The Three Song Rule

Three_Songs_No_Flash three song rule

The Three Song Rule

You might have heard of the three song rule. First three songs, no flash! But what exactly is the three song rule? Who came up with the concept and what can you do as concert photographer to make the photo pit experience a great one.

Background

The 3 Song Rule was created to control the time that photographers can spend photographing artists and musicians at a live concert. Rumor say it all started back in the 80’s at a Bruce Springsteen concert when any number of photographers were allowed to get into the photography pit, most of whom were paparazzi. At that time photo passes were easy to gain. Photographers were using film cameras and if the concert was in a dark venue than a flash would be used. Bruce Springsteen actually walked off stage due to the bursts of flash as there were about 60 or so photographers in the pit at that time.

Not all photographers were legit, some were hobbyists, others might have never shot a concert before.  Most did this in order to get into the concert and see their favourite band or musician. So with this in mind some control was needed.

The Rollng Stones 1969

The Rollng Stones 1969

The rule of a time limit was introduced by giving photographers 15 minutes at a time. As with most songs being approximately 5 minutes or less, it was decided that they should only be allowed to photograph the first three songs. The band then could continue with their performance without the hindrance, annoyance, or distraction of concert photographers. Also, some musicians are very active on stage, so they wanted to get captured at their best, rather than sweaty or tired.

Guidelines

The rules are simple and MUST be followed or you may be thrown out of the venue. When you are provided a press accreditation (photo pass) for an event to shoot in a photo pit, you already know you are only allowed the first thee songs for each performance. There are exceptions to the rules, but this is only given in special circumstances e.g when working directly with bands to shoot the whole concert.

THE THREE SONG RULE

  • First, you check in at the ticket office or press box, receive your press pass, and get the details of who you can shoot, when, and how long. Most of the time it is limited for the first 3 songs, but it doesn’t hurt to double-check.
  • A security guard or other official standing by the pit will usually be the person escorting you and other photographers in and out of the pit, so have your press pass easily accessible at all times. My HTBARP Lanyard works great for this.
  • When they allow you into the pit, you must be respectful to the other photographers, security, band, and audience. You can read more about photo pit etiquette here.
  • Wear Earplugs! Read my in-depth earplugs review here.
  • Remember: No Flash!
  • When the three songs are over, you must get ready to leave quickly
  • You may be allowed to remain in the building for the rest of the show but you must not take any photographs of the show either in the audience or at the sides or you will be asked to leave and probably banned from future shows. This, of course, is unless the band decides to let the photographers roam free, which does happen occasionally.

Stay within the rules and you will have an awesome time!

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  • I think it was this movie http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4026034/?ref_=nv_sr_1 that posits that the “3 song rule” started with Pat Benatar, and that she “looked like a wet dog” after the 3rd song and made a rule that the photographers could only shoot the 1st 3 for that reason. It wasn’t presented as fact or anything. Just putting it out there…

  • Wayne Charlton

    Respect other photographers – like that will stick. I’ve had people elbowing the crap out of me to boss into position.