How to make a narrative music video : The fundamentals

  • Shubhit S.
  • 25 Apr, 2014

There are a thousand and one different approaches you can take with a music video, but always at some level an artist wants to reach out to their audiences. Here is one approach that has proved popular in a variety of musical genres.


What is a Narrative Music Video?

A narrative music video tells a story, logically or sequentially through a chain of events that are put together to run parallel to each other. At times it may even seem like a little film that stars a main character who communicates with the audience.


What are its effects on the audience?

Contrary to a performance music video which highlights the performance of any artist, a narrative music video is much more engaging for the audience. It has a story that attracts their attention and keeps them engaged till the end.

Narrative music videos are good at creating emotional bonds between the artist and the viewer. Sometimes the style of the narrative can even define an artist.

They not only present the artist with a more engaging way to present their ideas, but also increases the recall value of the artist/band by the audiences.


How can you build your narrative?

There are many ways to build your narrative music video. Let's look at some of the popular ones:

  1. Todorov's narrative theory

    At the outset of the story you introduce a main character and everything starts normally (nothing goes wrong). Then the equilibrium is broken by some event or through creation of a conflict.

    Soon a realisation occurs where the disruption is recognised as the problem is sensed by the character, who explores the consequences. After which he tries to restore the order to attempt to solve the problem or repair the disruption.

    Finally the balance is restored and the conflict is solved with a happy end!

  2. Roland Barthe's theory

    You don't reveal all the facts in the beginning and create a mystery to keep the audience engaged to the end, letting them guess what happens next.

    You can either use some semantic elements to provide additional meaning or focus on everybody's cultural knowledge, morality, ideology and lifestyle. You can even place two suggestive elements in opposition to create tension and drama.

  3. Levi-Strauss' theory

    Your narrative will depict a conflict between two opposites like Good and Bad, Rich and Poor, Love and Hate, Man and Woman, Young and Old, Humanity and Technology, etc.


* Points to remember

When creating your narrative, you should remember these points:

  1. Your story must have a beginning, middle and end, though not necessarily in that order.

  1. Your story must have at least one lead character who engages the audiences through its thoughts, feelings and experiences.

  1. There should be a relationship between the content of your song (track, sound, voice, lyrics) and the content of the narrative (fact, context, iconography, visuals, etc.) for your audience to aspire.

  1. Your entire track should summarize the lyrics.

  1. Your narrative can follow either of these styles:

  • Illustrative – Where the visuals provide a literal representation of the lyrics.
  • Amplifying – Where key meanings and effects are repeated to manipulate the audiences.
  • Contradicting – Where the visuals contrast with the music.
  • Disjunctive – Where the meaning of the song is completely ignored.


Making your first narrative music video can be a daunting task.

Choose your style and story carefully as it could well define your image as an artist/band for the days to come. You can learn more about shooting your music video here. Filming your own music video: Know the basics.

Shubhit S., @Epik Music Videos 2014


Last modified on Tuesday, 05 August 2014 13:53
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