In the pop music world of today, it’s not just your sound and your look that get you noticed. The impact of a music video is another key weapon in every artist’s arsenal – and some of the most beloved global megastars today have powered up their hits with music filmed in famous music video locations.
Location scouting isn't just important to the big shots in Hollywood, after all. There are stunning places to discover for every kind of musician and every kind of musical genre – it all comes down to where you look.
Seeking a little inspiration? Well, aren’t we all – but there’s no need to feel overwhelmed by the potential. We’ve rounded up some of the most iconic music video locations ever seen, from both the biggest artists today, and the classic pop stars who’ve helped shape the industry in years gone by.
Each unforgettable music video location has a story to tell, far beyond the narrative of the music videos listed here. Getting to know these places is half the fun – where will your creativity take you?
St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, London – ‘Wannabe’, The Spice Girls
If we’re talking pop megastars, then let’s tell you what we want – what we really really want. We want to nail down the most iconic music video locations in music history – and that means tipping our hat to the women who conquered the 1990s.
It’s pretty easy to see why this unforgettable music video location sticks in the mind, even decades after the Spice Girls hit the scene. The grandeur and majesty of the St Pancras in London is an epic testament to design, architecture and the upper crust of society’s movers and shakers – the perfect venue for Girl Power to launch for the world to see!
Geri, Mel B, Mel C, Victoria and Emma tear their cheeky way through the hotel, interrupting and outraging all the stuffy posh people settled in for politics and pontificating. No time for that! The age of Girl Power is dawning, and the Spice Girls mean business!
Famous music video locations rarely get fancier than this, and the stratospheric career the Spice Girls enjoyed – and arguably still enjoy to this day – has plenty to do with the powerful first impression they gave by dancing and singing through its high-class surroundings.
The Marriott Hotel, Los Angeles – ‘Weapon of Choice’, Fatboy Slim
UK artists have a habit of heading to the United States for iconic music video locations – yet sometimes their choices are surprisingly understated. After all, if you’ve got Christopher Walken dancing and wafting about the place, the last thing you need is distracting scenery.
As if this track didn’t already have enough star power, a cameo from soul legend Bootsy Collins makes Weapon of Choice a truly incredible entry among Fatboy Slim’s already-heaving bevvy of bangers.
Yet the classy, unobtrusive and almost corporate appearance of The Marriott Hotel in Los Angeles shows how often famous music video locations lean more towards the practical side of things, rather than an overpowering visual aesthetic.
In other words, the music video was directed to draw our attention to Christopher Walken dancing around – and how often do we get to see that, to begin with? It’d be impossible to enjoy that even half as much if the music video location had featured overpowering art on the walls or a ridiculous design.
Instead, it’s all about watching Walken decide he’s a bit bored of sitting down and fancies parading around an empty hotel lobby to a classic British banger of a tune – and that’s what makes The Marriott Hotel in LA such an unforgettable music video location.
County Down, Northern Ireland – ‘We Found Love', Rihanna & Calvin Harris
Edgy, angry, wistful and melancholy, the music video for We Found Love made quite an impact when it was first released in 2011. While the content of this powerful piece of mini-cinema was profound enough to begin with, there was some controversy surrounding the creation of the music video itself too.
Rugged and evocative County Down in Northern Ireland was chosen for much of the music video’s cinematography for We Found Love – and this went on to become one of the world’s most famous music video locations thanks to the locals’ reactions to global megastar Rihanna and her choice of attire.
Or, indeed, lack of attire altogether! Many music videos lean on the sex appeal of their stars to help make them stick in viewers’ minds – and for We Found Love, Rihanna appeared in a tasteful state of undress that, while much appreciated by fans, riled up local County Down farmers no end.
Framlingham Castle, Suffolk – ‘Castle On The Hill’, Ed Sheeran
Known for his powerful lyrics, everyman appearance and incredible talent for weaving emotion into even his most understated of performances, Ed Sheeran has become an international sensation – yet despite this, he never seems to let go of his roots in East Anglia.
The video for Castle On The Hill proved this point beautifully. Despite having the whole world at his feet, Sheeran chose to make Framlingham Castle in Suffolk an unforgettable music location – shot in all its grandeur and whimsical glory as the backdrop for another of his heartfelt hits.
Naturally, this is one of those iconic music video locations with plenty of history all its own too. Framlingham Castle has stood watch over its surrounding Suffolk for centuries and is said to be where Mary Tudor was announced as the Queen of England in the 1550s.
Surely even her most gifted of seers, advisors and oracles could never have foreseen the changes in the world that were to come – nor that Framlingham Castle would become one of the most famous music video locations in the world!
