Phillip Paquette
March 1, 2022

Guide to the Music Video Treatment (w/ Treatment)

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So you’ve just received the brief. Now is your shot to get the artist, label, (and maybe even the artist’s manager) on board with your concept for their music video. How you pitch that concept in your music video treatment will set proper expectations and better define your vision to help close the deal. 

But how you approach putting together your music video treatment matters. Depending on how you position yourself can be the difference between getting the green light, or your pitch getting thrown into the “no” pile. In this guide, I’ll share pro tips from music producers you can use to hone this process whether you’re new to music video production or not. 

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What is a music video treatment?

You likely already know this but for those just coming onto the scene, a music video treatment is a document highlighting the direction for a music video. A treatment doesn't show just what the music video will be about, but it should also confirm the visual direction, including any key visual story elements the director plans to implement. 

An artist, label, or music video commissioner will send out a brief. It will describe the general wants and needs of their team. Then, a slew of directors will have an opportunity to pitch their concept in the form of treatment. 

Guide to Music Video Treatment Template - Sample - Wrapbook
What is a treatment for a music video? An opportunity to bring your vision to life.

The music video treatment is also a de-facto agreement between artists and producers confirming the creative direction for the video. So, be sure you have their approval in writing. 

Sample music video treatments

Producing a music video treatment means chasing the elusive goal of sharing a vision with other creatives. Ultimately, a combination of text and images need to convey that vision. 

But in cases where the director has been around the block, or they simply want to save time and money (or both),  they might just write out the treatment. While “show vs tell” is a true and valuable tip (you’ll see that below), it’s important to note that many vet directors do just write out treatments. And there’s actually a way to capture your vision with the written word if done well. Just like a screenwriter has to convey their story visually with words, a director can write out a music video treatment that does that too. 

Let’s take a look at this video treatment example for “If I Ruled the Rule” by Nas ft. Lauryn Hill, treatment and direction by Hype Williams.

The very first line reads:

"The entire look and feel of this video is that of an abstract painting. The approach is that of a different look in hip-hop music videos derived from ghetto art."

Now compare this concept to the execution of that same treatment in the final video. 

Read the full treatment here line-by-line to compare how Hype Williams described it, and how it was executed.

Explore this database of real treatments

Pro- tip for how to write a treatment for a music video? Take a look at We Direct Music Videos. 

This association allows you to discover a ton of past treatments from their music video treatment database. You can explore some of the best music video treatments from some oldies but goodies. 

Try learning from the past. Using this site to observe how music videos came to fruition could be helpful when writing your own treatment today. 

And as you lay out your music video treatment outline, use a pre-existing template to save yourself some time. Whether you use ours or you pay for one elsewhere, be sure you have something you can reuse for every pitch. 

Download this music video treatment template

Download a treatment template here.

While some directors may simply write out their treatments, most use images, colors, or just general visuals when pitching their concept. 

Our treatment template does a few things—while it works as a usable template for your upcoming pitch, it also has some helpful hints per page on what to consider and how to approach certain elements.

Feel free to download our music video treatment template, replace the images with your own, and win that pitch! 

How to write a music video treatment

Writing a music video treatment may not be as prescriptive as taking Advil for a headache, but creating your own workflow like the one below can save you a ton of unnecessary frustration.

Here’s a general how to write a music video treatment example you can apply to future project:

1. Everything starts with the initial conversation you have with the artist and their label. You’ll likely receive at least some of this information in the form of a brief when someone (such as a video commissioner for a label) reaches out. 

First, you’ll want to understand the: 

  • Budget. 
  • Song being featured.
  • Timeframe covering when they want to shoot. 
  • Deadline for when they want this video to be ready to go. (You probably often hear, “we needed this video yesterday.”) 
  • If the artist and their team has a general idea or specific concept in mind. 

2. Carefully consider their budget and sit down and listen to the song a ton of times to come up with a concept. Balance the budget, your vision, and the client’s input to land the gig. 

*Pivot early and don’t let the artist hear about an idea that logistically is impossible based on their budget. 

3. Now that you have a concept in mind, it’s time to put on your storytelling shoes. Your music video treatment format can include these elements (tweak from any saved music video treatment template to help you save time):

  • Cover page to entice your potential client to keep reading. 
  • A summary page that succinctly and clearly shares the video's concept.
  • Opening scene section explaining any opening sequence to the video.
  • Scene breakdowns if the music video has a story arc or multiple locations. 
  • Style direction such as wardrobe, color palette, tone, and potentially even cinematography elements you'll incorporate.
  • Ending scene section or page sharing the music video’s conclusion.
  • A link to your reel and any final thoughts you have around the project that you think will help you land the gig.

More quick tips on how to make a music video treatment

Here are a few other tips to keep in mind with treatments:

  • Show vs. tell - If you’re making a music video in the tropics provide vibrant colors and visuals that support your vision. 
  • Walls of text are (usually) not your friend - Be economical with words. Use bullets (see what I did there).
  • TMI is a thing - Avoid submitting 20+ page treatments. 
  • Do your homework - Watch past videos from the artist you’re pitching, find out who inspires them, and keep your eyes open for trends while you view other media.
  • Check the WDMV - If you’re looking for more music treatment examples as you develop one, explore the WDMV treatment database that includes the written portion of treatments for music videos from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Kanye West.
  • Move fast - When an artist is bidding out a project, the early bird often gets the worm because their team doesn’t want to spend hours looking at treatments. Though, ideally, many labels could more than consider the new guidelines for the music video pitching process and limit the amount of treatments they allow. This way, less time is wasted for both the label and directors.
  • Get the green light in writing  - Again, you’ll want a paper trail saying they approved the treatment so the video’s direction doesn’t go a completely different direction the day of filming. 
  • Share the aesthetic in your treatment but don’t photocopy it in practice- Set the expectation with artists that any treatment visuals are inspiration and not copy cat models.
  • With whatever music video treatment template you use as a base file, you’ll need to adjust fonts and other elements for specific pitches. Make sure you have that base doc saved as a separate file you can work off of as a music video treatment example.
  • Too busy to write your treatment? - Get a writer. 
“Rattle off the idea ​​and then get a writer to create a premium deck as that’s so crucial to closing the deal,” said Scott Sheridan, VP of Business and Digital Development at Riveting Entertainment. "All you need to do is brief the treatment writer with a quick voice recording." 

Scott also recommends setting expectations on the support visuals’ actual role inside a treatment. “These visuals are inspiration, we are not recreating photographers’ work or something existing.” 

Wrapping Up

Since treatments are how you ultimately land music video gigs, your treatments need to stand out. First impression is a split second. Don’t fall into the trap of sending something out that reads like a novel.  

To move fast, use a reusable template so you can adjust what you need to for each and every pitch. Be sure to download our music video treatment template here. 

And once you nab the job, discover how to better manage your music video budget to ensure a smooth shoot. 

Disclaimer

At Wrapbook, we pride ourselves on providing outstanding free resources to producers and their crews, but this post is for informational purposes only as of the date above. The content on our website is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for legal, accounting, or tax advice.  You should consult with your own legal, accounting, or tax advisors to determine how this general information may apply to your specific circumstances.

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About the Author

Phillip Paquette

Phillip Paquette is an Austin, TX-based storyteller and content strategist that's worked both on behalf of agencies and directly with brands. Catch his business musings on Medium.

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