Canadian musician outsources his indie video to Bangalore, beauty ensues

Derryl Murphy sez, "Drew Smith's lovely new song 'Smoke and Mirrors' needed a video, so he decided to outsource it. The result is wonderful."

So I outsourced my video to Bangalore, India. Why? Well, I figured the last thing the world needed was another low-budget singer songwriter video. Fortunately, the first Virtual Assistant I found on google also happened to be a dance choreographer. After a couple of emails and phone calls, I received this beautiful video in my inbox. Many thanks to Asha Sarella and Vishwas Avathi. I can't thank you enough!

Drew Smith - Smoke And Mirrors (Thanks, Derryl!)


  1. it’s funny, how art pops up when you just let go.  
    0:54 is so FULL OF WIN.  
    love this; don’t listen to what my evil counterpart irksome says.

  2. How did that process work ?  What were the search terms you used ?  I’m fascinated with the idea of trying this… I’d love to know more about how you specifically got in touch with the people you ultimately worked with.  Did you provide them a budget ?

  3. Please don’t forget all of the amazing film makers here who are just dying for an opportunity like this.  Here is one example.

  4. Wow, that was incredible!  The video really made me want to hear more of Drew Smith’s music <– this so rarely happens anymore.  Thanks for posting this, Cory! 

  5. I’m accepting the risk that I might get flamed for this, so full steam ahead…

    Unfortunately, this story proves to me only one thing: Music as an art form in and of itself is dying. You can’t sell a song anymore these days if you don’t have a video. Everything is visual. It’s not really about the music anymore. You’d think that if a song is well written, well played and well sung, then it wouldn’t matter if the video is “just another low-budget singer-songwriter video”. I guess “Video killed the radio star” is truer than it ever was. So sad.

    1. *hugs* As an unpopular musician who spent way too much time learning to play an instrument and sing I feel your pain. However, it is still a good video.

    2. I’m not sure… Not flaming in the least just curious to tease this out a little. I live in a small city that has a very vibrant music scene and radio DJ a Local show. Perhaps if you are aiming at national success you need more and more videos, but we are in the midst of a great decentralization of music. The technology to make and distribute music right now is cheap enough that you can be a regional success with little visual backup. Two local bands, from my area people might know, pop to mind. Trampled By Turtles and Low. I know Low HAS made videos (and even a national commercial), but that wasn’t what their success was built on, nor TBT. I honestly don’t think music is dying, quite the contrary the breadth, range, quality and quantity of what is available now far outstrips the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. I think the old model of music distribution and funding is withering and radio is playing less of an important role, but music is just fine. I see more and more of it every year.

      1. There is no doubt that the radio is losing importance in making a song popular, and also that the old business model (which the RIAA & others are so desperately trying to defend) is less and less important. Don’t misunderstand me, I embrace that; in fact I have several musician friends and I’m doing everything I can to help them get the word out. I’m only complaining about the fact that it’s less about the music than it used to be. It started with MTV, but with YouTube & Co. it got worse.

    3. I disagree. The video turns a rather average, bland song into something unique and interesting, especially due to the story behind it. But, unlike a good song, this is more of a “huh, cool!” rather than a “every artist should do this.” I think India’s film industry has a fair amount of innovation, but you can only do this a couple times before it becomes relatively mundane.

      I buy plenty of music that has no video associated with it, and the number of people who listen to music on iPods, in cars, exercising, and in other venues where it’s purely about the music, would disagree that video has anything to do with it.

      If anything, if a song needs a video to sell it, most music fans dismiss it.

      1. Even though you say you disagree you are proving my point. “The video turns a rather average, bland song into something unique and interesting […]” That makes it about the video and not the song.

        While it is true that there are still a lot of music fans out there who don’t need videos, it is also true that to reach the majority of all the regular people (as opposed to the die-hard music fans) you have to have a video these days. Before, that just wasn’t the case. Also interesting in this context: One time I asked a friend where she goes to listen to a song somebody told her about, her answer was “YouTube”. Unfortunately, if you want to make a living as a musician (as is the case for several of my friends) the die-hard music fans like us alone are not enough.

        1. Your point was that to make it as a musician you need to make videos, which would mean that the video should lead to.. what? More sales of the music? A viable career path for musicians?

