Friday, June 1, 2012

Altercation at Alter Bridge

Writing by Stephanie Augello
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.

Update
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 C├ędric Roussel.

24 comments:

  1. First of all, thank you for your blog and writing about this. As a photographer, I personally appreciate it, even though I don't try to make my living that way. People who haven't ever rally tried to make art with a camera don't always seem to understand what goes into making good photographs and have the mistaken idea that anyone can do it. People like those with Alter Bridge make me want to never, ever do a favor for an up and coming or struggling band or musician, and, frankly, that's sad. But, no matter what, professionals need to get paid, whether that's a professional musician, professional writer, or professional photographer. When we live in a society that doesn't value its artists enough to compensate them, then we live in a society that has begun to die.

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  2. You're welcome! Thanks so much for taking a look at this, and also for sharing your perspective. I feel very lucky to have worked w/ independent musicians, who I consider to be decent human beings and also friends. It was really disappointing to see a large scale band like Alter Bridge convey such a level of carelessness and disrespect for a fellow artist. I'm just glad that Dan DeSlover and his work can be respected by his peers.

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  3. This boils my piss. I would have guessed that musical artists would understand and agree with a photographer charging for his work and art!

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  4. Lame! Lets see what photographer will actually want photograph them now..

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  5. love the title of this article.

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  6. Very disappointing comment from Brian. How could he make fun of this guy for asking to get paid a small sum for his work? I guess Alterbridge is a non-profit band that creates and tours and then donates to charity? Yeah right. It's fine that they declined to pay him but to call him out in public?

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  7. Thanks. The title was definitely influenced by that "Twilight Zone" episode 'Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." @Trey - I wish they hadn't declined to pay him at all. I'm sure a lot of photographers do as well.

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  8. This whole situation cracks me up because of how close minded everyone is and has no idea what they are talking about. What was a simple misunderstanding has blown into something ridiculous in my opinion. The photographer asked for permission to shoot the band which he was given. Anyone who has shot musicians as I have knows we do the asking, they don't ask us. By looking at his website, it is from a Creed concert, not Alter Bridge. The photo was sent to the web administrator who thought he had permission to use it in a blog post which is what essentially Facebook is. It wasn't on any commercial advertisements, there was no copy added to the image or was it altered in any way. When he was told about the fee after realizing that they weren't cleared to use the image, they declined as they are allowed to do and it was promptly removed. At which point, the admin reached out to the fan base to ask for any images that they would be allowed to use. Again nothing wrong with this. Apparently then the photographer thought he was being attacked and it turned in to something else and this copyright infringement thing started. He shared it with his photographer friends saying how Alter Bridge stole his image which was never the case. I am not for anyones work being stolen as I am sure Alter Bridge isn't either and saying they are is stupid. The reason Alter Bridge is being viewed as being in the wrong is because they are a band with money that opted to not spend it on this particulate image. That is well within their right and they were in no way trying to profit off of the photographer's work which he clearly is trying to do while shooting the band without being on assignment so this happy story fell in his lap and is making him famous. I, for one, hate some of the photo releases I am presented as it is and I now expect because of this misunderstanding that I will be presented with far worse ones making it even tougher for me to shoot artists moving forward.

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  9. Thanks for sharing your perspective. I see where you're coming from, and your point of view is definitely appreciated. When I wrote this, I went out of my way to avoid any mention of theft and copyright infringement, and stated that the way they initially handled it was good enough. The issue arose when they posted a poorly worded status on FB, then tried to sway the comments solely in their favor. Also, as far as I know, the photo was given to the band's camp via a 3rd party, and they then chose to use it to promote a Tremonti solo track on iTunes.

