24 March 2012

You mean I do this for free? You must be crazy.

Beastwars-14Often when I'm out photographing or reviewing music I'll get someone come up to me and want to chat about what I do - not all of them as confrontational or confused as the dude I wrote about in the last post. A lot of times they just want to know about the behind-the-scenes part of it.

These chats will usually end up getting to something along the lines of "that's so great that you get to go and hang out at gigs and get paid for it too". At which point I have to stop and correct them, usually after I recover from a laughing fit. Because I don't get paid; very few people doing this actually make any money from it (although I have earned approximately US$1.07 through blogger. And if anyone wants to help boost that figure, I'm happy to talk advertising rates for you to plug your album, gig, self on here).

I think I've already covered why I do this, which hopefully explains why I also do it without getting paid. But why don't I get paid?

It's probably because New Zealand is such a small country, and therefore such a small market for music. We struggle to attract major labels, and their major money, so don't get any of the benefits (or negatives) that they, and their budgets, bring.

That's good, in a way, for the independence of our music industry and it allows people to write the music they want, without worrying so much about having to cater to the whims of major labels and their constant push for marketability. But it also means that without someone throwing money at bands and the industry as a whole there's nothing to trickle down to everyone who in someway contributes to that industry. Like the lowly photographers and reviewers who provide the (free) publicity.

Music photography has also changed with the advent of cheap digital SLRs. Where it was once the domain of those able to buy high end 35mm film cameras and expensive lenses, now any chump with a student loan can walk into a camera shop (or online retailer) and buy a camera that's going to take halfway decent shots in dark and dingy bars. 

Which means that if we start asking for money from the people wanting music photos, we're just as likely to be told to get lost and find that someone prepared to do it for free just because they have a camera is going to be taking our place.

Of course, with the way things are structured, we're not the only ones losing out. a lot of musicians struggle to get buy too, and of course, as the ones making the music, they deserve to be getting their cut before anyone else. With the rise of alternative means of distribution we're hopefully starting to see that happening more and more now too.

So until the music industry here starts making more money, or we find a way to change how the industry is structured, and have photography and writing valued as important aspects of that industry, the status quo remains and I'll continue to do it for the love of it.

But if you happen to see someone out taking photos or overhear them talking about a review they're writing, feel free to buy them a drink - it may be the only payment they get for all their hard work.


  1. Things are no different over here in the States, Alistar, especially in Detroit, MI. I have been shooting for MOTORCITYBLOG for quite some time now, and I dont get paid. And from what I gather by talking to most of the other photogs in the pits at concerts, neither do they. Our payments are seeing the concerts for free in Row #1, capturing kick-ass shots, and the potential of some band wanting to pay you thousands of dollars for that once-in-a-lifetime shot you captured to be used for their upcoming World Tour. (Which has yet to happen for me.) You are absolutely correct on the reasoning behind this lack of revenue being the availability of D-SLRs. Anybody and everybody is a photographer now...just not necessarily good ones. Would I give it up? No way! Do I love it? hell yeah!

    1. Thanks Brett. Getting to see great bands for free (and quite often in the best spot) is pretty rewarding, as is the opportunity to capture that once in a lifetime shot. But for those people who want to make a living doing this it can be pretty frustrating giving up so much time for nothing.

      But yeah, I wouldn't stop doing it either.

  2. Concert Photography seems like its something that will pay off in the future. Photos to be looked back on.