Bands have a lot to worry about: creating an identity, recording albums, building a fan base, even getting those promotional ("promo") shots that separate the dedicated from the occasional weekend warriors. What bands seem to skip out on though, probably because it seems so mundane and useless, is the live, concert photographs. The thing is, those photographs are some of the most important pieces of material a band can have.
It shows fans what goes on inside the venue
Musicians nowadays rely on ticket and merch sales as their main source of income, with album and music downloads really only acting as a supplement to gain new fans. With local acts especially, getting those bodies through the door is what makes or breaks the group. What better way to say, "this is what our show looks like," than a picture? A picture that's incredibly easy to share. Bumper stickers, posters, even on your phone. Having a live photo as a phone background is one of the easiest ways to promote! All it takes is for someone to let their friend use their phone to gain new fans.
It's also more telling of a show than a simple promo pic. It's easy to take a band to an open field, have them dress up, set up some cool lights, and snap some pictures. Yeah, that takes a lot of planning, but planning is also its downfall; concerts can't be planned in the same way. Cool gimmicks and energy transfer incredibly well in good concert photography. For instance, seeing a picture Horror Pickman, a small metal band, with a painted face screaming into a microphone is sure to stir up some emotions.
It also allows for those special moments to be preserved. Fan interactions, band interactions, all things people love to see from their favorite artists.
But our fans have iPhones!
"Fans with phones" is not an excuse to not hire a professional to capture professional pictures; in fact, relying on fans with phones is worse. A huge turn off is unprofessional pictures used as promo material. The inability to afford good show photos speaks volumes about the lack of professionalism from any given band. Why? Concert photography is cheap. In fact, playing one show and giving half the ticket sales to the photographer is all it takes to show others legitimacy. But seeing blurry, over exposed, horribly composed photos turns off potential fans; it shows a lack of seriousness as a band, which means most likely no merchandise or recordings either.
There's nothing against fans taking pictures with their iPhones, sharing those photos with their friends, family, and even the band. But when bands use those fan shots specifically as an excuse to not hire a professional, that's where a lot of credibility is lost. Managers, PR reps, labels, fundraising backers, all the people that can contribute in a big way will be turned off, and it's because of the message those pictures send: We're just weekend warriors that do this for fun, not for a potential career.
OK, we get it, I'll give my brother my DSLR and have him snap some pics
DSLRs require practice and knowledge to achieve professional images in difficult, dark situations, like concerts. Hiring a professional is the only way to ensure exposed, composed photographs that are in focus and emotional. Otherwise, if the photographer doesn't know what they're doing, the images can end up looking worse than camera phone pictures.
We have a music video though. And it's a LIVE music video!
That's great to have, but why go for that when live photos are cheaper, easier to share, and say the same thing, if not more, than a video? If someone can hear you screaming through a picture, they know just how emotional and energetic you can be on stage. If someone hears you screaming through a video, well, they know you know how to hold a microphone. Spend on concert photos before having a concert video. Great results can be achieved with no one in the audience for the photos, but if filming an empty room . . . won't look very good. Get fans, with the help of photos, before highlighting them in video.
We get it, we need a good photographer for press, but what else are live photos good for?
They're great for potential fans to see and share the live experience. It's cool to use them on Facebook and have your mom think you're a rockstar, but they're also cool to get fans involved. Photographers love going on stage and taking band photos with the audience in the background, and group photos are a great way to showcase the end of a night. Live photos are great to stick on merchandise and have the experience being shared. Even bumper stickers, if done with an emotional picture, can create interest and fans.
That's why a photographer is so vital to capture concerts. The promotional possibilities are endless, but the messages the photos send are emotional, crazy, and a great way to get fans. And getting big doesn't mean stealing photos: stealing leads to lawsuits, so no matter how big the group, having a photographer is something to be considered.