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SELLING TO MUSICIANS (management & music labels)

Terry MercerTerry Mercer East Tennessee, USAMember Posts: 22
The concise version is: is anyone out there selling to musicians & labels, and making much money at it? If yes, how... I'm looking for some more suggestions.

Background: I've been shooting for nearly 40 years, the last 16 professionally. Sports Action & Nature the first 12 for some News Papers, magazines, schools & parents... the last four for venues & musicians.

Over the last four years, I have built working relationships with a few venues here in the Knoxville area, which I regularly shoot at, a couple venues in Nashville & NC. I am on good terms with the security and management, which has enabled me to exclusively shot most of the Meet & Greets (a few hundred) with some 'top' Country Music Artists, and reality TV stars. A few of them I've shot multiple times, and most purposefully don't allow any other cameras or cell phones during the M&G's I shoot.

Generally either I am paid for shooting AND/OR get to keep 100% of what I sell (downloads or prints). My usual paying customer at this events are the fans coming through the line to meet the musician, other members of the band (from during the show), and often those in the opening act. Often a little from each category, more when my cameras are the only ones allowed. The venue usually gets about 20 to 40 'web ready' (small) images (which have MY WEBSITE listed in the watermark), and sometimes one large (1920pixels 96dpi) image for their web site & facebook pages. Often I'll send the artists 1 or 2 'small' web ready images for their personal facebook page, along with a link to the 'rest of the images.' The venue's only request for selling is that I have 'inexpensive' options... which I do.

There have been quite a few 'small' - up & coming artists - that have purchased images for 'commercial use' - and a few 'freelance' instrument fill-ins have bought images for their personal profiles & sponsored pages, because they aren't yet with a consistent band/artist. A few of the smaller bands have been interested in getting some video footage, or even a live video shoot... which is available for an additional cost (depending on time & expectations, often b-roll crowd or stage footage).

I've sold a bunch of images through PR Photo (though their pay rates suck, and frankly isn't worth the time and hassle of dealing with them, from my experience).

I've had some of the labels 'invite' me to shoot shows... a couple managers & big name artists have even sent 'full-access' and 'press' passes to shoot their shows. I've been thanked me for doing the shoot... but neither have licensed images, though they've requested to use some (some I've sent small 'web ready' (500x333, 72dpi) proofs with my watermark, to use on their personal pages. I've held out on the commercial use... and major use licensing.

I've had a few artists/manager's attempt to get me to sign a 'copyright release' (which I refuse 100% of the time, unless they step up with at least a four-figure check 'day rate'). A couple of those 'controlling' labels/artists have allowed me to shoot despite my refusal to sign away my rights (one was amazed that I asked them to sign the same agreement in reverse, allowing me to 'have' what sound I recorded without limitations).

My question is: Does anyone have any suggestions on what or how I might be able to actually do more, make more, and better interest the labels & management companies to actually step up and buy & license more images??

The merch person, front end manger, and all the artists, managers, labels, and fans end up getting a business card that tells them where the images will be after the shoot, and the basics of how to order... the concert people are sent to:

Each primary artist is listed by name, everything in the last few weeks before the logo, everything after is alphabetical. If I've shoot the artist more than once, it's broken down by date. Then each shoot is broken into AT LEAST three gallery's: TOP SHOTS, MEET & GREET (People There), and OTHER SHOTS. I seldom get asked 'where to find' any images... and leave the 'other shots' only because some of the artists & fans have requested that (and strangely, some purchase from that section).

Most of the 'web ready' (500x333, 72dpi) images have my website listed, the venue, and artists that share these web ready 'proofs' also usually link to either my facebook page or website to help with the promotion.


  • Hello Terry,

    Check out Amad Elmakias. I would suggest that you start with this photographer's website, follow his blog and do searches for any tips or classes he may have online. One such program featuring Amad is The Grid. The segment can be found here:

    His website can be accessed at:

    Amad also has a class on KelbyOne, but viewing it requires a membership. That said, it might be worth the $19 per month to join and watch it.

