Why Concert Photo Restrictions Do Not Make Sense Any Longer

It was Petra’s birthday. I had purchased official tickets for the Norah Jones concert in Munich as a gift for her. I know she likes the music, a cool dark modern country and blues music. The tickets were expensive, and I was happy to just enjoy the evening as a concert visitor. We were excited.

As always, I was looking for some photo colleagues. However, upon entering the concert hall, Munich’s Olympiahalle, I did not see any. I would have expected to see at least one or two pros covering the concert. But then they appeared, in the break between warm-up session and main concert. They were shuffled in and told to stay in one corner in the back of the hall. I could spot Johannes Simon, a local PJ veteran working for GettyImages now, then Oliver Lang from AFP, and five or six others. When one of the photographers wanted to chat to the TV colleagues who had their equipment set up close to the sound engineers, he was told to go back to “his location in the corner” by a security guy. This did not make any sense to me as he did not try to take photos. In fact, nobody was taking any photos – the main lights were still on, the stage was still empty. No artist. No photos. No interest.

Then, at 9 pm sharp, the official concert began. The photographers were now guided to a location closer to the stage, and they were allowed to shoot for about 15 minutes, for about three or four songs. Then they were shuffled out of the concert hall again. And I wondered – does this make sense?

I was wondering, because hundreds of visitors were bringing their digital cameras. I’d say almost everyone had some kind of camera, if it was not a point-and-shoot camera, they at least carried a camera phone. People around me were shooting like crazy. Every few seconds a flash fired somewhere in the hall. One guy a few rows in front of me was apparently filming the whole concert with his P&S camera. A couple behind me was more focused on taking photos than on the concert itself. Yes, this tells you something about the quality of the concert, but it also tells you something about the sillyness of photo restrictions during concerts.

I could not resist and ask Petra for her camera phone (as I’ve just got an old Ericsson phone without camera). Well, I just could come up with this really really bad shot…

Norah Jones Munich
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

…from her old Siemens phone (with a mediocre 1.3 MP camera). But using a fairly decent 12 MP point-and-shoot (e.g. the new Sony Cybershot W200) I guess I could have achieved a quality suitable for newspaper standards, if not better. Throw in a seat closer to the stage, a tiny tripod, and a bit of post-processing, and you’ll get a couple of very good concert shots.

So, in my view, this whole “professional photographers may only take photos during the first 15 minutes of the concert” rule is utter nonsense these days. People (i.e. paying end customers) are taking the shots anyway. And they will increasingly blog about this, writing fan pages and concert reviews. They can not be hold back, unless you want to take away their phones and P&S cameras. But when this happens, people will not be attending concerts any longer. So this will not work. Concert agencies should actually be happy about the additional PR they get from this. They should allow photo cameras in order to improve their reach and to further increase the popularity of the artist. I agree that they should put restrictions on video cameras as this is were the real value of a concert lies: music, lights, emotion! A concert is a true multimedia experience; still photos hardly bring this across.

Ah, how was the concert, you ask? At 0.42 € per minute it was too expensive for my taste. The location (the Olympiahalle with seats) was not matching the music style which would have been much better in a smaller concert hall (e.g. Munich’s Muffathalle or Zenit). So the emotions were not really coming across to the audience. Unsurprisingly, Miss Jones left the stage at 10:25 pm, apparently a bit miffed at the lack of enthusiasm by the audience. Petra liked the concert, though. Which was the whole point of this excercise. :-)

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