You are currently browsing the archives for the Music category.

July 22nd, 2015

The Photographer Who Rocked Taylor Swift: Open Letter Helped to Expose “Hideous Terms” Concert Photogs Face


There’s a neat symmetry to the Taylor Swift photo contract saga. It all began with an open letter, penned by UK concert photographer Jason Sheldon on his Junction10 blog, lambasting Swift for exploitative contract terms for her 1989 World Tour.

Sheldon’s open letter was sparked by Swift’s own public scolding of Apple for not paying artists during the three month free trial period of Apple music. And while Swift’s letter provoked a quick (or is that swift?) mea-culpa and an about-face from Apple, Sheldon’s appeal drew force more gradually from repeated media mentions, protests from news organizations and criticism from the National Press Photographer’s Association.

Shortly after the news broke that Swift’s team had altered its contract to appease critics, PDN reached out to Sheldon via email for his thoughts on the affair. What follows is an edited transcript.

PDN:  I’m wondering if you had any comment regarding the changes [Swift’s] team has made – do they go some (or all) of the way toward addressing your complaints?

Jason Sheldon: I’ve not had chance to examine the revised contract in detail – had a quick look and it appears to be a very positive step in the right direction. I think there are some minor points which I’d be happier tightening up, but I’m happy they’ve shown willingness to appreciate our rights a bit more.

PDN:  Are you surprised that your open letter has had the reaction and impact that it did?

Sheldon: I’m certainly pleasantly surprised it went viral.. It was good to have the support of publications like the Irish Times as well, who picked up on it and refused to agree to the terms of the contract.  It’s helped expose the hideous terms music photographers are sometimes forced to agree to (under economic duress) in order to carry out their jobs, and that is what it is – a job.

PDN:  Have you experienced any negative reaction (loss of work) from concert promoters or management teams because of your open criticism? 

Sheldon: Generally the feedback has been extremely positive on the whole. With various PR [reps] and promoters saying publicly that they agree with me – a few saying it privately as well. Of course, there has been some negative feedback which is to be expected, but most of it seems to come from people who have not read and understood the point of the open letter. These are usually the people that think we’re getting free concert tickets and living a parasitic existence off the back of the artist talent, which is certainly not the case. I haven’t lost any work from my stance, yet. But then, I’ve yet to apply for the Foo Fighters shows later this year.
July 21st, 2015

Taylor Swift Changes Photo Contract in Response to Online Outrage. Will the Foo Follow?

Jana Beamer | Flickr

Jana Beamer | Flickr

Evidently Taylor Swift doesn’t want there to be any bad blood between her 1989 World Tour and photographers. After an outpouring of internet outrage over her tour’s restrictive photo contract, Swift’s team has apparently relented.

Writing for Poytner, Benjamin Mullin notes that Swift’s team has removed elements that photographers had found objectionable:

According to a source who has seen the revised contract, Swift’s representatives are no longer empowered to forcibly remove images from the cameras of photojournalists. In addition, a stricture preventing photojournalists from using images taken at Swift’s concerts more than once has been loosened, allowing for some negotiation. And Swift’s representatives have agreed to credit photojournalists when the artist uses their photos.

Mashable has gotten a hold of the new contract and republished it here.

The changes were spurred by UK concert photographer Jason Sheldon and later by Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel for the National  Press Photographer’s Association, who has been speaking out against Swift’s contract since Sheldon’s open letter to Swift went viral.

Swift is not the only high-profile musician under fire for restrictive contracts.

The Washington City Paper refused to send a photographer to the Foo Fighters’s concert after writing that the Foo’s contract “sucked.” Instead, they commissioned a cartoonist to draw the band during the show. A Quebec paper, Le Soleil, followed suit.

Related: One Simple Way to Kill Restrictive Concert Photography Contracts

July 9th, 2015

How to Kill Restrictive Concert Photography Contracts

Gabbo T | Flickr

Gabbo T | Flickr

It’s boom times for concert photographers who want to complain about the terms of their contract. Jason Seldon’s public letter to Taylor Swift drew huge interest from traditional media companies, followed by the public calling out of the Foo Fighters by the Washington City Paper.

But, like a lot of online griping, the spilling of rage pixels rarely results in change.

Writing in his blog, the Norwegian photographer Jarle Moe argues that concert photographers wouldn’t be on the receiving end of unfair or overly restrictive contracts if they stopped thinking of themselves as concert photographers:

“If more, if not all, concert photographers identified as journalists and with the ethics that follow in their work, photo contracts would be a thing of the past. Signing a photo contract should be unacceptable, not because it’s disrespecting you as an artist, but because it’s a violation of the ethics you follow as a journalist.

