IMAGE CREDIT: Ysabel LeMay
Imagery in the Social Media Age
I encounter so many artists on my travels who feel…
there is nothing problematic about having few images appear on their social media pages. The reason I wanted to bring this up is that, having so many interview requests, I have to turn down artists regularly. I am getting stricter at it for good reason: so much of what I do relies on imagery. Most of my interviews, at least, are long and require, I’d say, a minimum of eight images. That would fill any gaps and allow the piece to have a much more aesthetically-pleasing element to it. The image above – desperately trying to find a credit for it but will have to add one when it comes to light – shows what a difference an image can make to a piece. One might say music is an audio industry, where sound rules.
PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash
Many others might say image and aesthetic are causing issues: too much flesh being bared or endless Instagram photos being shared to people – many of whom could not care less. I am happy to accept we have been flooded with photos as a generation. It is said more photos have been taken in the last few months than the rest of time combined. That might be a slight exaggeration but, since the advent of the Smartphone; everything is being snapped and shared for public consumption. There are downs and advantages of this flood in so much as people have access and view to parts of the world they might not normally have – able to connect with others in a different way, I guess. Of course, one must draw the line when it comes to what they post online. Lewd and inappropriate content will not be tolerated: those who photograph their entire day should be discouraged and chided. Given the fact one can, without expense, post countless photos of great quality, it makes me wonder: why are musicians not doing this?! I, myself, have a few self-portraits on my social media but have a reluctance to capture myself – a lack of photogenic appeal and the fact I tend to take photos of myself with no company (it can appear sad after a time).
IN THIS PHOTO: Billie Black
That said, I can go anywhere and have a photo taken via my iPad. From there, I can apply filters and share it with the world – it costs nothing and, before you know it, I can have an entire photoshoot on my pages. I feel photographer is an industry that needs support and welfare. I mention this topic because there are many who feel music photography is a dying industry. A 2015-piece, by photographer Pat Graham, shared his experiences:
“Sadly most of us in the world of art cannot afford to just share what we create without receiving anything in compensation or return for what we have created. This just means that all of us must be very creative and think of other ways to gain income through other activities. As for music photographers I think it’s very rare that one becomes a music photographer and remains the music photographer until the day they die. For more reasons than one. My work is based in music photography and that is what inspired me to want to be a photographer. I still enjoy music photography, and I do receive some income from these jobs, however it would never be enough to live on solely, and I think it would be very rare to find anyone being able to live off that on its own. Most people are of course helped out by working with related fashion brands or doing corporate jobs and that is what pays the bills.
If you look back at what people call great music photography a lot of it is based on pictures of bands before they were famous, or at very small venues when no one else knew what was happening. So to go back to the original statement I definitely think that we have not lost a whole generation of talent in music photographers. The most exciting music photography features young bands doing new things and usually the photographers taking pictures of young bands are also young and very excited by what they’re seeing. I think the last thing they’re thinking about is a paycheck at the end of the gig in somebody’s house.
PHOTO CREDIT: Pixabay
When I first started taking pictures of bands I never really thought of it as a career. I never thought about how I could make money or sustain myself by taking pictures of bands. I was obsessed with getting a great photo and being able to print that photo in a dark room the next day. My pursuit was of great music and performers who really had something to say in their actions and music. I was driven by photographing bands that gave me and the audience something to look at. Something I wanted to freeze in a moment so I could remember and also share with others”
There is a clear passion among photographers and, when writing a feature about the best music photographers at the moment; I was struck by the quality and beauty of their shots. Maybe digital methods (Smartphones etc.) have made photographers less necessary – people able to produce their own pictures for nothing. There is something to be said about the traditional and established methods. One gets a better quality image and takes a band/artist to an interesting location. I find a lot of the self-produced photos lack atmosphere and compositional nuance. One does not see the same attention and depth you’d get from a professional. It makes me wonder why the good-old music photographer is seen as less relevant? Maybe there is the cost associated: artists not able to make enough money to afford photoshoots. There is an interesting article that sheds light on how costs are calculated:
Charge by the Shoot
This is the strategy that most band photographers use when they first start charging for their services, because it's easy and straightforward for everyone involved. There aren't any surprises or hidden fees, which keeps the client happy, and your bookkeeping work on the back end is minimal.
However, the simplicity of this pricing strategy is also it's biggest weakness, because it doesn't give you a whole lot of flexibility for situations where things don't go exactly as planned. Like when your scheduled 3-hour shoot ends up going twice as long because the drummer shows up an hour late, the guitar player wants to change shirts 13 times, and the lead singer can't decide which is his "good side".
Or what happens when an up-and-coming band suddenly catches the attention of an indie label, gets a recording contract, and now they want you to retouch twice as many images as originally planned (plus design an album cover)? Do you create an awkward situation by trying to negotiate a new agreement after the fact, or do you just cut your losses?
With all of that said, I do still use the "Charge by the Shoot" pricing strategy when I'm being hired to shoot a band's live show-- even though I fully understand that concerts rarely start and end on time. The main reason is that it's tough to make much money shooting live music photography, so I really only view those types of gigs as a means to an end.
In other words, I'll usually only shoot a band's live show as a way to get to know them better, and then hopefully parlay that relationship into a promotional shoot at some point (for more detail on this strategy, check out my eBook entitled Shoot for the Stars).
