Foo Fighters, finally

Hey, good folks at Nasty Little Man Publicity:

My name is Paul Natkin, and I have been photographing in the music business for 38 years , although I rarely leave my house any more due to the restraints put on photographers at most rock shows these days. Recently, your company has come under some discussion concerning the photo contract used for the Foo Fighters on their currant tour. I am curious to see if you would like to open up a civilized discussion on this subject. Someone from your company was quoted by City Pages in Minneapolis as saying:

“The language might be severe but that really isn’t the intent. Its just to protect the Foo Fighters from having their image sold and licensed without their knowledge or control.”

My observations are as follows:

1. Does this mean that the band is concerned with images being used for something other than editorial purposes? If that is the case, why not present a contract that says: “Photos taken tonight of the Foo Fighters can be used  for editorial purposes only. Any other usage must be negotiated in writing with the band.”

2. Is the band concerned with any particular publication? Why not add that to the contract? List the publications that the band does not want the photos going to.

3. Does the band really want the copyright to everyone’s photographs without paying for it?  First off, it is very doubtful that anyone is going to get anything great shooting three songs- most long time professionals will never agree to the three song rule in the first place. So why is it so important for the band to own such mediocre images? A better idea would be to let people shoot as professionals, and then ask them for a disc of their ten best images, clearly marked with all of the photographers contact information. THEN… if the band is in need of some good photos, they can negotiate fair market prices for usage of any of those photos. I will not leave my house unless I am allowed to shoot the entire set, or at the least most of a bands set. At that point, I want the band and/or management to see my work, as it will most likely result in a sale (at an agreed upon fair price) or will result in even more increased access the next time the band tours.

4. There seems to be some kind of disconnect regarding the amount of money photographers are making on licensing fees these days. In January of this year, I added up every licensing fee I had received from the agency that represents me for the 2010 calendar year, and divided it by the number of images licensed in that time period. It came to an average of $18.10 an image. At that rate, it is not worth my while to grab my bag and leave the house to shoot when the contract states that I can only supply images to one magazine. Most publications today don’t pay enough to even cover gas and parking, so the only way I can earn a living (such as it is) is to be able to license images to as many legitimate publications as possible. This never seems to be a problem when bands are coming up; it only crops up when the band is big enough to be able to “control” their publicity.

I just received my invitation to the 10th anniversary party next month at the Morrison Hotel Gallery in NYC. One of my proudest moments was when I was accepted as one of their photographers, having my images hanging among the work of all of my idols! I carefully edited the images that I wanted to show. When I had printed them all. I made this observation: the most recent image that I show was taken in 1994. Tells me that I have not taken any photos in the last 17 years that I am proud enough of to display in the galleries. Right around the time the restrictions started getting really bad- and I pretty much stopped going to a lot of shows.

Last point: Record companies are now releasing Greatest hits and Box sets from bands that were around during one of the golden eras of music photography- the 70’s and 80’s. Not a week goes by without someone calling to ask to see my images from a band who has been around for 20 years. Most times I have a lot to show them, and they end up using a lot of my stuff. So the question has to be asked- What is going to happen 20 years from now when companies are asking for photos of the bands of today? What are they going to do with hundreds of photos taken from the soundboard for the first minute of every show? What about all the great moments in the second half of every show?

So, Nasty Little Man publicists. I would love to hear from you, if you would like to respond, either in public or private, and explain why the contracts that you send out work for you.


Paul Natkin

(773) 255-1290

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