Whether you’re an established music lensman or just starting to photograph concerts, you know one matter: Admission is everything. Getting into shows with your camera, getting admission to the photo pit, and having the approval to photograph bands are all huge hurdles for most live music photographers of all levels.
The photo laissez passer is a printed credential that identifies you to security and venue staff as beingness canonical to photograph a ring for virtually all medium to big concerts. It might have the course of a wristband, a fabric sticker, or a laminated carte. Regardless of the form, the photo pass is among the holy grail (brusque of the AAA, or Access All Areas pass) for so many concert photographers, because it’south the key to getting up close and into the photograph pit for your favorite bands.
In this definitive guide, I’m going to explicate what a photograph laissez passer is, why you lot need information technology, who grants permission, what the considerations are for those canonical for photograph passes, how to get a photo pass, and how to observe the contact information for the gatekeepers of photo passes for concert photography.
The premise of the photo pass relies on the historic period-sometime barter system. You, the photographer and by extension your publication, are providing a valuable service to the artist (press coverage), and in substitution, the publicist is allowing you valuable admission to their client. That’s information technology. That’southward the deal.
It goes without saying that you must be shooting for a legitimate publication and are requesting credentials on the level. Yous will not arrive unless everything is on the level, and if y’all lie to secure credentials, you lot will be blacklisted in short society.
Likewise, it’s worth noting that while you lot can request admission for anything yous like, y’all are not entitled to access of any kind. It’s within the right and in fact information technology is the job of the gatekeepers to ensure that only qualified photographers and publications are given admission to their artists, and that the images produced produce the highest render on investment.
Now with that out of the mode, let’due south get on with it.
What is a Photo Laissez passer?
A photograph pass is mostly a fabric sticker that is produced past a tour that identifies people who have been approved with photo access. In that location may exist other sticker passes for the tour that identity guest passes, VIP, artist meet and greet, and then forth. For smaller tours, at that place may be 1 generic pass for all uses and the specific use is written on information technology when information technology’s handed out (ie, writing ‘Photograph’ for a photograph pass, ‘VIP’ for VIP, etc.
Every concert on a bout, venue security will be provided with a sheet that shows the advent of each pass and what that pass can do. A security meeting should inform venue staff of what photo restrictions are for the headlining artist, which are generally enforced for all bands on the neb.
Why Do You Need a Photo Pass?
Well-nigh concert venues of this size may have a restriction on fans bringing professional photography equipment in — this rule is mostly stated when you lot buy a ticket and it’s frequently printed on the backs of tickets from big vendors like Ticketmaster or Alive Nation.
Artist management or an artist’due south publicist may desire to limit photography to a small number of canonical editorial publications because it helps them ensure only qualified or preferred outlets have media access. Thus, a photograph pass is a simply a style of identifying approved photographers to venue staff and security.
It’s important to empathise that, at a certain point, media coverage to an artist tin be viewed as a liability, especially to those entrusted with protecting and artist and their interests. Highly vetting which publications have access to their artists is simply a mode of ensuring that they are presented in a way that benefits their clients.
How Do I Become A Photo Pass to a Concert?
Then, how do you become a photograph pass for a concert? At that place are just a few scenarios in which you demand a photograph pass (excluding music festivals, which are a unlike kind of beast).
- You lot’re shooting for an editorial publication
- Y’all’re a wire agency shooter
- You’re shooting for the artist directly, but without college access (such as AAA)
- You’re shooting for the venue, promoter, a make, etc
We’ll focus mainly outset use, as that’s the most common situation by far. In social club to become a photograph laissez passer, you accept to make a request and be approved by a gatekeeper, mostly an artist’s publicist or a promoter.
There are a lot of factors in requesting a photo laissez passer and how requests are judged. Beginning, at that place’south the reason for the asking. If y’all’re a photographer who is just starting out and you’re building your portfolio, from a band’due south interest, there is very piffling reason to grant access. Publicists volition desire to understand that the photos are existence used for a purpose that will do work for them — more often than not provide positive coverage of their artist that promotes the tour, the current album, etc.
