Management Madness

Quite possibly a good script for a comedy sketch, unfortunately it is the exact report of the conversation I had by e-mail with the manager of an important American band.

Everyting starts as usual with my standard photopass request:

From: Valerio Berdini

Dear Sir,

My name is Valerio Berdini, I am a music photographer…
…bla bla…
I am writing to ask for a photopass for the XXXX XXXXXXX concert
…bla bla…

best regards

The Manager of XXXX XXXXXXX, answers with his incongruous preliminary conditions:

To: Valerio Berdini


we will check with the venue on available passes. as a preliminary, will you assure to provide us with full rights to use the photos, for no fee, in any manner we opt to use? and provide us with high res images for such purpose?

XXXX XXXXXXX management

Incredulous, I answer ironically:

From: Valerio Berdini


Thanks for your answer.
I will check to see if my cameras agree with this.
As a preliminary, will you assure to provide me with the full rights to use the XXXX XXXXXXX music, for no fee, in any manner I opt to use? And provide me with high resolution mp3’s and CD’s for such a purpose?


From the reply I get, he clearly doesn’t appreciate sarcasm, but manages to be even more offensive:

To: Valerio Berdini

sorry, is that a question directed to me? if so, I dont follow the last line of your question.

fyi –
you can use the photos in any medium you wish, just so no disfigurement occurs.

Time to be less ironic, more straightforward and very detailed:

From: Valerio Berdini

Of course it was for you, YYYYY,

Many thanks to give me permission to use my own images, very appreciated!!!
Can you please let the band know that under the same conditions I will allow them to play their music wherever they want even after I received their CDs with full rights.

Yes, I am being ironic, were you?

As you suppose that I work for free giving full rights to any use of my pictures, for any purpose, to the band, I wondered if bands are doing the same with their music.

Is the band paid for playing?
Are you being paid for your job?
Are you paying the venues, technicians, crew, catering and the tour bus driver?

Are not managers and labels complaining every other day about the damage that donwloading music for free is causing to record industry?
I agree, and I fully support you everyday on this, for the wellbeing of music.

So why should I accept that complains are one way only and then you can behave exactly in the same way pretending to have photographers’ work for free?

I don’t think this is considering me as a professional as I wouldn’t consider you as a professional if you gave your job for free.
I have photographed hundreds of bands and never came across such a pretentious request.

I’d really appreciate if you can explain to me your point.

I am still looking forward to photographing XXXX XXXXXXX gig and, if you are interested, I am available to reach a fair agreement on the use of my pictures.

Let me know,


Next 2 e-mails he grows up to become insulting:

To: Valerio Berdini

let’s see, you want to make money off the band, and for that, you write for a comp.

glad you grasp these things.

sorry, I am too busy for talents like yours. wont see you at this show, unfortunately.

And five minutes later:

To: Valerio Berdini

if I knew you, and wanted your work on our dime, I would reach out to you. but when someone wants to comp into a show, and then sell the images, well consider, isn’t that ironic? we know plenty of photographers, thanks, anyways.

If there is a kind of people I cannot stand are the ones that distort reality manipulating words to say what has never been said to cover their goal. My final extremely exhaustive answer:

From: Valerio Berdini

Tell me that this is a joke, Dennis.

Because if it is not, you are manipulating the truth, which is quite sad from your band manager position.

To make things clear for the last time.

I asked for a photo-pass, as I have been doing everyday, regularly, for years for hundreds of bands which I am interested in photographing.

You replied to me that, to have the pass, I must agree to some “preliminary conditions”.
Conditions being that I have to give to you, for free, full rights of high resolution versions of my pictures for any use you want to do. Full stop.

Now, even a child realizes that if I reply “Yes” to your conditions, consequence is that you could use my work at no cost for such things as the band websites, band album covers, merchandising, t-shirts, posters, articles, books, press releases, whatever.
Agreeing “for no fee”, I won’t be able to claim any compensation, will I?