So stop thinking about yourself primarily as an artist. You are a [photo]journalist. You may create art, but it’s more to it than that. You are a part of the freepress. Encourage new photographers to identify as journalists. Make the journalism be as natural to our profession as the artistry, and heed to the obligations that come with that label.”

Sound naive? According to Moe, Norwegian concert photographers banded together under a similar ethos:

“The Norwegian press as a whole, has made a joint statement to never sign any contracts put forward by artists or their management pushed forward by concert photographers, as can be read here. In Norway, most concert photographers are, in essence, photojournalists and identify more or less as such. And because of that, we are part of the press. We are not 100 concert photographers, but 7000 journalists.

Together we have a powerful voice. We generally do not meet any photo contracts, and the few we do, never gets signed. And because of that, contracts get fewer and fewer. With the press associations and unions behind us, we actually have a powerful voice against such demands, and the contracts get dropped (though, it has to be said that the local promoters have done tremendous work as well in that regard, but without all of the press acting like a collective, they would have no incentive to waiver the contracts). The aforementioned Foo Fighters contract? Guess what: that was not presented to the photographers in Norway. I can’t even remember the last time I “had” to sign a contract. That’s what having some integrity gets you.”

Sounds like an interesting strategy, but is it workable in a market as large and competitive as the U.S.?

July 6th, 2015

Not Just Tay Tay: Foo Fighters Called Out by Washington City Paper Over Contract Terms

A photo posted by Foo Fighters (@foofighters) on

Taylor Swift isn’t the only big-time musician to be called out for a restrictive photo contract. On July 2, the Washington City Paper took the Foo Fighters to task over a contract that they said “sucks.”

They wrote:

If we signed it, we would have agreed to: the band approving the photos which run in the City Paper; only running the photos once and with only one article; and all copyrights would transfer to the band. Then, here’s the fun part, the band would have “the right to exploit all or a part of the Photos in any and all media, now known or hereafter devised, throughout the universe, in perpetuity, in all configurations” without any approval or payment or consideration for the photographer.

That is exploitation of photographers, pure and simple.

The paper’s editors say they protested the terms, only to be told by the Foo Fighters’ management that they were standard and that they “protect the band” — which is more or less the same response from the Taylor Swift camp after her contract came under fire.

Will publicly airing and criticizing the terms of a contract force a change? It’s too soon to tell, but we’re just one more story away from a bona-fide trend.

April 6th, 2015

Band Defends Their Decision to Ask Photographer for Free Images

Alternative rock band Garbage published an open letter to portrait photographer Pat Pope on April 3, defending their decision to ask for free use of an image for their book and suggesting Pope was out of line for calling them out publicly.

On April 2, Pope published an open letter addressed to the band, criticizing their management company’s attempt to get free license to publish one of his images in a book the band plans to self-publish to celebrate their 20th anniversary.

In his letter, which was published on Facebook and picked up by websites Louder Than War and Huffington Post UK, Pope wrote: “I’m a firm believer that musicians and artists deserve to be paid for their work,” and asked the band, “When you think about artists being paid, does that include photographers?”

The band responded a day later with an open letter of their own, pointing out that they paid Pope for the shoot in 1995 (though presumably it was not a work for hire agreement), that books are expensive to publish, and that many other photographers “were happy for their images to be seen in conjunction with the telling of our story.” The band also did a little public shaming of their own, writing that they “would never publicly admonish or begrudge a fellow artist for merely asking [for them to provide services for free].” (more…)

November 21st, 2014

PDN Video Pick: Pitchfork’s Interactive Mini-Site for the 2014 Basilica Soundscape Festival

Basilica Soundscape

Pitchfork, the influential music website that has grown to include a quarterly print magazine and three art and music festivals, has launched a new mini-site to showcase videos made during September’s Basilica Soundscape Festival. The custom site, which lives at, features videos of 12 artists performing at the third iteration of the annual festival, held on September 12 & 13, 2014, in Hudson, NY. Each video is a performance from the festival interspersed with meditative footage shot in the idyllic town and countryside surrounding the festival venue.

The Basilica mini-site was designed and developed by William Colby, who co-directed the videos with Jim Larson. Both are part of the in-house video team at Pitchfork.

Pitchfork has been at the vanguard of creating innovative displays of photos and videos on the Internet, as we highlighted in our feature (subscription required) on the site’s “cover stories” in late 2013.

On the Basilica site, it’s possible to watch every video without a single click, thanks to the site’s minimal design: There’s a small navigation menu at the top right of the page, but visitors can scroll down through each auto-playing video. The performances run the gamut from modern metal like White Lung and Deafheaven, to a string quartet led by the Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Parry, and a deliciously funny reading of an essay on the gender politics of authenticity by Meredith Graves, of the hardcore band Perfect Pussy.

