The Business of Music Photography
<v Todd O.>All right let's jump into the business side of music photography. A common, common question for new music photographers and even veteran music photographers is, "I love music photography, but how do I get paid?" There are so many publications that are willing to pay little or nothing at all for music photography. And the reason is that it's fun. Music photography is fun. That's the reason almost everyone gets in to it. You love music. You love photography. You put them together. You have a blast. I view music photography, for me, getting paid as a music photographer is like getting paid to eat pizza. I would do it for free, but the fact that I get paid for it, golden. A lot of people would do that for free, they didn't pay for it. So it's really a privileged opportunity to make money as a music photographer, but it is difficult as well. Just like so many types of photography where just because we are artists, we are creatives, we love what we do, it doesn't mean that you sho...
uldn't be well compensated and well paid for providing value and providing images that serve a purpose in the industry. Whether that's the entertainment industry, publications, etc or for the bands. Whoever it might be for. So paid opportunities as music photographer. They're basically kind of three different buckets. I would say editorial, promotional, and commercial. And obviously promotional, legally, is pretty much lumped in with commercial, but I'd separate them for this particular use. For editorial use of photography. You know, this is the use of the images as news, as education, or as information. It's describing the concert as it happened, as a news worthy event. These are fair use instances and could be anything from a blog, a print magazine, a newspaper, a wire agency, or a website that is conveying the images and their use as newsworthy. Secondly, you have, promotional aspect. And these are the use of the images to promote and market a specific brand or client. So instances of this kind of promotional use might be tour photography, press photos, promo photos, working as the house photographer for a venue, or shooting for a brand or sponsor that's not selling the images directly in an advertising capacity. But maybe using them, kind of to push out their own brand, for example. With commercial photography, this is, these are the images directly for monetary gain. It's going to be album artwork, merchandise, and advertising. This is kind of, these three segments are going to go in the order of what's, there are more opportunities with editorial. More limited with promotional and probably the least opportunity with commercial. Simply in terms of who's hiring. You're going to have hundreds and thousands of photographers working in an editorial capacity for newspapers and magazines and blogs. And fewer and fewer people working for promotional and fewer still working in a commercial capacity for music photography. Who pays the most? It's kind of inversely proportional to the market size and to the segment of the photographers. Editorial pays the least. Promotional pays a little more and commercial, obviously like any commercial photagraphy is going to pay the most. It's going to be the nicest paycheck. In terms of what a client is going to pay for in publications. You're going to have the most consistent access if you are shooting for editorial clients, because they are going to want to cover all the big concerts in your area, or regionally, internationally. So if you want to line up a bunch of photo passes, get paid doing it, shooting for a publication is probably the best way to go. You're going to have regular coverage at larger venues, but again because of the volume they're doing they're not going to pay you the same rate as a commercial brand for shooting a one off placement, a one off gallery, or an image that might be printed five by five in print. In terms of portrait value, you might be able to shoot editorial and get that portrait access. In addition, there is licensing opportunity if you shoot those concerts. So you can relicense them. You can syndicate if you want to. So those are kind of the opportunities if you shoot for publications of how to make money with music photography. If you're shooting for an artist for live music there's tour photography or shooting for press and marketing. It is kind of wrapped into the same. A lot of times the use might be slightly different if you're shooting tour photography and shooting the day to day of an artist. You might be behind the scenes, reportage, documentary. That might be used for social media for example. A higher use might be for the official press and marketing where they might want a hero image that they use for that tour. They might have it as a press release image for example, that they have after a big show, or the start of a tour or the end of a tour. For shooting artists and the portrait opportunities there, you might have press or promotional opportunities, or album artwork when you shoot for an artist. It could be something that's used as a press release, for promo for a tour cycle, or at best case for more commercial use, you might be shooting album artwork that's going to be used for everything from the physical album, vinyl, CDs, can be used on Spotify for that single artwork, the tour artwork, the album artwork, and have uses there. When you're shooting for brands, the live music opportunities are going to be advertising or for branded events for promotional opportunities. To really capture that artist, it might be a sponsored artist, it could be for an add or something similar. When you're shooting portraits for a brand it could be used for a marketing, for an advertising campaign, or for marketing campaigns where they might be, again a