Taylor Swift recently came out with an open letter to Apple where she refuses to have her album, ‘1989’, included in their upcoming music streaming service, Apple Music. Apple released a statement that said that the first 3 months of their upcoming music service would be free, but as a result, artists would not be paid during that first 3 months.
As a musician myself, I understand the struggles of trying to make ends meet, and the frustration that occurs when someone uses your content and gives no compensation, or even credit, to you the artist.
It’s great that she stood up for herself, and more artists need to have the confidence in themselves to defend themselves when they know they are being swindled. I’ll be writing a blog post all about confidence soon!
Photographer Jason Sheldon recently pointed out the hypocrisy in her statement.
I’ll be quoting Sheldon multiple times in this post so I would recommend reading his article, it’s a great read.
Anyway, the hypocrisy stems from the photo contract that photographers are required to sign before shooting any of her shows. Before I start pointing out the flaws, here is the full contract below if you’d like to read it in its entirety.
Let’s start with Paragraph 2, it reads:
The Photographs may be used on a one-time only basis for new or information purposes within the body of related text of the publications entitled (“Publication”), and shall not be (a) duplicated or reprinted in any other publication, (b) republished in the same Publication or Published in any other edition of such Publication without the Artist’s written consent, and/or (c) exploited in any other manner or means whatsoever now known or hereafter devised, including but not limited to electronic or “new media” usage an and any commercial exploitation whatsoever, other than the web edition of the Publication. Except as expressively provided in this Paragraph 2, the undersigned will not, and will not permit others to, use any or all of the Photographs in any manner whatsoever without the prior written approval of Firefly Entrainment, Inc. (“FEI”).
Now, agreeing to only publish photos once in a publication and nowhere else is like signing off your rights to your images, after the first initial use. Sheldon explains why very well at the end of his article.
As a freelance photographer, I am asked to photograph concerts by publications. I get paid IF and when the photos are used, not for turning up to a show and shooting it. Therefore, if the newspaper has a bigger story to run and doesn’t have enough room to use my photo, I don’t get paid.
Publications usually don’t pay freelance photographers just for going to shows, they pay the photographer whenever the images get used, and even to that end, you usually don’t get paid much when your images get used, so restricting any future ability to give your images to other publications completely cuts off any earning potential after that first publication.
Now, this wouldn’t be THAT bad if it weren’t for Paragraph 3 which reads:
Subject to the written consent of the Publication as to any specific future use, FEI shall have the perpetual, worldwide right to use (and to authorize other stop use)any or all of the Photographs for any non-commercial purpose (in all media and formats), including but not limited to publicity and promotion.
This is a rights grab. FEI, in paragraphs 2 and 3, force you to sign away any and all of your rights to your images that you took as the photographer. Essentially, you get swindled out of any kind of compensation and they get to use your images however they want for free!
Now the hypocrisy shows itself. Swift, in her open letter to apple, states:
These are not the complaints of a spoiled, petulant child. These are the echoed sentiments of every artist, writer and producer in my social circles who are afraid to speak up publicly because we admire and respect Apple so much. We simply do not respect this particular call.
This is the same thing that professional photographers have to deal with! Some photographers are afraid to stand up for themselves for fear of backlash from management. As concert photographers, we don’t have the kind of security that famous artists have, if we stop getting jobs, we don’t make money.
Now, in Swift’s defense, I’m sure she doesn’t actually know what’s going on with her photo contract. To me, it seems like another example of PR & Management overprotecting their artists.
Labels don’t need to hover over their artists like this when it comes to photography, bands love the promotion and coverage they get from photographers, so there’s no reason to require prior consent.
Professional photographers are exactly that, professionals. We try to make ends meet, and we need money to do so.
You wouldn’t ask a plumber to come fix your toilet for free, would you?