If you’re posting images of the concert to Instagram with no publication, no written review, so in the optics of a publicist or other gatekeeper, at that place’s about no reason at all to grant access for a photo laissez passer. Y’all take your best risk at getting a photo laissez passer by showing that you’re providing value to them.
Big Publications are Better
The most reliable fashion to become a photo laissez passer is to shoot for the publications already covering the kind of concerts you desire to cover in your city or surface area. Those are the publications that have the relationships with publicists already and are providing the value that bands desire and are approving for credentials.
Established publications with a wide accomplish in their audience and readership are going to accept to have the best admission for your larger tours playing arenas, amphitheaters and stadiums, on downwards to all other modest venues.
Smaller Publications Tin can All the same Work
However, shooting for smaller publications can still grant you a lot of opportunities as well. From blogs to online music magazines, smaller publications may lose out for the biggest shows, but they should still provide skillful access for the midsized venues similar clubs and theaters in your city.
Connecting with a Publication to Shoot Concert Photography
And so yous know that you need to exist shooting for a publication in order to become a photo pass in well-nigh all instances. How practice you lot connect with a publication and become a contributing photographer?
Brand a Portfolio
First, you’ll demand a portfolio — information technology’south the easiest way to showcase your work to a photo editor and illustrate the value yous can bring to a team. Instagram may be fine, but it’s not necessarily an ideal experience for the viewer if they want to see college resolution work, and your Instagram feed may non be a truthful showcase of your very best work in the highly curated format y’all would desire if you need to brand a strong impression. For that, a dedicated portfolio website is ideal. Peradventure a PDF. What you lot don’t want to do is send a Cipher of loose images. No one’south got time for that.
Regardless of the format, y’all want your portfolio
you’ll need to practise the research. A few things to consider:
- Who is covering the concerts in your area you want to access to?
- Do they accept regular contributors already?
- Can you lot provide value to them outside of their normal coverage?
How to Request a Photo Pass
Requesting a photo pass is very straight forward, but it requires setting expectations. When you asking a photo pass, the recipient — most oftentimes an artist’southward publicist — but wants to know i affair: the publication y’all’re shooting for. The reason for this is that they want to know the expected return on the access they might grant. Again, they want to know that they images produced are doing work for
Publicists are too short on fourth dimension. Imagine beingness the gatekeeper for perhaps l-100 bout dates and approval or denying tens of photographers for each testify. You tin can imagine that the number of requests for any given artist for a year would number in the hundreds if not thousands. Given this fact that a publicist may be dealing with a large number of press requests for a concert — not to mention all the other aspects of their job, similar press releases, coordinating interviews, editorial coverage, etc — they just desire the facts in a request for a photograph pass.
E-mail field of study line:
[Artist] Photograph Pass Request [Date][City][Venue]
I’thou a contributing photographer for [Publication]. Nosotros’d love to cover [Creative person’due south] show at [Venue] in [Metropolis, State] on [Date]. My assigning editor is CC’d. Hither’south a link to an example of past coverage we’ve done: [link].
Is information technology possible to set a ticket and photo credentials for this testify?
Todd Owyoung, Music Photographer
In the US, it’southward well-nigh mutual for photography credentials to be handled past a publicity agency. In other countries, a promoter may be the point of contact.
Regardless, this template assumes a few things:
This is a genuine consignment
(it needs to exist stated)
- You lot are working for an editorial publication
- Yous as a contributor are requesting credentials instead of your editor
I propose this template simply because when I was shooting for newspapers, zines and other publications, I often preferred to make these requests whenever possible. Smaller publications may also allow or even wait that photographers make their own requests. If you’re shooting for a wire agency, you may likewise be making your ain requests for access.
In most instances, photograph passes should be requested by an editor and not the photographer, so go along this in mind.