Question. Who is the one who wants to make money out of my work, here?
Certainly not me, I am educated enough to understand quite well the meaning of “full rights for free”.

Now, to make this point very clear.

I don’t really care of selling my pictures to you. You don’t want them? No problem at all.
What I do care, and what you don’t seem to consider, is respect for my and any photographer’s work.

The central law of economy, in force worldwide since currency replaced barter some millenniums ago, states that if you want someone’s job, you pay for it.
You may notice you are doing this every day when you buy milk, dine out, book a flight and a tour bus.

The option to give free pictures exists, but is my decision and cannot be anyone’s pretension.
As if someone wants the XXXX XXXXXXX to play for free, such as for a charity gig, you may agree. But you may well not.
No one will be ever so mad to insist that XXXX XXXXXXX must play for free as “preliminary condition”.

The reason why I keep replying and, in vain, I hope you are joking, is to stress that your claim is much worse than a simple “condition”.
That in fact turned out to be a genuine blackmail: “No full rights of pics for free? no shooting”.

So very true, you are not only denying me access to the pit, but you are also using a disrespectful “I am too busy for talents like yours” and hypocritical “unfortunately” behavior.

I don’t debate you can find very many weekend photographers working for your band at no cost; it is just a pity to know such professional musicians are being portrayed by amateurs because of managers’ arrogance.

From my modest position, I know loads of talented professional music photographers that will be very happy to share this e-mail exchange on every music photography forum online.

Thanks for your time, after many years dealing with kind and supportive managers; this has been a revealing first time, unfortunately.

Thanks, anyways

He hasn’t answered…

Dear friends photographers, professionals and not, I wrote this thinking of you.
Don’t let arrogant people offend you, your work and your dignity.
Never, not just for a photopass.


25 Responses to “Management Madness”

  1. The thing is, if he owns all rights, then you don’t even have the right to sell the photo. lol. But what management does not understand is that you are not out there to sell the photos for posters and tshirts etc. you are out there to sell to editorials, which in return give the band free publicity so it would be a win win situation if they were not so stupid.

  2. kudos Valerio!

  3. reading that was a pleasure!

  4. Where is the next chapter Valerio?
    I’ve got an idea for a moovie as a High Fedelity but in a visual side of the music industry. No idea for the actors yet but I like the idea of a peacefull photographer that with fussyness affect the mind of a looser music manager :-))
    Great Valerio, keep going.

  5. Oh dear, isn’t photographing the band and in turn giving them free publicity good enough for some people? Seems slightly ridiculous. Thanks for posting this!

  6. please, Valerio give us the name of that shit of a band!
    p.s.: if not the full name, just some indirect informations to recognize it and avoid he’s gigs :)))

  7. Give us a clue to the band?

    I get this all the time as a designer, people are happy to pay a mechanic to repair their car because they haven’t a clue as to what to do. However because most people have cameras and computers (the tools of our trades) they feel that the fact that they can have a half assed attempt at doing our jobs themselves, as they already have the tools to do so that our skills are worth less!

  8. Hi guys,
    thanks for your support.
    Just to make it clear.

    I am not publishing the name of either the band or their manager because I don’t care of taking a personal revenge on him and even more important I don’t want to give him any sort of publicity, even if negative.

    I just wanted as many photographers as possible to read this and to realize that if they agree such conditions they are not getting a photopass, in fact they are giving their work for free.
    It is plenty of students and wannabe photographers out there that would sell their soul for a pass, my point is to make clear that on the long run agreeing to this will kill our profession and professionalism.

    If any of you is interested to have his name in order not to deal with him, I am very happy to tell to you in private.

  9. On the other hand, you sometimes go to bands you meet after gigs and tell them they can always check your photos and tell them to contact you if they like what they see… Fun Lovin Criminals, Amy W spring to my mind… ANd they say yes, but never do.

