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CMA Bingo/amazing tornado video/Bonnaroo photo contract rant

June 10, 2009

The fine folks over at Nashvillest have attempted to top their famous reader-submitted “CMA Bingo” game this year by having a submission contest for this year’s. By the time you read this the contest will have closed, but look on Nashvillest.com tomorrow to see the winner. I don’t know if anyone can top last year’s though:

Some quick science tidbits before I get into my “rant”….

The Japanese Kayuga probe has been orbiting/studying the moon since 2007 and will make a controlled impact on the lunar surface today. No, it’s not landing, it’s actually going to crash into the surface at full orbital velocity. In other words, it’s going to make a crater. It’s done its duty, so might as well go out with a bang eh?

Remember when I told you about project VORTEX 2? A quick refresher- it’s a huge team of scientists that are currently chasing tornadoes out in the plains to gather data and improve on warning systems/prediction. Actually I think it ended today. But they did capture one piece of truly phenomenal footage when a twister they were filming turned/roped sideways and gave their videographer a view straight down the throat of the funnel. Check it out here. Absolutely amazing! Via Live Science.

Fair warning: I’m about to rant on something. But it’s very much worth ranting on.

As you know if you’ve read this blog before, I’m a photographer for the Nashville Scene. Last year I covered Bonnaroo for them and this year I’m doing it again, only this time my photos will be used across most of the blogs and papers owned by Village Voice Media. Photo contracts are quite commonplace at concerts involving big-name artists/bands. Bonnaroo, being the biggest festival in the country, is obviously no exception. They have a blanket contract that photographers have to sign in order to cover the festival at all. Last year its was a pretty basic contract just limiting the usage of your photos to whatever specific publication or wire service the photographer was shooting for. Without any kind of contract, legally a photographer can sell his/her images of a band or artist’s performance to any agency or news publication without a model release from the people in the photos because that is considered editorial usage, which is different from commercial usage (which requires a model release from anyone in the photo). In recent years, as the music industry has crumbled due to its unwillingness to adapt to technology, labels and artist management firms have introduced what are known as “rights-grabbing” contracts that get shoved in a photographer’s face right before they go in to photograph a show. These contracts have gotten more and more outrageous in the last few years, and this year I got my first taste of a full copyright-grabbing contract. I won’t say which artist/s I’m referring to, but suffice it to say that there are a few specific artists every year at Bonnaroo that have a separate contract than the overall festival photo contract, and they also have a restricted list of photographers who will be allowed to photograph them. This year there were 4 that did this. (So far I’ve been approved for 3 of them.) This particular artist’s contract stated that I would have to turnover the full image rights to the label, and that the images could be used only once for the specific publication I was shooting for. After that, the label would then own the images and wouldn’t have to pay me a dime for them. Furthermore, this meant that the label could then use my images in merch, promotional items, or whatever they please, and I wouldn’t get a penny of royalties or any other compensation. If I don’t sign it then I won’t be allowed to photograph the artist. Let it be known that I will certainly NOT be signing such an outrageous contract and that thankfully VV is backing me up on it. They agreed that the terms of the contract were completely unreasonable and didn’t expect me to sign it, and were fine doing without photos of said artist. It’s really pathetic that these record labels are not only screwing their artists out of money, they’re now trying to screw the photographers who cover their artists’ concerts. These people literally must have no shame or dignity. What these contracts do is essentially steal and then exploit. If you’re a music photographer, please read these contracts before you sign them. If an artist insists on such a ridiculous contract, then they are NOT WORTH YOUR TIME IN THE FIRST PLACE! And if the publication for which you’re shooting does not back you up on this, then you are working for the wrong publication, and they are not worth your time either!

Thank you and good night.

P.S. Don’t expect to see many posts on there over the next few days. I have no idea if I’ll have time to blog at all, and if I do it’ll be a very quick blurb about something crazy I witnessed.

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2 Responses to “CMA Bingo/amazing tornado video/Bonnaroo photo contract rant”

  1. Bull Says:

    I understand you problems with this and agree with your position. I guess what I don’t understand is why you haven’t identified the artists and labels involved. Maybe some bad publicity, and no photos would help to curtail this garbage.


  2. Now that it’s passed I guess it doesn’t matter… they were The Beastie Boys, Mars Volta, and Nine Inch Nails. Springsteen did not have a special contract. NIN’s wasn’t that bad, but both Beastie Boys and Mars Volta was a full rights-grab. Photographers- refuse to photograph these bands unless you are exempt from this contract!


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