Photos by Dan DeSlover/ConcertCapture.com
This week, hard rock band Alter Bridge and their social media staff fueled a controversy over the use of a photograph by concert photographer Dan DeSlover from ConcertCapture.com.
Concert photographer Dan DeSlover found his work at the center of a debate regarding legalities, courtesies and artist's rights, when a photo he'd shot of Mark Tremonti from Alter Bridge ended up on the group's Facebook page by way of a third party. Though the visual artist was given proper photo credit, no link to his website was included. It was also brought to DeSlover's attention that his photo was being utilized for a commercial purpose - the sale of Tremonti's new solo effort via iTunes (seen in the screenshot above). He then contacted Alter Bridge's management, asking for a small sum of $75 as compensation. Management declined, and then removed his photo from the band's page.
There is nothing wrong with a photographer asking for payment. There is also nothing wrong with the band and their camp deciding not to pay, and then simply removing a photograph. The issue should have ended there. What the admin(s) of Alter Bridge's fanpage did next is where I feel the true offense occurred. They took a private business issue, and made it extremely public. They also did so in what came across as a condescending manner. Below is a copy of the status update that was posted on Alter Bridge's page addressing the incident:
Sorry we had to take down the picture of Mark. Got an email from the photographer wanting to charge us $75.00 to display it. Needless to say, we declined. Post a cool picture of Mark on our page and we will use it tomorrow!
Time spent working on a grassroots level has brought me to a few, still evolving, conclusions. When dealing with artists, payment kind of operates on a sliding scale - like a clinic might. Sometimes what a musician can afford to pay a photographer is little to nothing. I have gotten paid for my efforts in the form of T-shirts, free drinks, free admission, gratitude and occasionally cash. When I break it down, and look at what they're getting paid for their efforts, my compensation seems fair enough. If/when financial circumstances change, then fees should as well. I'd like to stress again that I have worked solely with independent artists. They are not supported by labels, do not have over 700,000 fans on a social networking site, do not have albums that have graced the Billboard charts and most certainly do not have strong-willed public relations and management professionals consistently working on their behalf. A photographer can't expect to be paid professional level rates by a group of fledgling rockers, just as those same rockers can't expect to be paid by a venue, or say BMI, in the same way that a band like Alter Bridge can. That's where my sliding scale theory comes into play. Alter Bridge could have paid DeSlover $75 to use a photo they liked. They chose not to, and ceased using his work. Fine. Further choosing to use a public forum to mock that man's effort to get paid is bad form. What the band and their staff overlooked is that a public statement is open to response. A response is exactly what they got.
Some people who commented supported their "needless to say..." attitude, while others took a contrary stance. In an effort to feign good PR, the Facebook admins took it upon themselves to delete all comments that made Alter Bridge look bad, posed a number of contradictory arguments, and then ultimately deleted the whole thread without ever apologizing to the photographer. A few savvy types from the Facebook group Music Photographers screen captured portions of that which has now been deleted, and posted it on Reddit.
The overall notion of how to make a proper living as a creative exists in an expansive gray area. Take this blog, for example. Whether I like it or not, this online endeavor of mine is essentially a non-profit. Since starting it in December, Google Ad Sense has calculated that I've earned $.91. So really, if you break it down, I'm paying to play as much as the musicians. I obviously know I'm not alone, which is both reassuring and depressing. Artists of all varieties have, throughout history, fought to be, not only appreciated, but compensated. Putting your hopes on securing a stable income through the music industry is probably not the best idea. If you're going to swim in that ocean, you better enjoy it, because gratification will most likely be your most substantial form of payment. Bills have to get paid, and that's why we have day jobsw. If we're lucky, we spend our days working within our field in one way or another. That's really all we can ask for.
On June 2nd, Alter Bridge bassist Brian Marshall commented about the incident on Twitter:
Funny how a "photographer" can make a stink over the likeness of anything. Who did you a favor dooshbag? Click a button.His comment, as well as those of another user, are marked in red in the image below.
Marshall later deleted his tweets.
*Updates courtesy of Cédric Roussel.