  10. Excellent expose’. I fully support your rights Valerio. It is pathetic that a manager behave in such a manner. I am disgusted. I can fully imagine them to ask for some limited rights (maybe to vet the photo’s or to have first opportunity to buy some), but to try and get you to work for free??? Bands and photographers are a symbiotic relationship… they should be assisting each others art-forms, as always.

  11. To be fair mate your English is a bit confusing and I can see why a busy manager might get a little annoyed with you. He has no guarantee that your photos wont be sloppy or that you wont choose to only use unflattering pictures etc. Any manager has to protect his artistes image and you have no accreditation as a professional. You want to take pics and sell them to publications, fair enough. He wants some control of those images in return for allowing you access. It can be worked out but sending the guy a long, rambling and hard to understand email isnt the way. He does after all hold all the cards in this situation. His band, his rules
    I spent most of the 1970s taking band pics and I nearly always shot by moving around the room. The pit was too boring. Me and my Nikon F with Tri-X at 800asa got good shots which I had no problem selling!

  12. Thanks Gary,
    I fully agree with you, not everyone do, apparently.

    he didn’t want “some control of my images” he did want all the images for free. Full stop.
    The nice bit is that at the end I got access to photograph that gig through the support act but I couldn’t go.

    A curiosity, on which basis do you judge my professional photographic credentials? I shot a couple of hundreds bands, I had my pictures published a bit of everywhere, I work with few bands, I had exhibitions around the world and I do concert photography for quite a while.
    I am not Ross Halfin, but I don’t have problem to get access to 98% of gigs I request a photopass. Managers are nice guys always happy to have someone photographing their artists, this being an exception.

    I am with you about my confusing English, I wonder how is your Italian?

    By the way, thanks for your time, for reading and replying. Can you point me to some of your tri-x live music pics of 70s bands? I’d love to see them, If you were born on ’59 (from your CV) you were just a teenager around that time. A prodigy child.

  13. Well done on fighting your corner Valerio. Having said that I can see his point of view to a small extent – why should a band (*if* it’s a well known one) let anyone one in without having something in return? Did you say you were shooting for a specific publication? So at least they knew where they were going? Maybe in theory a compromise could have been reached where you gave a couple of pics to the band in return for you being able to sell through an agency? though his initial response is way out of line however and probably wouldn’t have gone for it – but maybe something to consider in future? It worked for me with a big UK band when I was faced with something similar.

    Great shots of Public Enemy by the way – what a band..

  14. Thanks for your comment and the compliment (at the end!) Chris,

    what they get in return is pictures published somewhere which in the end is free advertising for a band.

    Considering that bands today are often asked to pay to play (as support) you can see that having a form of exposure just in change of a photopass (which doesn’t cost them nothing) is not such an effort.

    to answer your questions…
    they were not that big, even if quite famous years ago.
    I always say for which publications I work and 90% of the gigs I do are published somewhere, obviously apart from this blog I am not the editor and it is up to them whether they opt to choose my shots.
    I don’t have any problem to give a couple of pictures to a band, I am open to that and did several times, it is the way he pretended all my pictures where his for free which was an unaccetable condition.

  15. Thank you very much. This post has helped with a couple of bands that have asked for full copyright. I’m not against comping them a couple of pics for their sites or whatever but when they ask for everything, it’s a complete insult.

    I’ve been doing this for a while now and most of the time bands are happy for us to go and take pics, this rights grabbing is an unfortunate trend and if it continues there will be no pro’s left to take pics and the whole music industry will be the worse for it.

  16. Vale,

    Next time you get a response like this, try to establish the value of your proposition, and make a counter-offer that they can’t refuse. You may find it works much better than jumping immediately to attack mode.

    When you cold-contact somebody, they don’t know anything about you, or what you’re offering them, and what you’re offering THEM is what is important. I didn’t see a value offer from you anywhere in this email exchange.