Needless to say, it should be stressed that requests similar this should NEVR be faked. Publicists know the major publications for each marketplace and they know the music/photo editors for the publications that they work with regularly. If you lot request photograph passes under false pretenses, you’ll be blacklisted. Information technology’s as simple as that. The music industry is built on trust, and so please consider all of this.
Now, with that out of the way, allow’due south get to the tips of the trade on finding the contact information for photo passes.
My Go To Sources for Photo Pass Contacts
Here are some of the very first sources I get to if I need to source a contact for a photo pass:
- Facebook Page
- Official Website
- Google Search for PR Contact and/or Press Releases
- Photographer Friends
- Managing director
We’ll get into this more in depth below, besides as other options that may pb you to the right information y’all seek.
The Usual Suspects
Creative person’s Facebook Page
A true get-to in recent years has been Facebook. Only most every single band or creative person of every level has a Facebook page, and in the About section, they volition listing all sorts of useful info. Back in the day, this might have been a Myspace folio — just now I’yard dating myself.
Let’s take Weezer for example. Correct on their Facebook About page, they have their press contact listed, so that’south basically every bit easy as pie.
Here’due south a natural one, but this tin can exist hit or miss, but it’s also dead simple not to try this very early if you’re searching. Mostly, many artists’s will include general info, just like the above Nigh folio from Facebook.
The label an artist is on is pretty common knowledge or hands discoverable if needed. Some record labels run their on in-house PR team that serves the needs of their artists, and then it’s a affair of finding out who the right contact is for your artist of choice. We’ll go into this a little later equally far every bit actual methods of outreach…
Gatekeepers for Photo Passes
For nigh larger bands/artists, publicists are hired to manage all of the PR aspects of their client’south needs. This includes dealing with interviews, reviews, and photo passes for concerts. Finding the publicist’s contact info is an ideal to secure a photograph pass, and even if you don’t contact them directly, you’ll have to go through them in some capacity, even if they are behind the scenes approving publications if you go another route.
Some promoters like Live Nation may require or encourage you to go through them — it will depend on the venue or the regional market and how they do things. If you lot’re a regular contributor to a publication, this setup of a single source can make things SUPER easy. When I was shooting a metric ton of concerts in St. Louis, I would actually send my Live Nation rep a list of a couple dozen shows that I anticipated covering for my publications, and passes would be sorted for the season — it was beautiful.
For smaller bands with a director, the managing director may handle tasks including PR, then going through them is a feasible route. If you manage to find the contact for an artist’s manager but Not their PR, you could attempt reaching out, but I would hesitate to enquire this since it’southward a chip of a waste material of fourth dimension for the managing director to handle these inquiries.
Other Sources for Contact Info
Official press items like bout printing releases and PR newsletters are the ideal sources with which to find the right contact for a tour, every bit the press releases are coordinated by the publicist. If you lot can find the press release, you’ll find the right contact.
Simply searching for queries such every bit “[artist name] + press release” or [artist name] + tour press release” should turn upward results. Refine by including the latest album release, the twelvemonth, and and then forth.
Newsletters and Mailing Lists
Once y’all build a relationship with publicists, you’ll nearly likely be put on an email mailing listing for that agency’southward clients. This will ensure you’re notified of the latest tours and printing opportunities from that agency. Established editors and publications should be on the mailing lists for all major PR agencies or labels for the genres that are covered.
Crowd Sourcing Artist Contact Info
If you have friends in the concert photography scene who you trust (and you should!), you can ever ask them for contacts.
Alternatively, if you lot see that someone has covered a bear witness for the tour yous want to photograph, you can always try reaching out to them via e-mail, DM, etc. Nevertheless, this should probably exist a last resort and only washed if you have truly exhausted every single other outlet. Even if you get a response, the commutation may not result in getting the contact info you desire, so this kind of “cold call” may be unwelcome by some photographers.
A lot of photographers may view the proper contacts equally well earned data, and then you have to be considerate of this point of view.
There are diverse Facebook groups dedicated to concert photography and music photography, some of which permit for the sharing of PR contacts or requests for them. However, not all let these kinds of posts, so do your research.
