do they talk like someone you want to work with?


  1. Being able to see a preview is one of the two most useful tools you need as a commissioner, particularly for commissioning video. It will give you a way to better understand what your prospective creative is planning and will give you essential insight into how the finished content will look.

  2. As you’re still shortlisting at this stage, it’s not fair to ask for too much detail from the creative – but you do need enough information to build a competent picture of what the content might be with this person. (nb, It is fair to ask for more detailed storyboards or shotlists as soon as you have commissioned a creative)


A contract is the other most important commissioning tool you have. A good contract will take you through all of the below issues and more:

  1. Storyboarding/shotlisting.

  2. Delivery date.

  3. Approval schedule (often tied into cashflow). Clarify what you can expect at each point, eg first cut, rough cut, fine cut, delivery (you don’t need all these stages – discuss with your creative).

  4. Sign off/ approval on casting, not forgetting dancers – check dancers’ credentials.

  5. Budget.

  6. Rights Ownership.

  7. Cashflow. We recommend 50% up front and the rest on delivery. Never pay 100% up front. Ask creatives during shortlisting how they are planning to cover the 50% costs which won’t be paid until you get the finished content.

  8. Production insurance.

  9. Kill fees. These are not necessary, but you could agree to make a payment less than the total budget to finish the relationship if you’re not happy with the quality of the content by a certain point in the schedule.

Production and Delivery

The discussion and agreement you’ll have had when setting up your contract will act as a confident guide, taking you through the actual making and delivery of the content.

We cannot emphasize enough how important it is to have a contract. If we ever hear about things going wrong with a commission, invariably it’s because they have not used a contract for whatever reason (“it was such a low budget it didn’t seem worth it”, “we got on really well at the beginning” etc etc). Use a contract! Make your life easy!

Nb – if you’re in the UK, here’s a contract for £25 for music video, courtesy of Radar and via respected media production lawyers Wiggin. Go to http://www.thewidget.co.uk/m-document-sets/independent-record-label/

At this URL, login and choose the Video Production Contract at the bottom. When you’re given the option to apply the discount code, use 1PY3WQYC for your special Radar discount.

This post is brought to you by Radar Creatives. Radar is the biggest & best creative directory of filmmakers, designers & photographers for music marketers worldwide

Want to post a brief for your next video (or to find a designer or a photographer We’d love to hear from you – our service is free, no fee, no %!

Post your brief herehttp://www.radarmusicvideos.com/post-a-brief or contact Heather@radarmusicvideos.com