The mini-site is visually compelling, and is yet another example of Pitchfork’s commitment to experiment with new ways to deliver images to its readers.



October 28th, 2014

PhotoPlus Expo 2014: On the Upbeat – A Conversation with Ben Folds

140312_tour_portraitMany PhotoPlus Expo goers will know Ben Folds from his day job as a multi-platinum selling singer/songwriter, touring solo artist and leader of the eponymous Ben Folds Five. What you may not know is that Folds is an avid photographer, enamored of his darkroom and a devotee of both film and digital techniques.

PDN’s Technology Editor Greg Scoblete interviewed Folds about his photography ahead of his PhotoPlus Expo keynote on Saturday, November 1. What follows is an edited transcript.

You’ve said that you became an “obsessive freak” about photography when your kids were born. That’s probably true of a lot of parents, at least in the infant stages, but yours turned into a more enduring passion. Why?

Ben Folds: I wasn’t happy with the glut of ‘evidence’ photographs.  I wanted something enduring and archival that could be framed or touched for years. In order to do that I needed to learn to print well, and I needed to make decisions about what spoke of their childhood… In the process, I became obsessive about the materials—the film, the cameras, the tools.

I know you keep a fully packed schedule between recording and touring. When and how do you work in photography? Is it a part of your daily life?

Ben Folds: It’s like a break. I can work without working. I find it relaxing to go through my shots on a plane or in a hotel. I’m always surprised how ‘productive’ I remain about photography.

A more prosaic question: what do you typically shoot with? What’s your photographic process look like?

Ben Folds: These days I shoot three ways: color with my Sony digital camera, which I generally convert to black and white; black-and-white digital with my Monochrom and black-and-white film with my old Rolleiflex.

I can develop my film in the bathroom, or more often with my schedule, I send it to a lab [where] I’ve had good results for a couple years. I just stay on the lightly ‘overexposed’ side and have them ‘pull’ the film and I get a good grey printable negative generally. The negatives I really like, I have scanned. I may soon invest in a crazy good scanner, but boy that is an investment. I don’t have a darkroom at the moment—it’s all in storage. I miss my darkroom.

On your photography website you write that archival prints that would last generations are a more eloquent representation of your children’s youth “than digital folders full of snapshots.” Beyond the longevity, what do you find compelling about prints? 

Ben Folds: They are real. Life is real. We do live online a lot, but we’re still creatures of the Earth. Printing and prints means something you can hold—and there’s limited space and time so you have to make a decision. You can’t be in two places at once and while you can keep a million files on a hard drive, they’re not really there until they’re printed.

There’s seems to be a similarity in the way the business models of photography and music have been impacted by the Internet and digital technology. What was once scarce is now plentiful and what was once a high barrier to entry is considerably lower. Are you optimistic about the ability of future artists — be they photographers or musicians — to earn a living? 

Ben Folds: I think we can earn a living.  I don’t think we can expect to be rich at it.

You’ve written that you photograph things on the upbeat rather than the downbeat. What do you mean by that? 

Ben Folds: The downbeat is where we all land. It’s predictable. It’s not that I don’t shoot the predictable, I just find that I’m drawn to the photos that were shot between the moments—between the poses, and between the subjects, somehow.

I’m no master of that, but I can feel it when I see it and I try to be spontaneous enough to hit the shutter before I even know why. That [approach], somehow, was easier with film. I know that’s weird, but something about knowing there are a limited number of exposures on a roll made me feel more dangerous.

Anyway, at the end of the day, it’s just about telling a story—you can make that more interesting in the way you tell it, when you tell it and how you frame it.

January 22nd, 2014

Grammys to Honor Rock Photographer Jim Marshall

Legendary rock and roll photographer Jim Marshall, who shot iconic images of Johnny Cash, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and many other musicians, will be honored posthumously this weekend at a special Grammy Awards ceremony.

Marshall, who died in 2010 at the age of 74, will be given a Trustees Award at the Recording Academy’s Special Merit Awards ceremony on January 25. The academy’s 56th annual Grammy Awards ceremony, honoring musicians for the best recordings of the past year, will take place on January 26.

In addition to honoring Marshall, the Recording Academy will give lifetime achievement awards at the January 25 ceremony to the Beatles, the Isley Brothers, Kris Kristofersson and Kraftwerk.

Mashall began his career in the 1950s photographing musicians and beat poets in his native San Francisco. In the early 1960s he began shooting for record labels in New York, but soon returned to California to photograph musicians at clubs, festivals, and stadium concerts as a freelance photographer.

