Concert Photography

It's not unusual to want to photograph musicians. If cave drawings are any indication, artists have been intent on capturing images of musicians as long as they've had the tools to do so. Photographers have been doing it literally since the medium advanced far enough to make portraits possible. According to most photo histories, that was in October 1839. And, indeed, a daguerreotype exists of the most famous musician of the time, Italian violin virtuoso Nicólo Paganini, who died in May 1840. And who's to say he was the first? Maybe he was just the most famous.

Over the course of photography's history, thousands of amateur and professional photographers (including many of the great artists such as Matthew Brady, W. Eugene Smith, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ernst Haas, Alfred Stieglitz, and Ansel Adams) have followed the same urge. It's as if they feel they can somehow preserve or get closer to the music by photographing the musician. In their wake they have left a vast, rich archive of the ongoing parade of famous and not-so-famous musicians over the past 150 years. Now, you want to make your contribution to history's archives, see your photos and byline in print, and maybe make a few bucks as well.

You've picked a good time to start. Thanks to the astounding growth of record and instrument sales that began with the early-'60s folk movement, there are more musicians performing more kinds of music at a wider variety of venues than at any other time in history. The corresponding exponential growth of the media has created an unprecedented demand for photographs of musicians practicing all manner of musical idioms. Potential markets include magazines, record companies, books, newspapers, television, online media, and the brave new world of multimedia. Additionally, there are more bands and performers than ever needing good publicity shots. And, because of the nature of the music business, you don't have to live in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, or Los Angeles to participate. If you live in a good-sized city, metropolitan area, or college town, you'll find any number of homegrown bands and solo artists who will appreciate your attentions. In addition, many of your favorite recording artists will come to your hometown to perform. In fact, your chances are probably better outside the major cities, where there are fewer photographers vying for position and clearances.

Furthermore, this is an equal-opportunity business. It doesn't matter if you're male or female; have black, white, red, or green skin; or practice Christianity, Buddhism, or Animism. Lots of photographers are already getting a piece of the action. Some do it for money, while others do it for the thrill of having their photos published. Still others do it just for the sheer pleasure of combining a love of photography with a love of music, which is the best way. In general, music-business photography is not the road to fame and fortune. The field is extremely competitive, particularly at the higher levels, and only the most talented, tenacious, and lucky make a decent living at it. But that doesn't mean you can't get your little piece.

Above, left:
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1985.
© 1998 Jon Sievert.


Above, right:
Jerry Garcia, 1975.
© 1998 Jon Sievert.