Lyric Video

PROMPT: The loss of physical album releases has forever changed the way we learn about music. From the ashes of MTV (RIP) came the desire for immersion from fans that the digital transition lost. The lyric video rose as a user-generated trend rooted as fan-posted songs with the words displayed to little or no visual ornament, later embraced by the industry.  Since then, lyrics videos have snowballed from grassroots pastime to outright phenomenon, creating a newer type of genre capitalized primarily by the record labels.

For the labels, it’s a low-budget way of marketing music, serving as a placeholder for the official release. For the fans, the lyrics videos may be replacing the lost avenue to becoming absorbed by a song.

Searches for lyric video” have skyrocketed. YouTube, now the most popular source of online music, has become the go-to place to listen to music first and repetitively. A natural host to the biggest music video/lyric video service channels such as Vevo. Other Youtube networks and YouTubers jump at the opportunity to create and post lyric videos as a way of connecting with fans, generating more views, and building community. 

Lyrics videos have grown as creative exercises in using animated text effects and clever conceits to share a song’s meaning with its fans. It’s safe to say there’s a huge demand to find creatives able to produce viral-worthy content.

PROJECT: Danceon, the YouTube Network focused on dance culture, expanded its reach into music content with the launch of Izo. Both brands found success in generating views after launching their own series of lyrics videos through their Multi-Channel Network. Both communities embraced the content, making their Ariana Grande Greedy” lyric video a top-trending video at over 4 million views. Even though the series saw immediate success it was placed on hold while developing other content strategies.  Circling back a year later, I was brought in to produce a one-off” lyric video, set to the immensely popular Despacito remix feat. Justin Bieber.  The success would determine if” and how” the series should continue.  

PROCESS: This was a co-creation process between myself and editor, Travis King. This is what I did as co-producer, creative director, and designer in a 2-week timeframe. 

Point of view: After being briefed by the client I started the data process.
Q: Who is this for?
A: A global audience of Latin, Reggaeton,  Hip Hop, and Urban AC fans. YouTubers and online karaoke fans. Dancers, clubbers, sports goers, amateur singers, and DJs. Ages 12-45, male and female.
Q: What can I offer that is special?
A: Being latin myself, a deeper understanding of the lyrical innuendos. Proper visual and animated accentuations around annunciation. A love for rich vibrant colors of the Latin Culture. A longtime member of the music industry. A true understanding of the fanbase. Experience in the creator space.  Skilled content creation. Respect for the hip-hop culture, and musicality.

Q: What purpose does it serve?
A: Provides more exposure to the Danceon/Izo MCN with unique, desirable, viral content. Drawing new interest to the Izo brand while building relationships with the labels and distributors.  

Research: I started with a review of existing  Danceon/Izo lyric videos. Paying special attention to their release dates, relative to album release dates, and if there were any other connections in news, media, or pop culture.  I noted what worked and what didn’t. And how the viewers interacted with the content and community. In addition, I explored the competitor’s lyric videos. Observing treatment, storyline, production value, budget, the timeframe of completion, receptiveness, and viewership.

With most of the song being in Spanish, I shared a translation of the lyrics with the team. This was to ensure everyone knew what the song was about, making it simpler to highlight and pitch what should be visually emphasized.

Translated lyrics

Ideation: Before storyboarding I broke the lyrics down by sections and started roughing in lyrical highlights. I used this as basis to brainstorm the ideation process. How lyrics could inspire or invoke emotion from the viewer if seen as a visual. A trend proved to be successful by competing data.

Treatment: The project needed to move quickly so in one meeting with the Danceon/Izo team we established the video treatment. After viewing some variations we agreed on the mood, style of illustration, color tones, and type treatment. Collaborating closely with Travis we figured out how to work together as a cross team, providing feedback for one another in our respective roles. He established the animation style.

Sketching: Planning is extremely important. There was no time for a detailed shot-by-shot storyboard, but it’s still a necessity. A storyboard is a graphic representation of how your video will unfold. It’s the best way to share my vision, make production easier, and save time. I’m not great at sketching and that’s ok, low-fi sketches will do. One key element I make sure to convey is emotion. This helps me visualize what lyrics should be highlighted and the overall pace. It’s also a space to map the flow and make sure the storyline is logical.This marks the first draft of asset collection and style guide.

Design: With a tight deadline in place I reduced the iteration process to quick and dirty designs of one frame per verse. The highs between the lows of how I imagine the treatment to flow. This was shared in a mid-point meeting with the Danceon/Izo team (Travis included) for final selection, notes, and approval. The single shots were printed out and marked up. Luckily, the team really liked it and gave approval with little notes, a direct result of being well researched.

Production: These designs served as a springboard for the production. Each scene (or verse) was crafted in Adobe Illustrator CC, basically, line by line, and shared with Travis to work his magic. Screenshot of each design acted as the intermittent storyboards, and a collection of assets, color codes, fonts, and translated lyrics where shared fro repurpose. We worked in tandem designing, illustrating and animating. It was awesome!

Prepare for launch: In 2 weeks time, the video (with never-ending lyrics) was approved and shipped! Once a launch date was confirmed the focused shifted to marketing and the publication team. Once launched I spent some time monitoring the release for valuable feedback on design and overall performance.

Quantitive Data: 

  • The views were heaviest at its initial launch, with another spike same day, later afternoon.
  • Most viewers did not understand why a dance channel was hosting a lyric video. 
  • Issues around the launch made the video not viewable in some markets.

Qualitative Feedback: 

  • “The video tells a cohesive story”
  • “The quality of production is impressive”
  • “It’s the colors of PR, makes me feel like I’m home”


Conclusion:  The video launched to underwhelming viewership. Regardless of popularity, the market had already been saturated with 100s user-generated videos, making this low in a google search. with no teaser marketing, the dance community seemed confused by the relaunch of these lyric videos. 

I’ve co-produced 2 more lyric videos with Danceon/Izo. Taking a more experienced approach with the second one, Miley Cyrus’ Younger Now”, the selection process was more data focused. We chose an artist with a fresh release date and a popular TV show. The additional media tie-in has proved to be a driving force for repeat viewers, with well over 120K views and counting.


Client: Izo
Skills: Idea Generating, Sketching, Storyboarding, Video Treatment, Color Scripting, Asset Generation, Illustration, Motion
Tools: Sketchbook, Storyboards, Adobe Illustrator CC, Adobe After Effects CC


Design, Motion Graphics

Date published

November 15, 2017