I was recently asked to do an interview talking about my part in the music industry. Being completely flattered, I did my best to answer each question seriously (I think i did ok). So here it is, my first ever interview about being a photographer.
Industry Profile #2 – Andrew Basso
Name: Andrew Basso
Industry Job: Photographer/Designer
Artists You’ve Worked With: Conjurer, Pandorum, Overdrum, Toxicon, Pride Only Hurts, Tyler Wilford, Dario & Elise, Down Royale, Humality, Circles, Reline, Amaronix, No Stairway, Cal Browne, House Vs Hurricane, Pantallica, Dreamcoat
1. In the current musical climate, what do you think are the most important things a band/artist can do to catch your attention?
I think a mixture of a great sound, good live presence, good “image” and something that separates them from every other local band who is trying to get you to their shows. There are stacks of bands that I’ve tried to get into (to support the local scene) that have a Facebook page with a shitty iPhone photo of the band looking angry or away from the camera, a Microsoft Paint logo and low quality recordings they’ve done themselves in their garage. Now, I’m not saying that all these acts are terrible. In fact, some are really talented, but when you see these poorly made “first points of contact”, it does not reflect well on the great artist they may be. I understand money is always an issue with bands, especially starting out, but I think to be taken seriously and have a better chance of people taking an interest, the material should appeal to the audience right off the bat. Furthermore, the band should be able to back up their invitation to a gig with the ability to put on a good show. Whether that’s being a really well rehearsed or tight band, putting on a massive lighting and effects display, being funny on stage, being an exceptional musician or some mixture of all. The point of a gig is to show the audience what you can do and leave them with the desire for more. It does not matter if they are friends, WAG’s or the bar staff. The point of live music at the base of it all is entertain. So entertain them. Last thing I think a lot of local bands should learn is attitude. I get that you may play aggressive music or have many opinions of yourself and your talent which is fine, but when you address the audience, there should always be a sense of gratitude because like you or hate you, these people are listening to you when they could just walk away. Acting pretentious, aggressive or in any type of negative way toward the audience will not fare well for you no matter how good you can strum six strings.
2. What exactly does your job involve?
I’m a photographer so I make pretty pictures for a living. I also do the odd spot of designing but photos are better. Within the music industry however, I take live shots, help with promo/media kit photographs, logo design, album design, album photos and I’ve even started to delve into the music video side of things.
3. Have there ever been any moments where you were close to giving up but you decided to push on?
Many early on. Any art industry is a tough one to crack unless you’re extremely talented, very lucky or both. I don’t know if I have cracked it yet but I’m having fun trying. At the start of my photographic career there were many occasions where I felt I wasn’t as good as the next person or this is too hard or people don’t appreciate what I’m doing so why bother? But there were a couple of times where things turned out well for me and they outweighed those bad situations. I enjoy what I do and I work hard to continue doing it so why stop now?
4. What are the “Do’s and Don’ts” in the music industry from your perspective?
There are probably more Don’ts than Do’s. I’d say a big Don’t is bad mouthing other acts. In the music industry (especially within a specific genre) everyone one knows everyone. If you say to the lead singer of a band that another band is shit and ugly, there’s a good chance that the two might know each other and then neither one wants to work with you. It’s fine to have your own opinions about a band or artist, but you need to know when to keep them to yourself.
A big do I think is just to be a friendly, thankful or genuine person and that’s the same in any industry really. Most cases, people will want to work with someone who they like. That being said, don’t be fake and pretend to be friends with people because you think they might give you something in return, most people will see right through that. For example, I’ve become friends with quite a few bands since I started, most of them now will come to me before anyone else for things related to my field. Following that Do is another Don’t tho. Don’t get caught with freeloaders or people undeserving of your talents. For example, a lot of my live shots I do for free and there are a lot of bands that will offer to pay me, pay for my entry or buy me drinks which shows they appreciate what I’m doing for them. However, there have been 1 or 2 in the mix that see me as a free medium and expected more and more without so much as a thank you and they are the ones I don’t help anymore.
5. How long have you been doing what you do?
I’ve been taking photos of music artists for about 5 years now. I’ve been taking photos in general for about 6 or 7 years, taking it more seriously and starting a business just under 2 years ago. Design I’ve been doing since I was 17.
6. List some of your favourite artists, both local and international
International: A day to remember, Van Halen, Of Mice and Men, Asking Alexandria, Angels and Airwaves, All Time Low, Anberlin, The Gaslight Anthem, Boyce Avenue, Bring me the Horizon, Ed Sheeran, Foo Fighters, Hands Like Houses, Jack’s Mannequin, Jimmy Eat World, Killswitch Engage, Linkin Park, Papa Roach, Passenger, Peter Bradley Adams, Rise Against, Sick Puppies, Sixx AM, Skillet, Slipknot, Steel Panther, Stone Sour, We Are Harlot, We the Kings, Wovenwar, You Me at Six, Young Guns, Zac Brown Band, 360, Drake, Katy Perry, Cassadee Pope
Local: Conjurer, Toxicon, Amaronix, Pride Only Hurts, Overdrum, Tyler Wilford, Shaun Smith, Circles, Down Royale, Humality, Copia, No Stairway
7. Have you performed in bands or as an artist in the past?
I was in a band in high school, started out as the Blues Club run by this crazy arts teacher and we turned it into a band called Aerial Hopscotch (or Targeting the Diaphragm depending on who you ask). Play battle of the bands and my 18th… then the other members all went on to start their own bands and I went the behind the scenes route.
8. How did you get into this line of work
I was in tafe learning to be a designer, our timetable was messed up and we ended up only having 1 and a half days of tafe each week for about a semester. So to kill time, I bought a DSLR started taking random shots of my friends that I thought I’d use as stock images for my design… then I found iStockPhoto and realised my stuff was shit but I still enjoyed it so I kept at it. I shot a couple of my high school friend’s bands for funzies but I started taking the music side of it more seriously when I was invited to a highschool friend’s boyfriend(at the time)’s band’s gig. It was the first gig I’d ever shot without previously knowing the band 7 years in advance, it went well (I think) and I continued taking photos of them for ages and taking photos of other bands as well.
9. Do you believe that the Australian music industry has something special that makes it unique?
I think it has untapped potential.
I don’t know if this is the same everywhere else but the amount of talent waiting in the wings is phenomenal. However, I think the larger majority of people have become lazy to an extent when it comes to seeking out new music. A lot of people will only listen to whatever the radio feels like showing them. I’m not saying that those artists on the radio don’t deserve to be there (there are some who defiantly shouldn’t but if people like them so be it) but there are so many talented musicians who’s genre doesn’t have a game show to create their image and get them out to the masses. There are groups of people who will only ever know the Justin Biebers, Niki Minajs and Kanye Wests of the world because that is what the media decides to spoon feed them. I could easily name 5 other artists who deserve that spot light, all of which are local Australian bands.
10. You are about to retire but you only get to give one piece of advice to your successor. What is it?
Always back up your photos! I’d say,the best way to make it in any industry is to be someone people want to work with. Be kind, funny, friendly, helpful and genuine and sooner or later it is rewarded… in other words, don’t be a dick!