Who NOT to Ask for a Photo Pass
It depends on the size of the band, but contacting artists or band members directly nigh photographing their set can exist a tricky proposition. If it’s a larger act, you’re probable skirting around not only the official gatekeepers, but there’southward a larger chance of miscommunication to happen, so you accept to be very careful with this route.
For smaller bands who have no publicist or director, contacting artists may exist reasonable, just if that’due south the case they are most likely playing small enough venues that you don’t demand a photo laissez passer in the start identify.
I other reason non to ask ring members is that you automatically set yourself up to be in a position of bartering your time and photos for access. This is rarely a position you want to put yourself in with few exceptions.
There are circumstances with smaller, up and coming artists where this can be a mutually beneficial situation.
Merely outside of very small artists, this kind of relationship is highly imbalanced and ultimately devalues the work of all music photographers if you’re giving abroad images for gratis.
Google and Searching for Photo Pass Info
If you’re searching for PR contacts, y’all’re going to desire to get good at Boolean operators and searching to include, exclude, and parse phrases. Here’s a good breakdown on Boolean operators that you lot tin utilize in Google:
Searching using Boolean operators, wildcards and special characters
Mutual searches you lot may use may be:
- “[artist]” pr contact
- “[artist]” press contact +”@recordlabel.com”
- “[artist]” + “press release”
- “[creative person]” + “media contact”
and and then forth.
In that location are a million means to use Boolean operators to search, but the in a higher place are ones that I’ve personally used with success.
If yous’re getting a lot of faux positives on dead ends or unrelated content, Boolean operators are a fantastic way to up your Google game and fine information that would otherwise be too obscure to bear witness up or wade through otherwise.
Cold Calling for a Photo Pass
Sometimes y’all take to option upward the phone to get results when trying to prepare photography credentials for live music. Yous may only get so far every bit the PR agency but no specific contact or find yourself in other situations were you may need to make a phone call to go results. Years ago, I was in a situation where I was trying to prepare up credentials for North.E.R.D. and this was a testify that seemed to have almost no promising leads. I ended up tracking downwards a full general contact and had to call the office to find out the right contact. Information technology’s a terminal resort, but a phone phone call might be necessary to go the last mile.
Photo passes for Music Festivals
Photo passes for music festivals work in much the same style every bit photo passes for regular concerts. There may exist the potential for higher selectivity of publications at music festivals every bit these larger events might draw printing from larger region than a single concert, and then you may be vying for a limited number of passes with non only regional printing, but national publications.
On the bright side, music festivals virtually always accept their printing contacts very conspicuously listed on the upshot websites, unremarkably under data, contact or press headers.
There is often a formal application for festivals where they collect common information about the requesting publications — website, readership, social media following, etc.
If anything, applying for a photo pass for a festival is the most streamlined and easy kind of laissez passer to become considering of the fact that the contact data is clearly stated and that there are oftentimes streamlined applications. That said, larger festivals can afford to be much more picky almost who they credential, and then very small publications may non have a lot of luck scoring passes for this kind of event.
In music photography, similar so many things in life, relationships are the goal and the one thing that will enrich your life. The real goal in music photography with regards to access is truly to is develop relationships with publicists, your publication, venue promoters, and so forth that you lot don’t have to work and then hard for the access you lot demand.
Once you develop your skills and forge the relationships you need equally a music photographer, the goal is that you’ll outgrow the need for this guide.
In that location you accept it. I’ve been photographing live music since 2006 and while the industry and music photography in full general has changed dramatically since then, I know that the issue of access is as persistent every bit ever. One of most difficult aspects of getting into music photography is simply getting your photographic camera into shows. To this cease, I hope that if you’re a music photographer trying to get access, this guide will help you notice the contacts you need to become the access y’all want for that ever elusive photo laissez passer.
Eventually, your goal should be to develop deeper relationships with artists, managers, labels and the people who are truly making decisions and so that you can get out the need to Google for contact info far, far backside.
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