In 1999, I was asked to be Brian Wilson’s tour manager. During rehearsals for the tour, I got a phone call from his manager (who was also his publicist), a wonderful woman by the name of Ronnie Lippin, who has since passed away. Ronnie was one of the great publicists in rock and roll history, and a very smart lady. She laughingly asked me, “What are we going to do about photographers on this tour,” knowing my answer before she asked the question. I, of course said, “Everyone with a photo pass gets to shoot anything they want!” She agreed and we hit the road.
The first night of the tour was at the State Theater in Ann Arbor, Michigan. During sound check, I met with the head of security for the venue to discuss security arrangements. During the course of the conversation, I said, “By the way, our photo police is that all photo passes allow the person to shoot the whole show, with no flash.” His reply was “Sorry, we can’t allow that.” My reply to him was “Sorry, you have to- it is our decision, not yours.” We went back and forth for a few moments, getting nowhere, and I finally asked him to call the theater manager. When the manager arrived, the security guy said “This guy is trying to tell me that all photographers are allowed to shoot the whole show!” The manager replied “OK with me- it’s his show.”
In two years on the road, that same type of conversation happened about once every three venues. I always won the argument, but the argument never should have been needed in the first place!
A few short stories about why the rule sucks:
July 4th, 2007.
John Mayer was playing at a large free festival in downtown Chicago. I helped his people contact Buddy Guy, and make arrangements for Buddy to come down and play some songs with John. Because John and I are friends he always allows me to shoot the whole show. There were about 30 photographers in the photo pit, including both daily papers. They were all asked to leave after 3 songs, leaving me alone in the pit. Of course, Buddy came on for the encores, when all the photographers were home watching TV or back at their offices!
September 8th, 2006. John Mayer again (Don’t worry John, I am not picking on you)
John and Sheryl Crow were touring together, Sheryl playing first and John closing the show. Each night during Sheryl’s set, John would come out and do a song with her. On this night, it happened to be the 4th song of Sheryl’s set, so not only were all the photographers except for me kicked out after three songs, but they were still in the pit packing up their stuff when this took place about 5 feet from them! They begged the local promoter rep in the pit to let them shoot, but she was so programmed to consider anything after 3 songs to be off limits that she hurried them all out of the pit before any one could unpack their gear and get a shot. Knowing Sheryl and John as well as I do, I feel fairly certain that neither of them would have minded everyone staying one more song, but it wasn’t to be. Talking to the production people after the show, I found out that that song usually was the 3rd song of the set, but was changed just that night!
Summer of 1998.
Liz Phair was playing on the Lilith Fair tour. Every day during one of the last songs of her set, all the other headliners from the show would come out and sing a song with her (Sarah McLachlin, Natalie Merchant and Bonnie Raitt, if I remember correctly) Of course all the photographers were safely away from the stage when that took place and no pictures were taken of that event. When I suggested that they bring all the photographers back for that song, people said “OH, great idea, but too much trouble.”