Saunton Sands, North Devon – ‘Angels’, Robbie Williams
When breaking free from Take That to pursue a career as a solo artist, those of us who grew up in the 1990s and 2000s remember Robbie Williams as cheeky, cocksure and always up for some banter.
It’s for those reasons that his breakthrough hit Angels struck so many chords with so many people – showing a more emotional and tender side to Robbie, as well as giving his vocals the chance to really shine in terms of range, feeling and impact.
The starkness of the video for Angels is made all the more enriched thanks to the choice to shoot it in black and white. However, having an unforgettable music video location always helps too – and in this case, it was the broad and empty sandy landscapes of Saunton Sands in North Devon that made Robbie’s solo trek to find true love such a visually arresting piece of media.
Not enough star power yet? Saunton Sands is also one of the most famous music video locations for classic rock stars too, having played host to several Pink Floyd shoots back in the day.
Dungeness, Kent – ‘Freedom’, Nicki Minaj
It’s often the way in pop music that those artists that smash onto the scene with outrageous looks and a bombastic sound later mature into a style that’s still very visually distinctive but powered up with music and lyrics of a more profound nature.
Nicki Minaj definitely fits the bill here and has long since left behind her quirky debut style for a powerful and confident sound and style that cements her as one of the most iconic female rappers in music history.
Yet this is another example of an unforgettable music video location that a global megastar has made famous – yet actually has somewhat mundane origins. The striking landscapes of the Freedom music video were largely filmed around Dungeness in Kent and arguably transformed by some amazing film lighting techniques.
Why choose this place, when the world is in the palm of your hand? Dungeness stands tall among famous music video locations because it has such a distinctive history behind it. The old lighthouse structures alone give the rocky beaches of this place an incredibly forlorn feeling – while structures like the Dengemarsh Sound Mirrors showcase technology from almost a century ago that was long since abandoned.
How much of what we take for granted today will be just some structure left on a pebble beach a hundred years from now – and what kind of pop stars will be making videos about them?
Holkham Gap & West Beach, Norfolk – ‘Pure Shores’, All Saints
While this stretch of stunning shoreline in East Anglia has been in more than a few films in its time, it’s also listed among famous music video locations for good reason. While we’re turning the clock back further than we would care to admit in featuring this unforgettable music video location, Holkham Gap and West Beach in Norfolk helped create the moody atmosphere in All Saints’ music video for Pure Shores to incredible effect.
All Saints were part of a massive girl group movement that kicked in, especially in the UK, right at the end of the last century. The girls still make appearances today, yet Pure Shores was an iconic tune in their library – with good reason.
Of course, the song famously appeared in The Beach starring Leonardo DiCaprio – quite the leap around the globe, if you think about it! While the film features an exotic seaside paradise far from home, Pure Shores was filmed on a beach in East Anglia in the UK. A beautiful beach and an unforgettable music video location, for sure – but not quite as exotic as the film.
Studland Beach, Dorset – ‘Yellow’, Coldplay
What does Michael Palin crawling across the sand at the start of Monty Python and the iconic visage of Coldplay’s Chris Martin striding through a glum, barren beach landscape have in common?
The answer is that both the nutty comedy series opening and the melancholic music video for Yellow by Coldplay were each filmed, decades apart, at Studland Beach in Dorset.
As a song from Coldplay’s debut album, this beach stands out as one of the most famous music video locations in history simply for its role in propelling Chris Martin and his band into the limelight.
It’s another example of how a visually striking music video can make or break the rise of pop and rock stars at the formative moments in their careers. Studland Beach is one of the best in Dorset – a part of the UK already beloved for its wonderful seaside locations – yet the way this place could be shot with such overbearing energy of mystery, sadness and determination proves how even the most barren of places can become one of the most iconic music video locations with the right approach.
Beaches, buildings, meadows and metropolises
Every artist has a vision, and every song has a message – the beauty of music videos as a format is their power in helping to convey that.
Even the most impactful sounds and the most stirring of lyrics can only go so far – the visual impact of a good musician’s songs is a crucial part of the whole experience in this day and age.
One piece of advice worth keeping in mind is that many of the most famous music video locations ever shown on film have been places that, at first glance seem ordinary, historic or simply empty and uninteresting.
It’s the power of your imagination that transforms these places – but that doesn’t necessarily mean that finding your next unforgettable music video location needs to be the source of frustration and creative block.
There’s lots of expertise on hand in helping you find the next great music video location – whether you’re looking to shoot in a famous place, or instead bring a more niche locale gleaming into the limelight.
Where’s the best place to bring your vision to life?