  17. A curiosity, on which basis do you judge my professional photographic credentials? I shot a couple of hundreds bands, I had my pictures published a bit of everywhere, I work with few bands, I had exhibitions around the world and I do concert photography for quite a while.
    I am not Ross Halfin, but I don’t have problem to get access to 98% of gigs I request a photopass. Managers are nice guys always happy to have someone photographing their artists, this being an exception.

    I am with you about my confusing English, I wonder how is your Italian?

    By the way, thanks for your time, for reading and replying. Can you point me to some of your tri-x live music pics of 70s bands? I’d love to see them, If you were born on ‘59 (from your CV) you were just a teenager around that time. A prodigy child.

  18. wow, full respect to this conversation, i really support your position! greets from germany!

  19. Thanks Martin
    only if we stand up for our rights concert photography will survive.

  20. Thanks for sharing this mailing !

  21. Hi, just got directed here via a comment on this:

    Your exposé was a pleasure to read. As a designer and a music fan, it infuriates me no end when people expect to use your services for free, assuming that you’ll work just for the privilege, and also when any level of management besmirches direct communication with the band. That arsehole was totally unprofessional.

    I’d love to know the name of the band, so I can avoid supporting their manager, but I see you’re better than that!

  22. Thank you Chris,
    It’s curious how after 4 ys this post become on fashion again. The band was Meat Puppets hope in the meantime they managed to change their manager!

  23. Granted that the other person was being a bit hyperbolic. I don’t quite understand your premise, either.

    You approached them rather than the other way around. You were asking for permission to attend their event, for your own purposes, not for theirs. It might be that your purposes might profit them but that does not confer any rights on you.

    I perceive the possibility that there is an established custom of allowing photographers to photograph such events. Again, not relevant. It was their event and they don’t have to conform to that custom.

    From the point of view of the people who were holding an event, you were asking for several things of value (being present at their event, their images), for which they normally receive payment. I read your message and much of the commentary. I’m still wondering about your point of view. Other than the particular choice of words, what is your objection to the manager’s premise? In short, what is the premise of your seeming idea that you should be allowed to take their photographs at all?

    I think that I understand that you were at least partly moving past that background question to the next step. What if the group holding the event were to allow you to photograph them? In that case, what agreement would be appropriate as to who should hold which rights and who should give what recompense to whom? I think that that may be where you and the manager didn’t connect. What reason do you have for believing that he should skip what to him is the basic step? Why would he start with the idea that he wants you there? What did you offer to convince him of that?

    In one of the comments, there was a question about judging professional credentials. I wondered about that because no mention of credentials had been made. I think that that may be similar to what happened between you and the manager. Your account of the exchange does not mention your credentials. In absence of mention, most people would not assume any to exist. Even if they did exist, they do not force anyone to accept your services. The manager seems to have judged you to have been part of the group of people who would like to attend a concert free of charge.

    I’m leaving spurious responses to this site’s request for my name and e-mail address. I don’t expect that this will be posted but I hope that a live person will see it.

    • Thanks for your long answer,
      I didn’t report the entire e-mail I send to bands and promoter, if you knew how this world works you would also know that there is no chance to photograph a band if the photos are not going to be used for promotional use somewhere in the printed or online press.
      I have been shooting concerts for over ten years and I am linked and recognised as one of the many music photographers that work for magazines, newspaper and webzines.
      Obviously any band is free to accept me or not at their show, but no one can put me the condition “I will let you photograph the show only if you give to me all your work for free.”
      Hope it is clearer now.

      I reported this e-mail exchange, I’ve got tens more, just because I used humour to reply and I believed it’s funnier to read.

  24. Got a similar request from the Black Label Society management (I paper I had to sign giving them all rights to my photos). It seems their idea of copyright does not include the copyright of others. It’s the kind of onerous contract that doesn’t have a chance of standing in a court (I’s love to see it challenged!).

    By the way, your pics are great and you’re very generous with the photo tips.

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