Monday, October 3, 2011

I'm not a papparazzi, I'm a concert photographer!

I'll get straight to the point of this rant / post. The higher I climb on the concert photographer ladder here in town, the more and more I am faced with band management (and sometimes bands themselves) asking me to sign ridiculous contracts to allow me to shoot the shows. These contracts are what are referred to as a "rights grab".

Why ridiculous? Because these contracts make me sign away my rights and ownership of the images to the bands and management, at no charge, for ever and ever. They limit my own use of my images and even the use of the images for the media I am shooting for. It may not seem that big of a deal to most people, but think about it for a second.... my gear is mine, bought, paid for and insured. If I am not paid by the media I am working for, I still have rent and groceries to buy.

Why are they doing this? Because in today's digital photography world, everyone and their uncle has a digital camera. For every professional photographer trying to make it in the world by producing quality work and giving great customer service, there are 10 music fans that just want to get in the front row and shoot the show for free, just happy to get in the door. Bands and band management are clueing in on this and coming up with more ways to make money... ie exploiting concert photographers.

I get restrictions. First 3 songs. Only 1 song. Shoot from the soundboard. No back stage. No on stage. No flash. Everyone on the right. But trying to take away ownership and copyright?

All those pretty images that are on the web showing off a band live? All the images that make it into the magazines, in CDs, books, and posters that the fans just love to buy? Yeah, those have to come from somewhere. And they are usually not from uncle Bob with his digital camera.

I find it pretty damn ironic that these music artists, who are using us music photographers as puppets to get free professional images, are the first ones to bitch and complain when someone downloads their music for free off the web. Oh, the injustices of people not paying them for all their hard work, the depreciation on their gear, the creative and artistic vision they put forward, the long years spent in dirty clubs before making it to the bigger arenas, the late nights working on their passion while keeping a day job to pay the bills... oh wait, I just described my life...

I guess its ok to stop buying their art and find free ways of getting it as they don't want to pay for mine.

As the artists stood together to bring down Napster and other illegal music download sites, I hope that photographers can stand together and refuse to shoot any shows from artists trying to exploit them.

Who are some of the bands that have/had these highly restrictive and ridiculous contracts? One of the ones I was shocked at hearing are Foo Fighters. Add to them Stevie Wonder, Carlos Santana, Kiss, Kesha, Janet Jackson, Lady Gaga, Band of Horses, House of Blues, Maroon 5, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Def Leppard, Motley Crue, Rhianna, Seether,...

Let's hope the list starts to get shorter.

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