Rock Photography Is Fading Fast. What has happened to great rock concert photography? Is it part of a bygone era, or has the music industry forgone photographers due to control issues? A mix of both, says Mark Paytress in Creative Review’s article “Three Songs and Yer Out! The Dying Art of Gig Photography” (reprinted from a recent issue of M magazine). The “three songs” refers to an industry-wide guideline that photographers are allowed access to the artists only for the first three songs of a performance. The practice started as a courtesy to performers to keep distracting flash bulbs to a minimum. But then it worked its way around the scene and became the rule at most venues. Artists and their management blame the venues for enforcing the rule, while the venues insist they’re just doing what they’re told by the management. [Utne Reader]
This article doesn’t tell the whole story. Those restrictions certainly exist, but you only encounter them once an artist has become successful enough to have “people” and play at venues with “security.” If you stick to smaller venues such as (in Los Angeles) the Hotel Café, Molly Malone’s, and the Troubadour, you can still shoot through the entire show. Using a flash is discouraged or even banned at some of these smaller venues, but then flashes going off in small venues are really annoying to everyone, and tend to produce bad pictures besides.
This doesn’t help people who want to make a living as concert photographers, because there’s no money in shooting the acts who play at these smaller venues. However, anyone doing it as a hobby will have plenty of opportunities, and all of those big successful artists who can’t be photographed start out playing at small venues. (Well, except for the totally manufactured idol singer types, but the only reason to photograph them is for money.)