“He brooked no denial as he waded right in with his little Leica clicking quietly and constantly. His eye was amazing as he caught the essence of each scene before him,” folk musician and photographer Henry Diltz wrote in a tribute to Marshall last week on the Grammy Awards web site.

Marshall’s most recognizable photographs include Jimi Hendrix setting fire to one of his guitars at the Monterey International Pop Festival (1967); Janis Joplin reclining backstage at a Winterland Ballroom concert with a bottle of Southern Comfort in her hand (1968); and Johnny Cash giving the finger to Marshall’s camera at San Quentin State Prison (1969).

Rock and Roll Photographer Jim Marshall Has Died, Age 74
End Frame: Pamela Littky on Jim Marshall (requires PDN subscription)
Jim Marshall’s Estate Sues Fashion Designer for Copyright Infringement
Jim Marshall’s Estate Sues “Mr. Brainwash” and Google for Copyright Infringement

May 7th, 2012

Music Photographer Jim McCrary Dies at 72

Jim McCrary, the former A&M Records staff photographer who shot the cover of Carole King’s Tapestry and other rock-and-roll albums, died on April 29, 2012, “of complications from a chronic nervous system disorder,” the Los Angeles Times reports. He was 72 years old.

McCrary was born and raised in Los Angeles. He was a self-taught photographer who eventually studied at Pasadena City College and Art Center College of Design. McCrary began his career as a staff photographer at various portrait studios and in the photography department of Rockwell International, a manufacturing company involved in the aircraft, space and consumer electronics industries, amongst others.

In 1967 he became the chief photographer for A&M Records and ended up photographing over 300 album covers during the seven years he worked there. Some of his most famous covers include Carole King’s Tapestry, the Carpenters’ Ticket to Ride and Joe Crocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen. He also shot related publicity and advertising work for Gram Parsons, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Cat Stevens, Peter Frampton, Herb Alpert and other musicians.

After leaving the label, he owned his own studio in Hollywood until 1990. He then co-founded Pix Inc., a professional camera store in Los Angeles.

McCrary is survived by his son, Jason McCrary, and his brothers Wylee Dale McCrary and Doug McCrary.

April 26th, 2012

Jim Marshall’s Estate Sues “Mr. Brainwash” and Google for Copyright Infringement

John Coltrane Jim Marshall Thierry Guetta Mr. Brainwash

The estate of iconic music photographer James “Jim” Marshall filed a copyright infringement claim against Thierry Guetta (aka Mr. Brainwash) and Google for the unauthorized use of his images for advertising purposes. The brief states that copies of Marshall’s photos were used as part of a promotion for Google Music, a new online music service, as well as in derivative works.

According to the brief, for a Google event held at Guetta’s studio, the artist designed a backdrop using blown-up copies of photos Marshall made of musicians John Coltrane and Jimi Hendrix, which “constituted unauthorized reproductions and display” of the images. The backdrop was placed to the side of the stage where the announcement for Google Music was made, and therefore Google is also liable for copyright infringement since the images were used to promote its new product, Marshall’s estate claims.

Google Music Event

Additionally, the brief states that Guetta used five of Marshall’s photos to make derivative works, some of which he is currently selling on his Web site. It appears that Marshall’s images of John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Stanley Turrentine, as well as his group shots of Thelonius Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, and Gerald Wilson, and Jimi Hendrix and Brian Jones, were screen printed on to paper and then altered by either changing the color palette or adding words to the background.

Jimi Hendrix Jim Marshall Thierry Guetta

The brief is asking that all infringing works be turned over to the estate and that all profits derived from the infringing works be awarded to the estate. Additionally, its asking that any damages, attorneys’ fees and costs related to the trial be reimbursed.

This isn’t the first time Guetta has been accused of infringing on a photographer’s copyright. In June 2011, a federal judge ruled in favor of photographer Glen E. Friedman, who claimed that his image of hip-hop group Run-DMC was used as the basis of several works by Guetta. A settlement with Friedman has been reached, but the terms were not disclosed.

Additionally, Guetta has another copyright claim pending from photographer Dennis Morris. While Guetta admitted he did use Morris’s photo of Sex Pistol’s bassist Sid Vicious in derivative works of art, he claimed he did not know it was a copyrighted image. The two parties are currently working on a settlement agreement.

Neither Guetta nor Google responded immediately to a request for comment.

Update 4/27/12: Jim Prosser, manager global communications and public affairs for Google, responded to our request for comment by stating that Google has not received a copy of the complaint yet and therefore he cannot comment on it.

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Sid Vicious was the drummer for the Sex Pistols. The text has been corrected.

Related Articles:

Judge Rules for Photog In Copyright Suit Over RUN DMC Photo