So in a nutshell, the "Charge by the Shoot" pricing strategy is okay for situations where you're reasonably confident that you'll be fairly compensated for your time and effort. But if you think there's a high likelihood of "unforeseen circumstances" cropping up, then you'll probably want to use....
This pricing strategy offers the best protection against getting ripped off, because you can basically put a price on just about everything you do for a client. In other words, all of the time that you would normally spend-- from preparation, to shooting, to retouching (and beyond)-- can be broken out into separate line items on your invoice, right alongside any physical (or digital) goods that you deliver to the client. Everything is spelled out in plain sight, so there should be absolutely no surprises at the end of the process.
Even better, many clients really appreciate this approach because it provides total transparency, and it helps them to budget accordingly. They'll take comfort in the reassurance that they won't get hit with a barrage of hidden charges when they least expect it.
IN THIS PHOTO: Los Angeles trio, The Vim Dicta
That is quite business-like but it shows there is an affordable option for anyone’s needs. I feel photography is an industry that is threatened by the ever-present domination the ‘Instagram Generation’. A fascinating article by Eric Perret shows how many photos we’ll be uploading this year:
“How many digital photos will be taken in 2017? It’s predicted there will be 7.5 billion people in the world in 2017, and about 5 billion of them will have a mobile phone. Let’s say roughly 80% of those phones have a built-in camera: around 4 billion people. And let’s say they take 10 photos per day – that’s 3,650 photos per year, per person. That adds up to more than 14 trillion photos annually (14,600,000,000,000). Much more conservatively, if only one billion people have cameras or phones, and take less than 3 photos per day/1,000 pictures per year, that’s still 1 trillion photos captured every year.
How many digital photos will be taken in 2017?
InfoTrends’ most recent worldwide image capture forecast takes this conservative route, estimating consumers will take 1.1 trillion photos worldwide in 2016. This number will grow to 1.2 trillion photos in 2017. The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2016 to 2017 will be 9%”.
I bring in these statistics; because there is a clear sign that shows we are becoming less physical/tangible and more disconnected. Maybe the expance and development of technology mean our curiosities and wanderlust are being indulged – we are able to encapsulate and represent more of our world than ever before. Because of this; I wonder what excuse there is for musicians being so naïve?! I am not singling people out but I see so many promising artists that put a few photos on social media – some are poor-quality whilst there might be two or three half-decent ones. Those that take the trouble to put a range of photos on their social media/official website know it is a way of attracting people to your website. Photoshoots allow artists a chance to express themselves and capture some wonderful images. I get frustrated hearing musicians say they let their sounds do all the talking: why do we need to bother with photos? I look at it the same way you’d set up a dating profile. How likely are you going to contact someone with no image – or a few poor ones that you can barely make out?!
Music is no different to dating: you are selling yourself, to an extent, and trying to attract people in. It doesn’t matter how good your personality/music is: if one is greeted to an imageless profile; they are not going to be that interested. There is no financial or physical reason an artist cannot have images made up. Those that have a full and thorough spread always make the mouth water – I understand they are in the minority. It seems there is not a link between our obsession with photographing everything and professional duty. I see musicians – those without good images – take plenty for their own profiles but do not show that diligence when it comes to their music pages.
I will end this because I am aware it is turning into a ‘constructive rant’. It seems strange that, in an age where we are photographing the internal details and external manifestations of our day: so many musicians are ignoring a fundamental necessity of their career – promoting themselves through a visual medium. It might not be feasible for an artist to get some great photos together right from the start – they are shy of money and unsure what image they want to project. Once you are sure enough to have an idea – excuse the jumbled grammar! – then you’ll be ready to take some images. So many are providing a scarcity of anything vaguely useable! I think Metal bands, for some reason, seem to be the worst offenders. They may take a lot of shots but they, with few exceptions, tend to be blurry or inferior – maybe that scrappiness and under-cooked look suit their musical ethos and rebelliousness.
If you are a young female singer or a great male band: getting a range of photos out there is paramount! All the bands/artists I have included in this feature (their images) have provided a selection of images for any potential fan/journalist. People like me, who wants to interview and review the best artists, are like moths to the lightbulb. We all want to see the face(s) behind the music – having that visual anonymity is frustrating for so many reasons! Again, like a dating profile; everyone will skip by if there are no photos. My reviews and interviews are quite deep so, to fill gaps and give it a good look; I do need to insert images. Not only does it flesh a piece out but makes it look professional and interesting – not only words and a block of text. Many musicians do not realise the effect they cause being ignorant of that desire. I am turning away more and more artists who do not ‘fit the bill’; bollocking P.R. companies who bring me acts ill-equipped and ignorant. That, in turn, means I am sour and sceptical of the new generation of musicians. There are a lot of exceptions: many hungry artists provide stunning images and plenty of choice. The same way original music and ambitious is key to success and attention – making yourself visible and photographed is equally essential. I will end it here but want to urge offending artists of the need for change. For all musicians coming through who think the music will do ‘all the talking’, believe me… it won’t.
Paul McCartney and Kate Bush are better than you and, funny enough, they have produced, between them, numerous images. Hot new acts such as Royal Blood crank out some stunning images and realise it is important; not only to give their fans a diary of what they are up to – provide journalists options and that visual allure. I am not a massive fan of Royal Blood’s music but, given the fact they are image-heavy, would interview them just to have those photos on my site. It should be a lesson to every musician but I fear so many are naïve about photos – thinking it does not make a difference. It does and, if they rely on the music to do all of the talking; they will find the remainder of their career will be…