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Concerts, Dylan, and American Idol

August 21, 2006 by Mark Cornelison  
Filed under Mark Cornelison

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I just got done shooting the American Idol concert in Louisville at the State Fair. Actually concert may be a stretch  because it was basically Karaoke ,but it was at Freedom Hall so I guess we call it a concert. Concerts are alot of fun to shoot. I love to do it and  to show I am a team player I shoot them all, even if the group performing is not one I would care to see. That brings us to the American Idol tour. As you may have seen we did a pretty nice preview for the concert and Jamie Gumbrecht did a nice review with some of my photos in her blog. The real story is what went on before the show. About a week before the show they emailed us a contract stating that we could only use photos they approved for us to use, and we had to get them contact sheets of our entire shoot (within 7 days) for them to use for Artist promotion however they wanted too. There were a few more conditions about not giving out third party information and not to give out the photos except in Lexington Herald-Leader and McClatchy publications but those were not big deal. The real issue was for them to actually expect someone to give up the rights to their photos and let them use them for free. That is crazy talk. No photographer gives up total rights to anything if they know what they are doing and those that do will learn the hard way one day when they see  an image of theirs on an album cover or billboard and they got nothing in return. I say no photographer gives up rights and to ask a newspaper to do that is unheard of.
I actually called the Louisville Courier Journal and Velocity magazine to tell them we were not going to shoot under that contract and hope they would join in and essentially boycott the show  unless better terms could be met. Turns out, the people in charge of the contract were very open to crossing out the terms that we could not agree on because they wanted the photos to appear in the Herald-Leader and other publications.  I crossed out pretty much the whole contract except the part about the third party information and went on to shoot! I felt a victory in that I got it done our way  but what was the prize? Shooting American Idol singers in 6 more hours. You call that victory?
Point is from all this is that concert shooting has changed alot from the days when any fan could bring in a camera and shoot to having to have official credentials for an official media outlet. The funny thing is, in my years of shooting concerts (15 years worth), it is always the one hit wonders, boy bands,(Backstreet Boys on first tour) and flash in the pan artists, (Idols) that come up with the ridiculous contracts. Guess they want to make every dime they can while people watch them in their 15 minutes. Such is the case for the Idols, but I do credit their management on not over enforcing the contract. Otherwise they would get no coverage at all. I know alot of people wonder why we cover some concerts and not others and it is not always our call. Bob Dylan, who was recently at Applebees Park, does not allow photographers anymore at his shows. For this reason I let my boss know in advance that there would not be any photos for the paper or online of Mr. Dylan. Why does he have the rule? Who knows? Maybe one too many bad photos out there. That is best I can come up with.

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