Well not really…I know it seems like it, but unfortunately you are not there yet cowboy.
What? You don’t know what I’m talking about? Didn’t you just receive an e-mail from a band asking, requesting to use your photographs?
ZOMG I is famous!!! A BAND LIKES MY PHOTOGRAPHS!!!- you are thinking while dancing around naked or not in your room. What to do? What to do? You ask yourself. Well slow down cowboy. I’m not about to rain on your parade. Well I am, kind of. Of course its great a band asked for your photographs. You probably got something similar to this:
Probably right now would be a good time to tell you about copyright. It all comes down to this: YOU OWN YOUR PHOTOGRAPHS (unless you signed your rights away, but you are cleverer than that, right? right? RIGHT?) and you grant a license for others to use your photographs. However please bear in mind that I’m not a copyright lawyer and that you should contact one if you need absolute certainty. I did.
So what can you do with them? You can only do non-commercial stuff. And by non-commercial I mean commercially mass produced products e.g. posters for sale, t-shirts, clothing, hats, glassware.
However you can sell them as limited edition art prints (no more than 200 prints). Yep! “limited” being the key word here. You can license them to bands/management for a fee or even for free (with certain conditions of course). Yai!!!! Welcome to the “for free” world. You can display them in your portfolio and once you become famous you can sign up with press agencies and get paid every time someone uses your photos for editorial usage.
What can you NOT do. As mentioned above, commercial stuff. You can not put them in T-Shirts and sell said T-Shirts (change T-Shirts for any other commercial item). You can not sell them to a third party for them to use them i.e. Beer company wants to use them in an advert. For all of this you need the band’s permission as they will want, justly, a cut of the pie. If only you also got to eat from that pie.
What can bands do with your photographs once you have given them permission or licensed them to use your images? They may only use the photograph(s) for non-commercial personal use, or to promote the band by, for example, using the photograph(s) in flyers or posters (so long as they are not being resold), on their website or social media pages, or providing the Image(s) to venues, record labels, publications, promoters or representatives, so long as your watermark and copyright information is not removed and the photograph(s) is(are) not modified or altered. If modifications need to be made to the photograph(s), the band needs to engage you and discuss them with you directly.
Any use of the photographs that is not a listed above (the list is by no means complete) is an infringement of your copyright and the band will/should be held responsible for such infringement. However you will soon find that some bands are above and beyond all that and the moment you contact them about them using your images without permission, you will accused of being a very, very, very evil being. Let me quote you some of my favorites so far: “I don’t like the way you do business, you’re selfish and have no interest in supporting the music community” followed by “your emails are filled with so much legal jargon that I’m not surprised to see none of the bands I play with, using your work”.
I used to contact the bands personally whenever I was alerted/became aware that they were using my photographs without permission but it became so much work that I ended spending more time dealing with this type of issue than taking photographs, so now I just file a DMCA notice and be done with it. For Facebook go here. For Twitter go here. For Instagram go here.
Don’t let a few haters stop you from protecting your intellectual property. Just realize that in the food chain that is the music industry, unless you are a famous photographer, you are the only one working for free and you need to protect your work. And why should that be? Well, If a band wants to use your photographs is because they see value in them. Used properly, photographs can be a very effective marketing tool that could bring more people to their gigs so they can gain fans and ultimately earn more money and street cred (is there such a thing as street cred?). So why shouldn’t you benefit also? And bear in mind that I’m not solely talking about money here. Goods exchange work too.
Imagine the following conversation: “Hey! we saw you taking photos of the band, here is our latest LP or T-Shirt. Would it be ok if we use your photographs? Of course! Thank you very much.” There you go! That wasn’t difficult, was it? These are the bands you want to work and develop a professional relationship with. There are not many, so whenever you stumble upon a band like this, cherish them like you would your most precious possession. Grow with them and you will both mutually benefit from the symbiotic relationship.
So that is pretty much your “101 Copyright DYI” introduction. Since this is your first request, chances are that the band has less money that you do and probably have not heard the term “Photography budget” before. As mentioned above, some bands will exchange T-shirts, CDs and even precious vinyl for your photographs. This is a good deal. Trust me. Particularly at this stage of your music photography career. Other bands will only give you the dreaded “credit”. It sounds like they are doing you a favor. They aren’t, really. You have “credit” the moment you press that button. But hey! its probably better than nothing or better than the alternative i.e. them stealing (lets call it what it is) your images outright.
On our next chat I will give you some templates that you can use to communicate with bands. So much talking has left me parched and I need to refill.
Waiter!! Can you give me the same please mate and thank you.