Pssst. I´m about to let you in on some secrets of concert photographers today. I met up with no-one other than the guy who inspired me to become a Rockstar photographer by myself. Therefore I flew to Brooklyn, New York to hangout with Mr. Todd Owyoung to talk about passion, the music business and why you should always enjoy what you are working on.
If you have been into concert photography, you must really follow Todd Owyoung. If you haven´t until now, check out his awesome website at www.ishootshows.com. When I started out in concert photography, some six years ago, Todd was the first name that popped up in google andI could tell immediately that I need to know more about him. I checked out his awesome photos, blog articles and reviews and learned a lot about how to get started in a business where hardly anyone talks about their secrets as music photographers. We eventually got in contact via email and collaborated on some projects. I sent him my portrait photo of Atari Teenage Riot for his great project “The Image Story” and he reviewed my “Guide To Rockstar Concert Photography“. So it was just a matter of time before we met up in person and had a chat about our visions to change the world for a better Rockplace.
It really didn´t surprise me that Todd and I share almost the same mindset when it comes down to how the music photography business works. We talked for about 3 hours, had a couple of drinks and drew some conclusions about how we see the concert photography culture developing in the future.
As a result of our chat, I´ve got 5 tips to share with you about what you should know about concert photography.
1. Be passionate!
Todd and I totally agreed on the face that we both love being music photographers. If you´re considing starting out as a photographer in the music business, there´s probably only one way to be successful: find your passion for it. Don´t start for reasons like money, fame or because you’re a groupie of a specific band and want to get access to them. You don´t know if this is the right thing for you yet, then read my 10 tips to follow your passion.
2. Getting noticed!
Today, it´s easier then ever to reach millions of people using the world wide web. Social media platforms are your doorway through which you can to get in contact with people who share the same passion as you. It´s important to show your work and share your stories. Additionally, get your own webpage and show your portfolio. Have a look at Todd´s website “ishootshow” and my “How to become a Rockstar photographer” branding to get some inspirations. Also a good book to read is also Austin Kleon´s book Show Your Work!
3. Break the boundaries
As Todd and I have already been in the concert photography business for a while, we also discussed the limitations you have to deal with as a music photographer. There is the “3 songs rule“, which means that you´re only allowed to shoot the first 3 songs from the photopit. When shooting larger bands, you have to sign a contract (you´re not even allowed to use the pictures for your personal portfolio) and sometimes you´re more than 30m away from the stage. These are all challenges you will master,but after a while you´ll start looking for more. So, what Todd and I are doing is shooting directly for bands. This allows us to get different viewpoints such as shooting from the stage. It´s great fun and you can start doing it now too. Start out in small clubs and ask bands if you can shoot for them directly. They´ll be happy to get great pictures and you´ll have the opportunity to get some killer shots on stage.
4. How to make money in the music biz!
Todd told me a story about two photographers who were trying to get hired to shoot a band. One was an old friend of the band who wanted to do it for free and the other photographer was a stranger to them but he wanted to charge them. Who did the management choose? Surprisingly, it was the guy who wanted to get paid just like everyone gets paid for a providing a professional service.
I totally agree, that too many concert photographers give their work for free. And most of the time nobody will take you serious if you do so. Therefore, I talked to some influential guys like Ross Halfin and found myself a way how to get money out of my work. (and by the way start to help the concert photography business out of it´s fucked up state). My Manifesto is simple, easy and works:
NEVER GIVE OUT PROMO AND PRESS IMAGES FOR FREE!
That´s it. It´s fine to give your photos for free, if they´re only going to be used on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter , Instagram and so on. Reduce the size to 1500px on the longest side and the resolution to 72dpi, put your logo on it and ask for a link to your homepage.
BUT: DON´T give your photos away for free if a band wants to use them for Promo or press usage! Never! This is where the “hobby“ part ends and the business part begins. This is commercial usage and I don´t see any reason why bands/management shouldn´t pay for it. They don´t give their music away for free either.
So next time when a band ask you for free promo pics, remember the story that Todd told me and be clever enough not to get fooled by music management people.
This might be the most important point of all! Enjoy life and have fun doing what you´re doing. Don´t take yourself too seriously and be nice to other photographers. I think Todd and I are the perfect example in that even though we´re in the same competitive field as concert photographers, we´re happy to just meet up and talk about our experiences. It ´s about sharing, making new friends and helping others out. We´re all sitting in the same boat and it´s great for Karma too.
I would love to hear your tips for concert photographers. Post them below in the comment section