Foo Fighters photo waiver one of the severest in the industry: Here's why we didn't sign
If you've seen our Foo Fighters review today, you'll notice that the only photos we ran were teeny-tiny cell phone shots taken from our reviewer's seats. This wasn't for lack of of a photographer on our part, or a lack of effort: we refused to shoot the show because of an oppressive set of terms laid out by the band's management.
In this instance, prolific Gimme Noise photographer Erik Hess was assigned to shoot Foo Fighters at the Xcel Energy Center last night (you can see his photos of openers Rise Against here ). As with other large tours, the band's management had the venue send out a contract for our photographer to sign before we would be approved for a photo pass. But unlike most other large tours, this contract went well above and beyond the usual "I agree to shoot this band for this publication" fare and veered into creative and editorially destructive territory.
"The only way to make these contracts stop is if everyone says no to them," says Nate "Igor" Smith, a freelance photographer in NYC who contributes to the Village Voice. "More and more artists are going to come up with bullshit like this unless photographers and media sources stick together and say no."
On the other side of the coin, a seasoned photographer in L.A. says that the issue isn't quite so black and white. "I understand both sides of the conversation as I've had conversations with publicists regarding this topic, including Foo Fighters' publicist," says Timothy Norris, who contributes to L.A. Weekly. "My take on it has changed over the years and although it's still frustrating to read a contract that claims ownership of any image that comes of the shoot I have to keep in mind that at bottom the photos are about news. Nowadays there are just too many 'photographers' doing the same thing as me in the same time frame (first three songs) to think I'll make a quick buck on reselling an image to another outlet."
Norris also had an anecdote about a situation involving the Foo Fighters that indicates that their management may not be as vicious as the terms of their contract suggest. "I have a friend that once photographed Foo Fighters (contract signed) for a blog and management saw the photos and liked them. They ended up compensating him very well to use an image for marketing purposes involved with Gibson Guitars," he says.
A member of the Foo Fighters' publicity team also reiterated that the band's intent isn't quite what it seems on paper. "The language might be severe but that really isn't the intent. Its just to protect the Foo Fighters from having their image sold and licensed without their knowledge or control."
If that's the case, why make the contract so ferocious? And why be willing to negotiate the terms with one publication but not another? There are no easy answers here, and the conversation is ongoing.
As far as this paper is concerned, we will continue to support our photographers who decline to shoot major acts with terms this harsh, not only because we want to advocate for entertainment photography as a viable profession -- like any field, the more a photographer is able to support themselves with their creative work, the more time they can devote to their craft, which makes for better photos -- but also to attempt a defense against this industry-wide assault on editorial integrity. We're just one small outlet in the grand scheme of things, but you have to start somewhere.
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