In the wake of slumping record sales the evaporation of music business revenue, professionals in all areas of the industry have been forced to adapt. I recently sat down with prominent music video director Taj Stansberry to discuss his industry experiences and how he continues to thrive in this declining industry. He is definitely doing his thing. Check out his latest work with the pop icon J-Lo followed by an insightful interview.
Who is Taj?
I’m a film-maker and a photographer but more importantly someone who really tries to push himself creatively and visually. I consider myself a visionary and a dreamer. I make thoughts and dreams become a reality. I love being inspired and I love learning.
I really enjoy and am appreciative of the honor to visually represent someone’s music and when I do that I try to put just as much or more effort into the visual as the artist put into the songs.
What changes in technology have had the biggest impact on the industry since you‘ve been in it?
Cameras… cameras man. Cannon has put out these 5D and 7D cameras that can shoot HD video with all of these different lenses, adapters, and filters along with these downloads and firmwares. Your work can look really good and it’s not as expensive as the red camera or obviously film cameras… And so everyone has the opportunity. All you have to do is press record and you can start practicing and the quality can be very close to what you see on TV. With everyone doing that, it has increased the amount of content on web sites like worldstarhiphop.com and all of the other viral video sites.
So now, with a camera, Final Cut Pro, a hard drive and a laptop you can shoot a music video, you can shoot a commercial, you can do anything you want. They’ve made it easy for a consumer to become the next Spike Lee, or the next Michael Mann or Spike Jonze. There are now more music video directors than ever.
Given the oversaturation of the industry with new directors and producers, how do you see the quality of videos being affected?
Well, talent speaks for itself and although a camera can enhance your work, it can’t give you talent. It’s easy to recognize real film-makers. A camera can’t make you a film-maker… that’s one thing you can’t buy at the store. But at the same time, there are recording artists that don’t have the budget and just want the cheap price… just simple content to put on the internet and basically be seen. In that case, you may not want to pay for the talent. You just want the person that has the camera and knows how to get it done. This would allow you to put out a few videos per week.
So, for that, you just need the kid with the camera who knows how to press record, and cut it. You can fix things in post[production] and put your two cents in and he’s not going to charge you a lot. So there is a demand for music videos of all different quality levels but obviously the goal is to maximize the quality with limited resources.
With music videos getting less TV airplay and other media outlets losing ground to the internet, where do you see the music video industry going?
Hopefully not away... It has treated me well and I’ve had a lot of success in this industry. I know that the industry isn’t going anywhere. With the VMA’s (Video Music Awards) and things like that, we know that there is still interest in the music video. There may not be as much money as there once was but the interest is still very high and that’s why music videos are still being produced.
Quality music videos are still being made, maybe less often but this just means we have to work harder. Talent and hard work will get the job done and everything else will fall to the wayside. You have to work hard and continue to be creative in order to stay in the small circle that’s getting smaller by the day. So I just continue to do what I do, continue to grow, build my resume, build my reel and ultimately my brand.
What things have you and your company The Popular Kid done to stay profitable in the industry?
I’ve created more work for myself per artist and more opportunities. I’m now not just offering to do one music video. I’m going for it all. I want to do all of the artist’s music videos. I want to do the viral videos, the album cover artwork and the photo shoots for anything that the artist may need… and just remain consistent. I’m basically going for it all because the budgets have been cut, for music videos in particular. So I asked myself, ‘what can I do to stay profitable?’ You have to bring more to the table and work harder… create more work and find more ways to use talent in order to maximize profit.
So what’s in the future for you?
The next step for me is feature films. That’s where I’m going. I still have a love for music and music videos. I love making visuals for songs and being forever attached to that song. Being forever attached to Nas’s “Hero” or artists like Ne-Yo, Rhianna, Ludacris or Jeezy and their careers is extremely gratifying. Especially working with artists like Nio tha Gift, who is a rising young star. When he does finally get his moment it will be a great honor to be able to say, ‘I was a part of that!’ To contribute to the success of an artist, that’s the greatest honor.
Here is some more of his recent work.
Check out his reel below and follow Taj on twitter @TAJ_TPK