          Many people use Youtube to check out new music because music is there and it’s searchable without an account. I do the same thing. Have you? If you had, you’d know that the majority of music on Youtube does not have an actual “video” but rather just the cover, or a snippet of another video, in order for Youtube to accept it. I know quite a few people who, rather than own iPods or buy music, will create Youtube playlists for songs they like. But they’re not watching the videos — they’re just streaming them in the background while using their computer for other things, be it work or play.

          There is still tons of creativity going on in the music space, and lots of people enjoy music without any visuals. The majority of people enjoy music simply to dance. If anything, the decline in actual music videos should show that music doesn’t need video. In the 80s and 90s, if you released a single, you had to have a video. I think most musicians nowadays realize that video is just a gimmick and that music can do just fine on its own.

    4. That is patently untrue. You don’t need a video to sell a song. You need a good song, and a LOT  of luck, because there’s never been so much music being recorded.
      Of course, having a good video helps getting noticed, which is why my band ( is going to have a video clip as soon as we’ve finished recording the album. But you definitively don’t have to have a video to get noticed by a label, get live shows or sell CDs. 

  6. sigdrifa, I think it’s been like that for a long time now. Except now it’s ever so much easier, and cheaper, to make and broadcast a music video.

    1. I agree; it started with MTV and only got worse. After all, “Video killed the radio star” was written a while before YouTube came around :)

  7. I love the video and the concept of outsourcing it, but have to ask: cost?  And could no struggling artist(s) in the US have done as well for the price?

    1.  I think one of the strengths of the whole piece is the contrast between the musical styles and the visual elements. They’re quite disparate in origins, but they work together very well

      1.  You’re right, thanks.  In fact, no reason for anyone to prefer artists from any nationality; but good to question outsourcing and think about what it would take to raise pay and standards for workers worldwide.

      2. Well, from an economic perspective: a huge share of Canadian exports go to the US, which means Americans will almost certainly buy more Canadian stuff _on average_ if you give them money to spend.

        India, on the other hand: not that big of a consumer of Canadian goods.

    2. I think that’s the whole point – no struggling artist in the US or Canada could have done as well for the price.

      He specifically says he didn’t want “another low-budget singer songwriter video”. So he wants something different. Doesn’t get much more different than this.

      If you consider that it still looks rather low-budget in absolute terms, I bet it would have been possible to get a similar result by finding an Indian dance group (most cities will have them if you look, and though amateur the ones in the video weren’t necessarily top-notch either) and a college student with a DSLR that shoots video who will work for free or for not much money.

      But doing it that way severely undervalues the work of the dance group (or actors or whoever, doesn’t have to be the same video) and the college student with the DSLR. You’d have to be asking people to work for free or essentially free, using their expensive equipment. You can easily find people who will do so these days, but it’s not a sustainable situation.

      Plus, by doing it here you lose the gimmick and the charm, and like it or not it’s an artistic statement about offshoring (whether it’s effective or not is another question).

      1. I think we’re actually coming to the same conclusions.   Intentionally or not, it IS an effective statement about offshoring — viz. this discussion — and yes, as you point out, it severely undervalues the work not only of those who could have made it but those who did. (Or rather, “it” doesn’t undervalue that work, but the M.O.T.U.’s do.)

  8. You certainly got a lot of bang for your buck. Almost reads like a show reel for the filmmakers.

    I think it is good, but there is enough visual material there for two or three songs. The tempo of the song is substantially slower than the tempo of the movement in the video. I think this could be addressed with a good editor and some post production work and then, like I said, you’d have enough unused stuff in the can for your next song.

    Some of the shots are marvelous. I particularly like the row of feet kicking the colored powder into the air.

  9. I’m not bashing the song or video—both of which show talent—but there’s some dissonance. The disparity of tone and pacing made this feel like two unrelated presentations, rather than a single narrative.

  10. I hail from Bangalore but I now live in Dubai. I know for a fact that you can get really good directors, cinematographers and the best motion graphics artists money can buy in Bangalore. The city is heavily influenced by American culture, English is spoken ubiquitously and the majority of signs and advertisements are in English. What I’m trying to say is that this artist could have made just another American (or Canadian) music video in westernized Bangalore for a much lower cost. By the looks of it, this video however was shot and directed by a small film company; which I guess adds to the uniqueness.

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