    Now, my first and foremost job is being an English teacher, so a few grammar comments about the text on the link you included in your post. I found it a bit wordy, and there were a few punctuation errors. (Hey, it's what I do! LOL)

    This is what you have: Concert shoots... mostly from the Knoxville, Tennessee area... either from Cotton Eyed Joe, Two Doors Down - Maryville, or the Knoxville Coliseum. Artists are listed alphabetically after about 30 days, and at the top of the list (in order shot) until they are moved down the list. Artists shoot more than once are usually still under their name, by date or location. Meet & Greets are almost always in a separate folder within that artists folder.

    This is what you might want to consider:
    The following concert shoots are mainly from the Knoxville, Tennessee area. Artists who have been photographed in the last thirty days are at the top of the list; others are listed alphabetically. Artists shot more than once are usually still under their name, by date or location. Meet & Greets are almost always in a separate folder within that artist's folder.

  • Ann QuimbyAnn Quimby Member Posts: 1
    edited May 2016
    where do I start? in case you hadn't heard, music photography is an area of photography that is on the brink of extinction. Everyone thinks they can do it, and with today's smarter cameras, people can take some decent photos. The problem is that they are so thrilled to be shooting music, or at least being near their favorite artists, that they work cheap. Or free. So artists get the idea that they shouldn't have to pay for images. Artists shouldn't be getting free images. As for the venue, are they paying you? Or are the images you send them free? If the images are in exchange for access, that's an awful lot of freebies.

    You are right not to sign the artists' releases. You are the creator and this is one of the biggest problems in the industry today. Too many people sign this crap and it's making it difficult for serious photographers to make money. Never give up your IP. OTOH, and this is a big OTOH, why on earth are you asking to sign anything regarding their music? One, you shouldn't be recording music without express written permission and the appropriate licensing. The laws are very different in regards to music. You need very specific licenses from licensing organizations depending on the use. There are royalties to be paid. The people you are asking to sign these almost certainly aren't the people that can sign these. You need to show this to an expert IP attorney specialist if you are really going to try this again. Surprised you haven't been ejected for even bringing it up. What do you use the video for anyway?

    Handing out cards to everyone is overkill. The merch guy is just that; the merch guy. They load and unload trucks and set up merch tables. and hopefully sell stuff. Overzealous "networking" can make you seem annoying. If you are passing out cards, sending off free images and still not making the money you want then you have to realize there are basically 2 problems. One is the industry. There just isn't a lot of money in music photography. There's usually money in the "budget" for beer or whatever but somehow not so much for photographs. Now that so many people are willing to work for free, people are less inclined to actually pay for photos. and fans, well they are shooting, their friends are shooting, and many are more than willing to steal images off the internet.

    Ok, now the hard but honest part. If someone is interested enough in your images and goes to your website, there are some problems. You have too many images. Edit, edit, edit. Be ruthless. I'd get rid of the "Other Shots" category entirely. You see Top Shots and then that and it instantly puts in mind that some of the photos just aren't as good and you sell them anyway. That may appeal to the hardcore fan but sure won't make the artist and label happy. Also edit out images where they are essentially duplicate shots. Look for the technically less shots. If the lighting or color correction is poor and you can't fix it, it shouldn't be up there. Please watch out for things like mic mouth. Also, I found your layout difficult. The icons are so big that I had to do a lot of scrolling; I couldn't just skim to see what artists you had. Never made it all the way to the end.

    Hope you find some of this useful. I wish I could tell you that shooting music is a big money maker, but it just isn't. You seem to shoot a lot of country; I've never really shot country so don't know if it's any better but I would be surprised if it was much different. Good luck.

    ps. I've been pretty sick the last couple of years so my site needs some updating but here's the link. the front slide show is pretty representative
  • Kevin KrowsKevin Krows United StatesMember Posts: 1,462
    edited May 2016
    @Ann Quimby - Your thoughts, observations, and recommendations are dead on. Also, very applicable to any photographer that has a specialized niche (not just concert photography).

    Check out Deb Rothenberg's web site (also a Zenfolio photog) I've known her for a couple of years now and have exchanged many ideas with her. She's been shooting Bruce Springsteen since 1980 and even published a book a few years ago that was on the NY Times best seller list. She's also shot other headliners over the years and travels all over the world. She has been a guest lecturer at universities and corporate events throughout the United States and is one of the best in the industry.

    Deb isn't just a great photographer. She's a GREAT PERSON that musicians know they can trust, is likeable, and very easy to work with. She's also one of the best listeners walking the planet .... which is odd because she is a "Jersey Girl". :)
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