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Getting the Pass: Venue vs. Publicity vs. Band

Commonly, the question of "Do I go through the venue, the band, or through publicity?" comes up. In this entry I will discuss the most feasible & common methods.

Common methods of getting the pass:

- Pre-approval through publicity

- Request through management

- Petitioning a band member; Band member requesting on your behalf

- Petitioning the tour manager

- Petitioning the venue

Pre-approval through publicity:

** This is the most common, feasible, reliable, and appropriate method **

At least 5 days prior to the concert, submit a request to the publicity firm (or publicity agent/assistant at the label) via e-mail or fax.
Sometimes, locating the publicity contact information can be more difficult than getting approval! (* Tracking publicity down will be addressed in a separate blog entry)
Be prepared with a legitimate reason for the request. Publicity agents do not approve you just based upon the fact that you own a camera, professional or not. Well, sometimes they do! Most major tours will require that you are shooting for a daily publication, medium-major circulation magazine, college paper, popular website, etc. Publicity agents may call and verify your affiliation/assignment with the outlet.

The standard flow is frequently similar to the below:
- Photographer contacts publicity
- Publicity verifies the photographer's assignment or credentials (No, just BEING a photographer is not reason for approval)
- Publicity may approve the request. Sometimes there are limits to the number of passes or types of publications being approved.
- Publicity forwards photographer's name to the tour manager
- Tour manager prints pass roster, assembles the passes, and submits the list & passes to the box office/will call

Petitioning management is similar to petitioning publicity.

Petitioning the band:

If you have a direct relationship with the band, and they take your seriously enough, they may request that the tour manager set up a photo pass for you. In some cases, the band itself still must go through publicity - especially if they are just musician behind a front-person (ie. the band members behind Black Eyed Peas and Christina Aguilera).

Petitioning the tour manager:

In the late 90's, I worked about 2 blocks from Lupo's, a 1,200 person venue in Providence, RI. Whenever a national touring act came to town for which I did not have a pass, I would leave work around 4pm and hang around until I had an opportunity to solicit the tour manager or possibly a band member.
While I had a surprising level of success (50%?), this method is considered annoying and supposedly is very unlikely to work nowadays with all of the "freetographers" in this age of digital cameras & iPods.
(Yes, I just made up a new term! Freetographers!)

Petitioning the venue:

- Very small venues typically operate without photo restriction

- Medium-sized venues may operate with or without restriction - and nearly any national tour will require restrictions

- Large venues generally always operate with restrictions - and nearly every tour passing through will also have restrictions

Unless you are the official photographer for the venue, the venue likely has no power and no interest in granting you a photo pass. In scenarios where the venue does want to issue a photo pass, this will need to be cleared with tour management and possibly publicity for many of the national tours. Sometimes this is as simple as the venue management or promoter speaking with the tour manager upon load-in. If you have a relationship with the venue, it is still best to have a request sent into publicity one or two weeks prior to the concert.

Your experiences may differ greatly; I have experienced various levels of success with each of the main methods of 'getting the pass.' Publicity approval is the most common, most appropriate, and most reliable method of 'getting the pass.' Be sure to allow plenty of time between the request and the event. Do not be disappointed if denied, but try to politely find out why. And... Good luck!

- Will

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Outstanding blog and spot on with my own experience. Working through the publicist is always the most appropriate method for requesting a photo pass. Freetographers - I love it - great new term!

Founder, MusicPhotographers.net
Columbia, Maryland - USA

Agreed! I've had my best luck going through the venues. They always have the appropriate contact numbers, and an established relationship as well.

Freetographers... I laughed Iced Tea out of my nose on that one! Totally accurate though.


Daniel Knighton, PIxel Perfect Images

(858) 335-4540 cell



This is something I have a little bit of experience with. Personally, I love music. I love shooting music, and I use all available resources to get inside the door with my camera. Firstly, I start small. Most bands will be happy to have a photographer come to their show and shoot. If experience is what you're looking for (aren't we all?) then shoot everybody you possibly can, and build up a good portfolio, as well as some recognition with ANY band, which may lead to more "work." You'll also build experience, which is the most important. My famous term is "will work for beer." I peruse the bands playing in New York on myspace at venues that I know are pretty small-time, yet have bands there with pretty good potential one day. Up-and-coming acts will always usually invite you to their gigs if you're willing to dish out the time to shoot and edit. If there's a cover, make sure they tell the door you're there to shoot, and you're not paying a cover. Least you could receive is a free show. dsWhether they invite you back is up to you. After you put your time in, they'll soon be inviting you back and recommending you.

another way to get in a venue is to buy a ticket and bring your gear in a not-so-obvious bag. Get there early and find a few good spots to stand. Joke with the security while you're drinking. Act like you own the place, and they'll be less inclined to boot you once they see you're shooting.

Bottom line is: surround yourself with musicians and shoot them all. Your portfolio will magically cultivate itself and you'll learn all the techniques needed to survive for a paying job (if that's what you're looking for). If the passion leads the way, the money will follow, and so will your portfolio, and your name.

Just my two cents.

I'm sure I've left a bunch out. So feel free to correct or add anything I missed :)

cheers, music photogs. Godspeed!

Ed Isabella


While I certainly agree that it is important to shoot anything that moves, build your portfolio, add to your experience, and even take on shows themselves for free... I would definitely say that if you shoot a band's concert, no matter how small, without a fee, then you MUST still access some sort of license and license fee for utilization of the images - even if they just go on Myspace.

Walter and I rant about this often... be sure to keep posted ;)

Will Hawkins Photography, LLC. http://www.willhawkinsphotography.com