Rock Photographers Are Boycotting The Stone Roses GigBy Gavin Haynes
From tonight till Sunday the Stone Roses will be playing gigs at Heaton Park, in the name of making so much money you'd wet yourself if you saw it all piled together in one place.
Yet not everyone is going to be raving like they're Aziz Ibrahim. There is the small matter of the large National Union Of Journalists photographer boycott.
That's right. Sad to say, you won't be seeing some of your favourite music photographers in that pit, straining their 5Ds to capture every flare of Brownie's nostrils, every crag on Mani's deathmask drug-face. That means no Ian Tilton, who took any number of their most iconic 90s shots. And no Stephen Campbell, who didn't. And certainly no that other one from that mag.
Organising these holdouts is the NUJ's John Toner. “The boycott is going well,” he tells us, “Most of the major organisations are supporting it. I’m certainly not going to reveal names. That would be up to the individuals to choose whether they wish to do so...”
In other words: “Fuck you Stone Roses. We thought you were for The People But now, we discover you're all about The Man. And The Man, well, he's just a dick, isn't he?”
The Roses are getting any snapper who wants to take shots of Heaton Park to sign a contract which effectively transfers all image rights to the band in perpetuity. They pay you a nominal £1. And in return, you cede everything: “Assign to the Group, with full title guarantee, all Rights in perpetuity throughout the world so as to enable us to exploit the Photographs and Rights as we deem fit without further reference or payment to you or any third party”, is what it says here. So if in the year 2035, you get out you try and Pritt one into your fanzine, a team of Roses lawyers will be able to fist you through the courts.
This isn't yet common practice. But it is gradually becoming that way. Big bands with the sort of bargaining power the Roses are enjoying have gotten wise when it comes to corralling their image rights. Already, when Muse play some thunderdome Matt Bellamy's legal eagles sling the picture-takers a similar tort. With their standard sense of the batshit, Guns n Roses, make you put pen to this, informing you that: “The worldwide copyrights are forever owned by Guns n Roses”. And then there's a certain large broadcasting corporation located in Britain that uses this. That's right, if you shoot on the BBC's turf, they own all of your work forever. Truly, nation shall speak unto nation, subject to official authorisation.
“This is an issue that's been bubbling around for a few years now,” says Leeds snapper and civil liberties campaigner Nick Pickles, “And it's just happened that the combination of such high-profile shows and a band not known for their corporate approach has sparked it off. There are other bands who have tried just as bad, if not worse, so by no means are the Roses the only people doing this.”
“It is a rather greedy thing to do,” one snapper who is still going to Heaton Park points out. “And if they are gonna invite freelancers they shouldn't be so horrendous to them. But we're getting more and more used to seeing these balls contracts at stuff. At Download, Black Sabbath made us sign a contract that allowed us to have one image published in the next month from what we'd shot and that was it. It's especially common with the reunion bands.”
What often drives the initial bargain is the justified fear amongst these acts that these photos will be used to licence unofficial merch. What then plays out is the unjustified solution: grab all rights, always, forever. The sledgehammer to smash the nut. And then to potentially exploit the nut as a nice windfall bonus. In this instance, the NUJ specifically offered a compromise contract, which would have prohibited all merchandising without the rights-grab. It was rejected.
So far, the Roses have remained intensely blasé about the boycott. There will still be a full quota of photographers, their PR, Murray Chalmers, assures us. And well, “The simple fact is that if you want to come and photograph the band then it will be necessary to sign our contract.” So there you go.
“But I think it will matter to the Roses,” Toner suggests. “If not, why are they making an effort to discredit what we are saying?”
The finer points of what happens next remain a bit grey. No one has so far battle-tested these kinds of clauses in the courts, and many who in the know are far from sure they'd stand up. “I agree it's a hugely disproportionate battle between megastars and mostly self-employed photographers,” says Pickles. “But we're already seeing big agencies refuse to sign these contracts and I think that's going to continue and grow to include more publications who want the right to re-use pictures after the initial review, or use them for posters.”
There is a teeny-tiny fleck of irony in the fact that the band who voluntarily scuppered their career as artists in order to tie themselves up in fighting “one of the most iniquitous contracts in musical history” are now tying other people's creativity down to one of the more iniquitous contracts in modern rock photography.
It’s not going to stop the gigs being incredible events; but, by relying upon official photographers only, The Roses may have dismantled a part of their history that hasn’t even been written yet.
Follow Gavin on Twitter @hurtgavinhaynes
Ace of Base's Secret Nazi Past
Before he founded Ace of Base, Ulf Ekberg was a member of Commit Suiside, a Nazi punk band.
Parquet Courts - "Light Up Gold Road Trip" (Full Documentary)
In this new documentary, Noisey follows rising indie rockers Parquet Courts from Mexico to Texas and London as they tour to support their debut LP, 'Light Up Gold.'
Yung Lean Doer Is the Weirdest 16-Year-Old White Swedish Rapper You'll Hear This Week
Yung Lean raps over pillow-fluffy beats and raps about glory holes and Arizona Iced Tea. Who the fuck is this kid? And why is he like this?
Adam Ant - The British Masters, Chapter 6
Noisey's John Doran talks with the great post-punk pop star Adam Ant about tribal body mods and layering tape.
Photos: Taking Acid at Coachella
When Paley sent these photos in, she included a nice little caveat over email that we've decided to reprint here in full, not only because it's too good to edit, but because her photographs of her and her weird buddies riding the snake are some of the best
R.I.P. Storm Thorgerson (1944-2013)
On Thursday, the hyper-talented graphic designer, artist, and famed album cover creator Storm Thorgerson passed away after a battle with cancer. He was 69 years old.
The Internet Is Scary
As of six months ago, my Facebook fanpage is like a dojo where hormonal teenagers hone their technique. Here is a heartfelt poem from some kid who wants to rape, kill, and marry me.
I Accidentally Touched Little Richard's Butt One Time
It was in the Detroit airport. After it happened Little Richard said, "He graze my derriere."
Listen to St. Lucia's Remix of The Colourist's "Little Games"
Last month, Cali quartet the Colourist released "Little Games," and St. Lucia just pulled a warm Balearic blanket over the whole thing, sanding away its rough edges with bright synths and lightly gated percussion.
Aaron Montaigne, Godfather of Screamo, is More Interesting Than You Can Ever Hope to Be - Part Two
On surviving combat in Iraq and Afghanistan with the help of magic, 'Bladerunner,' and everything in between.