It was brought up recently in one of the publications I shoot for that a select few people were getting upset about not being paid for live photography. While it is true, when I go to a live gig, I am not being paid to be there, I do it because I genuinely love and I know I get something out of it. While it is pretty common knowledge that the shots taken can sometimes become magnetizable (selling prints etc), there are still a select few who see it as "shooting for nothing". I will start this long winded post by saying this as simply as I can, most people you see at gigs shooting photos are NOT being paid to be there, If you expect a pay check for every gig you want to shoot, you'll never shoot music, grow as a live photographer or expand your live music following. Sad fact is, if you can't do it (at least initially) for the love of it, you kinda can't do it.
When this was brought up, I funnily had an example of how you can turn a "free" live gig into paid work happen not long before. (Story time)
I recently went to a gig shooting the band 68 for one of the publications I do photos for (Overdrive Music Magazine). The show was at a venue that does not have barricades/photo pit, meaning I would have to be shooting from the crowd. As a rule of courtesy in these situations, I always speak to the first few people in the front row, let them know I might need to jump in front of them for a few seconds to do some shooting, but would be out of their way as quickly as I could (makes my job easier when the crowd is already on board with me being there).
At this show, the first two people in the front row were a couple, Chris and Amber, who were super friendly and quick to say "no problem" when I told them about jumping in front. We had a bit of a chat while we were there and then the band started playing. Mid way through the set, the front man handed Amber his guitar while he got a drink of water. Amber (a little starstruck and nervous) held the guitar like a newborn baby as it began to feedback in her hands, laughs were had by all as the frontman turned down the amp and said to Amber "Sorry, that was not your fault, I should have told you it was loaded". I quickly took a picture of her and the guitar and went back to shooting the band.
Cut to the end of the show, I'm having a chat with Corey, a fellow photog shooting that night. At this point, Chris and Amber came up to say hi and have a chat. After asking where they could see the shot of Amber along with all the photos of the night, Chris asked if I did press shoots and things of that nature as he is in a band himself. I said yes and sent him to my website to have a look at my work, which he seemed to really like. The next day, I had a message on my business page with questions about pricing of not only press shots, but other things I offer through my business.
Chris' band, The Avenue Project and I recently did our first shoot together. They're a great group of dudes with some rad tunes under their belt who I can now call a client. I would not have met these guys or gotten these jobs if I had not been sent to that gig and shot it for "free".
I've worked for quite a few band in my career as a photographer/designer, and I'd say easily 90% of them, I either shot live before, or shot someone they knew before. Not to mention, the following my business has encountered and the fact a very large majority of my close friends these days I have met because I was shooting a "free" live gig. I will be heading to interstate, going on tour, shooting music videos and press shots for/with bands in the very soon, all of which stemmed from shooting live bands for "free".
Below are just a few more examples of the shoots/videos and the work that stemmed from shooting live music for "free" . Enjoy shooting live music, you never know what will come of it.