Disappointingly, I was unable to photograph the great Nigerian musician Femi Kuti at Koko in London tonight as planned. When I arrived at the venue to collect my photo pass, I was told by the artist’s management I’d have to sign a form (which hadn’t been mentioned before) agreeing to send in all my images from the show, and giving consent for them to be used for any purposes, for an unrestricted amount of time, for free – in return for an ‘appropriate’ credit line.
I refused. As a professional photographer, giving someone all your images and granting them unrestricted rights to use them in perpetuity as they see fit makes it unlikely that you’d ever make any money by selling the images yourself or through a library (it would also make any exclusive sales impossible). And unfortunately, credit lines don’t pay bills.
I was told by management that their grounds for imposing these restrictions were that they had to ‘protect their artists’ (perhaps they think I’m going to attempt to take a bad/unflattering image, and then an image library is actually going to accept it or an editor want to buy it? Or that I’m going to attempt to sell an image for commercial as opposed to editorial use, without a model release?), and that photographing musicians had to be a ‘two way process’, otherwise I would be ‘making money from using the artist’s image’ and they would be getting ‘nothing’ in return…. Quite what the photographer is supposed to get out of this arrangement is anybody’s guess.
There’s nothing ‘two way’ about this though. It means the photographer shoots and edits for free – as opposed to ‘on spec’ for a freelancer – but is unlikely to be able to sell their work since they’ve already given it to someone to publish, use in advertising, resell, or give away for PR use; while the artist/band/label or whoever else is enforcing this policy gets professional coverage of a show for free, and unlimited use to the images for free, instead of either licensing an individual image, commissioning work or paying a day or half day rate. Last time I looked, CD sleeves and promotional material in the music business still used images which had been commissioned or licensed. Though such restrictions/protocol are not entirely unknown, none of the other international artists I have photographed have ever attempted to impose similar conditions.
Of course, they’re the management so they’re quite within their rights to impose whatever conditions they want – though it might be more professional to make these conditions known in advance (I had simply been told the usual restrictions applied, ie first 3 songs or first 10 minutes, no flash), which would have saved me time and money travelling to a gig which I then didn’t photograph.
Update (10/05/13): I was originally led to believe it was the venue which was imposing this demand, but after a couple of enquiries today I’ve found this was quite wrong (so my apologies to the venue, Koko) and it was the artist management. I’ve now altered the text of this post slightly to reflect this fact. And I guess I’ll never be photographing Femi Kuti, which is a shame.