Nic Coury is a photojournalist based in Monterey, Calif. He has had work published in Sports Illustrated, Cycle World and Bicycling magazines, and has shot commercial jobs for Specialized Bicycles, Ferrari and Bugatti. He also covers crime for a local newspaper. In his free time, he drinks too many espressos and wins mustache competitions.
Aerosmith lead guitarist Joe Perry stood stage left during his piercing, electric guitar solo during “Crazy”. His fluffy, salt-and-pepper hair was being blown back by giant fan just below him, creating a modern rock parody of Beethoven.
Perry’s hair wasn’t the only thing flying Friday, July 10 at the Salinas Sports Complex. My emotions were flying high as well, because I was mad as the circumstances surrounding my ability to photograph the set.
I made several nice photos of Perry in that moment, but the Monterey County Weekly won’t be publishing them or any other concert photos of the band playing, because of a greedy contract required—and strictly enforced—by the band’s management allowing them to use any of photographer’s images however they want without compensation.
The final clause in the contract, which are becoming increasingly standard for larger music acts, states:
Photographer hereby acknowledges and agrees that the Photographs to be used hereunder are subject to the prior approval of the Artist. In addition, in consideration to the rights being granted to the Photographer hereunder, Photographer agrees to provide, at no charge, to Company duplicate negatives and/or transparencies (as designated by Company) of the Photograph(s). Company shall have the right to use Photograph(s) for any and all commercial and non-commercial purposes whatsoever relating to Artist and Artist’s activities and Company shall have no obligation to make any payment to Photographer, the Publication or any other third party connected with any such uses.
In laymen’s terms, Aerosmith’s management was requesting my images at their behest for free, for anything from posters to album covers and I didn’t like that one bit.
Aerosmith isn’t the only perpetrator of trying to get something for nothing when they can clearly afford to. Recently, pop singer Taylor Swift got backlash after criticizing Apple’s iTunes for not paying musicians fairly after she was accused of similar photo practices to Aerosmith and, more recently, the Foo Fighters got into hot water with photographers as well.
The Friday show is part of the annual California Rodeo Salinas, kicking off “Big Week” in town. The rodeo’s public relations team had helped me get credentials for the concert. The marketing manager Mandy Roth had forwarded me the necessary information to pick up my pass, stating I would need to sign the contract at pickup. I went to the box office and read over the contract, didn’t like how it sounded and called my editor for her thoughts. On my own accord, I signed “This contract is bullshit!” and initialed and hurried off with my pass.
A short while later, Roth called me saying I wouldn’t be allowed to shoot the show without properly signing photo release and she was gathering the photographers, about a dozen total, to shuffle us near the stage around 9pm to shoot the first three songs of the band’s set.
I apologized to Roth for my attitude. I’ve worked with her and her team for many years covering the rodeo and they’re just doing their jobs. They do great PR and have always gotten our paper any information we have need to rodeo coverage. She understood my frustration.
Any ticket holder going to see the show wasn’t allowed to take in professional cameras and big lenses, but smaller point-and-shoots and smart phones were allowed. This is a common practice during many larger music shows and sporting events.
In the end, I decided to sign the contract and fairly illegibly scribbled my name on the line, but decided not to shoot the show with my big cameras. Instead, I pulled out my iPhone and made some frames.
If Aerosmith’s management wants to take my low-resolution iPhone 5s images, similar to ones front row ticket holders could have gotten with their phones, they’re more than welcome to.