5 common pitfalls to avoid when commissioning videos & visuals

Creating music videos, design and photography is an incredibly important job in any release promo campaign. Great content is vital, and with music video production in particular being the most costly line item of the campaign budget – not to mention quite time-consuming, the music video experience can be quite 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 – plus we’ll share a great discount for a contract…

Here at Radar 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 labels to brand new up and coming artists and here we hope to help focus on success and avoid common pitfalls.


1. Write a good brief and set a good budget

  • 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.
  • ‘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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Spend time preparing your budget – there’s no such thing as the ‘right’ budget.
  • 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.
  • Bigger budgets attract more of the better creatives.
  • 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.


2. Shortlisting creatives and pitches

Analysis and research are a critical part of shortlisting a fantastic creative.

  • Is the pitch well-presented and written, does it give you a realistic and clear picture of what you can expect to see in the video, design or photography? Does the idea seem achievable within your budget?
  • 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.
  • Check the creative’s Radar profile for reviews (this is a new feature, so don’t be put off if creatives don’t have many/any yet) or contact the creative and ask for people you can speak to.
  • 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.
  • Beware of creatives 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.
  • 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?

3. Storyboarding

  • 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.
  • 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)


4. Contracting

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

  • storyboarding/shotlisting.
  • sign off/ approval on casting, not forgetting dancers – check dancers’ credentials.
  • rights ownership.
  • delivery date.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • production insurance.
  • kill fees. These aren’t necessary, but you could agree to make a payment less that 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.

5. Delivery and Production

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). Make your life easy – use a contract!

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

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 guide will help you avoid the more obvious problems of commissioning content. It can protect you from commissioning creatives with a bad track record, commissioning ideas you’re not a fan of, and ultimately protect you from losing your money.

You’ll notice we recommend you spend time researching and briefing – possibly more time than you were expecting. Take your time, ask for the storyboard, agree a good contract and with a fair wind, you should all end up happy.


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 here or contact

Radar_logo (1)