sponsored artist, that is endorsing a product and again more of a commercial opportunity there. Fourthly you might be able to shoot for venues or events. This is working in the capacity of a house photographer, or a tour, an official event photographer for the festival. For live music you are essentially providing editorial coverage. You're the official photographer for a festival. It's probably going to be mostly social media or marketing use. For portrait use with, as an official photographer for a festival or venue, you might get a backstage portrait and it's presenting it as editorial coverage. Maybe the venue's posting that portrait of the artist backstage with the owner. It's fair use, newsworthy, and so forth. Now with editorial work, we touched on this a little before but pitching yourself as an editorial photographer for a publication, it really pays to know the publication. Know what kind of concerts they're covering, what kind of music they're covering, and what scene they're covering. This will allow you to pitch them and to get on board as staff as a contributing photographer when you know the market. Secondly you have to know the right contact. If you're emailing, for example, the food editor at a magazine, it's not going to, and you want to shoot concerts, it's not going to be a great fit. They're going to think it's a little silly that you haven't found the right contact. Or even the managing editor because, if there's a specific editor who's in charge of entertainment, or music, or photography, specifically they're the ones who are going to be hiring you as a music photographer. So you need to find the right contact and this might be a little Google through, of just finding who the right person is. Or trying to set up a meeting and maybe calling reception and finding who the right contact might be. You're going to have to do a little leg work if you're cold calling these people. In addition to knowing the publication, pitching relevant content. If you're trying to shoot for Complex Magazine you don't want to be trying to pitch Mumford and Sons or like folk band if they're covering a more hip-hop, urban scene. So simply knowing what kind of events you want to cover and a fit for those clients is going to be huge. Finally, showing value to editorial client. You need to show that you can not only produce confident work as a photographer, but maybe you have an edge. Maybe you're known for a specific, feel or genre. Or you're known for nailing that epic stadium shot. What ever it might be, the production shot. If you can carve out a niche for yourself as a type of music photographer and be known for that. You're going to show added value to the client. Or if you want to specialize in artist portraits as an entertainment photographer. Maybe you're not great at live music but you want to hone in on portraits whether it's in studio, or album artwork, or location portraits. Maybe you can pitch yourself as specializing in that. By having a specialty and showing differentiation and value is going to help you stand out when you're pitching editorial work. In terms of business you have to know your rights as a music photographer. Like we have covered before, the copyright of your images. You own the copyright to your images. This is an inherent, innate right you have as a creator, as an artist, and as a photographer. Until you assign that copyright away, it's yours. You are entitled to fair use of those images. This includes portfolio use, editorial use. Using those images as news and describing a news worthy event. You have a right to refuse unfair contracts. It might mean taking a pay cut, or walking away from a small job. If you're not being fairly compensated as a photographer, if it's not paying for that work-for-hire, not paying for buyout of those images. You should refuse it. Have a lot of clients who might want, or potential clients who want to license an image and they want to request unlimited licensing or buyout of an image. For the most part, like so many types of photography, music licensing clients don't really truly need buyout of an image. If they do, they should pay for it. If it's only going to be used for an ad, or a billboard, or whatever it is, you should be able to hone in and reach an agreement that specifies the exact use of that image and anything beyond that should be an a la carte option, renegotiation, what ever it is so that you're paid for every single use. In terms of restrictions on what you can and can't do. If you're a photographer, yes you own the copyright, you cannot sell the image to a commercial entity or for commercial use without the artist having sign off. So for a lot of times if you're shooting for a commercial client, the artist might be a sponsored artist with them. They're going to clear that usage but it's not something that you as a photographer should be signing away, because you don't have the authorization to permit commercial use for someone who's not your own person. Same with marketing and promotion, and then advertising, and obviously unlimited print sales. A big question for music photographers is, "Can I sell my images?" and this is a fair use instance where under fair use, if its fine art, your selling limited edition say under 250, under 200 signed number of prints. That qualifies under fair use as fine art. For the most part the reality is that no music photographer is selling many hundreds or thousands of photo prints. It's not the case unless you're a more well known artist, you have a relationship with a famous artist, band, musician, you have a sign off. You're not selling that quantity. So for the most part the unlimited print sales doesn't apply to most photographers. It bears saying that, what's under fair use is limited edition, signed prints as a music photographer.