Working for free (How to not send your industry down the toilet)

Ok, so this is a post that I have been debating making for several months but wasn't quite sure whether it was worth doing. Not in terms of whether all the below needs to be said (it most definitely does) but how to best go about it in a way that doesn't damage my professionalism or potential future work (sadly, anger the wrong people and they can make life very difficult)

So in that vein, i have decided to redact names from a statement I made in a private group of fellow music photographers/videographers, but the basis of the story is one that is becoming more and more common

I first had contact with MANAGER last year when I worked with BAND 1, for whom he is the digital/social media manager. Budget wasn't great but I ended up working for other bands on the tour as well so it worked out ok and I laid out a clear contract for usage (I ended up making about twice as much money off licensing photos from that tour for posters and brand marketing/editorial use). After that tour, MANAGER would occasionally contact me asking me to shoot other bands he looked after. I ended up shooting for various bands at FESTIVAL, and invoiced for all of it together (bearing in mind I was working for about 4 different bands, for 3 days, so it was a decent sized invoice.) I then proceeded to spend the next 3/4 months chasing payment. Eventually, after threatening legal action and about a million "sorry i'll get it sorted tomorrow"s I got my money, along with interest and late payment fees. MANAGER made it very clear that our business relationship was done (because I had the audacity to request that he actually paid me the money that had been agreed he would pay me)

Anyhow, i got some good contacts out of it so we both went our separate ways. Fast forward a fair few months and I saw that BAND 1 were due to be touring the UK and Europe again. So I dropped their actual manager an email asking if they needed coverage and he replied saying that they were definitely considering it and to email them nearer the time. So I did a few months later and I got a reply which in short said "You're welcome to shoot as many shows as you like (presumably having to make my own way to all the shows) but the band can't pay you." He then continued to say how they "have been getting great photos from photographers all around the world just by giving them access to the show"

Needless to say I, as politely as I could, told him that that attitude is destroying our industry and that whilst i would consider coming to one show to catch up with the guys in exchange for literally a couple of photos, in the end i didn't bother. (I also ended up going to their LOCATION show working for BAND 2 and wasn't allowed to shoot BAND 1 as I "hadn't been cleared by management", despite the fact that I know all their crew as well as the band themselves, but hey, these things happen)

Many of you will remember a while ago a certain well-known photographer was compiling a list of photographers around the world. This is what that is being used for. To approach young photographers who don't know any better, who don't know that their skills and time are really worth something, and exploiting them to save themselves money. I really like said photographer (though we've never met, we have many mutual friends) and their work, but being brutally honest, I've lost a huge amount of respect for them by not only allowing this to happen but by actively going along with it.

We have all been in the position of starting out, you get excited at the prospect of working with some of your favourite band. I am by no means saying that you should always be militant about being paid 100% of the time. Your mate's local band aren't necessarily going to have money to pay you for shooting shows when you're starting out (though ironically may often be more open to it than larger bands) I am not saying NEVER shoot for free. Go to local shows, make friends with bands, develop a relationship, practice your craft, that means putting in the time for little immediate reward. That I encourage. But if a band are touring full-time with a full crew and claim they can't afford to pay a photographer, that just doesn't wash.

But that is by the by.

Bottom line tl;dr: Your talents and time have MONETARY VALUE. Don't allow yourself to be exploited. It is ultimately your decision what you use your skills for, but remember that every time you work for free for a client who most definitely can afford it, you are not only cheating yourself out of income, but also your colleagues, both directly and indirectly in the long run. As a community of creatives we need to stick together and stand as one on issues like this, otherwise there will be no industry for people like me for whom it is their sole source of income.

Rant over, you're all great.