There’s been quite a bit in the photo news lately about the contracts required by Taylor Swift and the Foo Fighters to be able to photograph their concerts, and how some papers have boycotted the shows while several used creative means (crowd-sourced photos from attendees, and one sent a cartoonist to draw the show) to get around them. But where is all this coming from? I posted the following comment at an article on Poynter, which I think defines the problem fairly accurately.
This is a chicken-and-egg story, and I’m going to use MTV to illustrate it.
Before MTV the channel began, and before the internet was what we see today, bands would make short promo films of their new singles to try and get publicity for their new albums and singles. This was something they did at their own expense (or the label’s) because they needed to do everything they could to get their songs onto rotation at radio stations. Then someone thought “let’s build a cable channel around all these videos.” And this was win-win because the new channel had all this great material and the artists and labels loved it because their videos were being delivered directly to the record-buying public, bypassing the radio moguls.
Until the artists and labels decided that MTV was making money off of them, and they should start charging MTV for using their videos. And they had a new alternative stream for their videos – YouTube and websites – and that’s why there are virtually no music videos on MTV today.
Once upon a time, artists wanted photographers at their concerts, they wanted as much exposure as they could get, and concert photography with slower films was not an easy thing. How many rock and roll stars owe a big piece of their careers to Rolling Stone, Circus, Creem and other rock mags, and to famous rock photographers like Jim Marshall? Think about those iconic images of Hendrix, Jagger, the Dead, and even stars that didn’t need the help, like Lennon and Dylan. What would have happened if access had been so restricted? What would have happened if Johnny Cash refused to allow Jim Marshall to use that photo of him flipping the bird at the camera?
But now these mega-stars think photographers are living off their fame, and they’re worried about “bad” photos of them showing up in the media. They totally forget that nobody buys a bad photo of an artist, that’s the kind of stuff that goes from cellphone to Instagram. The Post wants good photos of the artist looking good, because bad photos of someone looking bad won’t sell papers and will ruin their working relationship with other artists and with the venue. These artists totally forget how badly they needed media coverage when they were on the rise, except that maybe people like Swift and Beyonce were never “struggling artists,” they were always in the care of a label manufacturing their look and sound. So they and their management think that everyone is just living off them, when without the media, they would still be at home singing into a Mister Microphone.