Video killed the radio star, and now YouTube is gunning for the radio, too: The DIY video site is one of the world’s most popular ways to listen to music. That’s even more impressive when you realize YouTube doesn’t let you upload audio files—all that listening is for music videos. Facebook, which entertains more than 2 billion visitors a month, doesn’t allow audio uploads either. Below, I’ll share a number of easy ways to add visuals to your music so you can post it to those sites and more.
When I started teaching myself video production, I discovered that most of the technical aspects became clear through experimentation. The main challenge was learning the aesthetic language, developing a sense of what looked and sounded appealing. (I think many creative processes are like that.) So I’ll concentrate on artistic tips here.
Fig. 1. Upload an MP3 and an image to TunesToTube.com and it will make an instant YouTube music video for you.
The easiest way I’ve found to make a YouTube music video is TunesToTube.com (see Figure 1). You upload an MP3 and an image to the site, which then merges them into a single-image video it posts to your YouTube account. The process is far faster than rendering and uploading a standard video. TunesToTube created and posted my 1:20 music video to YouTube in 20 seconds! In free mode, it adds a black border with the notice “uploaded in HD @ TunesToTube.com.” You can remove that and unlock a mass of convenience features for a fee. (Tip: Crop your image to one of the preset sizes to prevent TunesToTube from adding even thicker borders.)
Of course, a static video isn’t very interesting to watch, but there are tons of single-image music videos on YouTube. An easy step up is a music slideshow, which you can create by loading images into a free video editor such as Apple iMovie and adding an audio file. Typically, the editor will set each slide to last a few seconds. It may apply panning, zooming, and transition effects as well. The editor also may offer to adjust the duration of the slideshow to fit the music by changing the length of each slide. I find it’s more musically satisfying to adjust the durations myself, either to coincide with transitions in the music or to line up with the beat. To do that, divide the tempo into 60,000; that gives the length of each beat in milliseconds. For example, 60,000 ÷ 96bpm = 625. Therefore, 2 bars of 4/4 would last 8 x 625ms, or 5 seconds. Set each slide to last 5 seconds, and the image will update every 2 bars. If you have a 1-second crossfade, extend each slide by half a second to maintain the sync.
For even more motion, use screen-capture software to record a music visualizer playing your song. See demonstrations of all these techniques in my video at emusician.com.