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  10. Alter Bridge there is a relatively ease way to heal from this. Humbly apologize for your Facebook remark and other derrogetory remarks about the photographer. Anyone taking a picture owns the pictures. They will usually allow you to use it for free because they want to help you out and God forbid they may actually like you and give you freebies, discounts along the way. When you use their work to make money things change and it is fair to ask for what I consider a very nominal fee for a great photograph. You are fully in you rights to decline and remove the photograph, end of story. Smudging the photographer is, as you found out the hard way, a quick way to get you blacklisted in the artist community and even lose fans. We, as artists struggle and help each other along the way. This guys isn't a mooch, he deserves to get paid if you use his work. Now you have libelous and malicious attacks against a very good person. Fix it, apologize and move on. Don't do it for a PR move, do it because you have wronged another human being and a fellow artist that took their time to make you look better in poor performance lighting. This isn't easy, you turned the light off on this artist and basically told all your friends to do the same. Do the right thing. Sincere apologies for mistakes can actually go much further expontentially than the path you are on, which is destruction. In best wisdom, my advise from decades of experience in this area.

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  11. As someone who's spent some time with the Alter Bridge guys for music press I'm quite surprised about this as this doesn't fit with their personalities at all (from what I've seen of them). This looks to have been handled very badly by AB's social media admins (whether that is solely Mark's brother or other people as well). As others have said there's nothing wrong with declining to pay the requested fee and taking the image down as a result. We've had issues of that type in the past with our website and we always do one or the other but to make a public scene out of it is a little bit stupid, and the old adage of "all publicity is good publicity" certainly doesn't ring true on this one.

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  12. Personally I can attest that Michael Tremonti was apologetic after we traded numerous emails Thursday and Friday. He eventually removed the entire thread (instead of post by post) after we finished hashing it out.

    I was surprised by Brian's tweet later and reacted strongly, as I usually do. Knowing him, I hoped to appeal to his reason, but one is not reasonable when drinking. He blocked me, not surprisingly.

    I made attempts to contact Mark early on but stopped when I realized he can take care of his own business--he is typically on top of what's being posted. I did not contact Myles as he has been on a rare vacation and it is very unlikely he saw any of this.

    I will also add that anyone who knows Myles, Mark or Scott/Flip personally will know they are incredibly kind, humble and professional musicians. I find it very unfortunate that Michael's mistake--now rectified--will not likely be forgotten anytime soon, and will be remembered as Alter Bridge's mistake.

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  13. Hey, Nancy. I recognized your name from that Twitter screen cap. Thanks for adding this to the mix. Good to know that it has been rectified to a certain degree, and that the majority of those guys generally have a favorable reputation. Hopefully, Michael and Brian will be a little more cautious in the future.

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  14. To be frank -
    "There is also nothing wrong with the band and their camp deciding not to pay, and then simply removing a photograph."

    Is actually very wrong. If they were using the image all over the place without asking or paying they should still have had to pay as well as take down the image. That kind of approach would mean people could use an image for as long as they want, until caught...

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  15. Free Alter Bridge downloads for everybody!

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  16. @ Unknown Snapper - There was a lot of gray area w/ that aspect of this situation. I tried to view it from both sides. But perhaps the approach you mentioned is ultimately the best way these things should be handled.

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  17. Another lukewarm band. I'm not surprised they're being dicks...they are another white bread future couch potato brand with beer bellies out to there, and no one but a porn screen lover to keep them company.

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  18. As a photographer, I don't feel so bad downloading their albums anymore. Since apparently, they prefer to share everything and think paying for things is insulting.

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  19. I hope the photographer decides that they should instead ask for the federally mandated $100,000 payday since they have admitted to the theft and then later libeled him.

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  20. The photographer should get paid, period. Taking the shot down after declining to pay for it is not good enough, it's already been up there, it was used.
    It's like taking the Alter Bridge CD home and deciding you don't want it after all once people find out that you have listened to it.

    He'd win this hands down in court, no question. And by now I feel he should, to make that lousy management, that stoopid FB admin and that nitwit Brian pay!

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  21. What a sorry, shameful gang of scroungers.

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  22. What a bunch of dicks. As well as derivative, lame-ass no-talents. They've wasted more than $75 of ANYONE's time including their own, jumping on their manager's bullywagon-merely for sport. And as for any one of these morons-who don't even tune their guitars (on which they play compositions worthy of Mozart) without a pedal- comparing a photographer's craft to "clicking a button"-- rich, indeed.

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