Dutch photographer, YouTuber, and full-time attorney J Salmeron of Metal Blast took to the platform to explain how he was banned from photographing future Arch Enemy live shows as a result of requesting payment after a band’s sponsor used one of his images to promote their clothing.
Salmeron attended the Dutch music festival Fortarock in June 2018 and photographed one of the participating artists, Swedish metal band Arch Enemy. He explains that photographing the band’s set took a little extra effort as it began to downpour, so he had to juggle between his poncho and protecting his gear, but found that the added effort was worth it after reviewing the shots he got. He quickly posted his favorite of singer Alissa White-Gluz on his Instagram and instantly started to see the likes coming in. He was excited to see Alissa liked it as well and decided to share it to her Instagram as well.
As a photographer who likes to shoot live shows myself, I know it’s a super exciting feeling having an artist you admire like and share your photo. It’s especially nice when they’ve credited you properly and did not apply a filter (*cough cough*). In Salmeron’s case, Alissa credited properly and did not distort his original photo at all; she even left his watermark in the image — shocker! Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there.
Thunderball Clothing, an indie, one-woman clothing company based in Poland, used the repost app to share the photo from Alissa’s feed onto their own, promoting the custom vest, armbands, and belt she was wearing during the performance. This is where it got really hairy really quickly.
Screenshot taken from MetalBlast
As photographers, we always have to figure out where we draw our boundaries. A majority decide that if someone or a company tries to profit off your work, then you should be entitled to payment. Very fair. In this case, Salmeron reached out to Thunderball Clothing via Instagram DM. When he found he was ignored on Instagram, he emailed. He offered the company a fair ultimatum: either pay for usage or donate to a charity of his choice.
In an unexpected turn of events, the owner of Thunderball Clothing never responded to his email, but instead went to the band’s management team. The company accused Salmeron of sending a threatening letter “demanding” money. The band’s manager then reached out to Salmeron, explaining: “Alissa’s sponsors and fan clubs are authorized to share photos of her. Thunderball Clothing is a sponsor of Alissa and Arch Enemy."
For anyone that knows how copyright generally works, you'd know that this is not it. Anyone who stands to benefit off the work of someone else’s work is not entitled to use an image unless otherwise stated by the copyright holder, in this case, the photographer. Alissa and Arch Enemy may be allowed to use the image on social media with proper credits (which they have), Thunderball Clothing, however, is not. Salmeron explained this in his very diplomatic response to the manager.
The band’s response is appalling:
Fair enough, Mr. Salmeron.
We have immediately removed the picture you took at FortaRock. By the way, we are sure you don’t mind that you are not welcome anymore to take pictures of Arch Enemy performances in the future, at festivals or solo performances. I have copied in the label reps and booking agent who will inform promoters – no band wants to have photographers on site who later send such threatening correspondence to monetise on their images.
Btw, the email was not from Marta, but from Alisa herself personally. The artist you blatantly wanted to sell the picture to. Nice price tag. 500 EUR. In bcc the band so they know about you in the future.
Thank you and have a nice day!
Btw – we do frequently donate to charity, but on our own terms and free will.
This entire ordeal just goes back to the ongoing issue of how much photography is taken advantage of, even by other artists. It still surprises me at how little some people think of photography as not only an art form but as some people’s livelihood. Just as someone would need to pay a band for usage of their song in a YouTube video, as Salmeron mentioned, photographers are entitled to the same right. We've seen this time and time again, especially in music photography. I've found myself in the crosshairs at some points, but have thankfully worked with teams who were understanding of my position. A lot of times, however, artists and festivals will have photographers sign photo releases allowing the band final approval of all images and even signing over the copyright.
Alissa White-Gluz has since posted this message on her Instagram:
What do you think? How would you have handled it? What advice would you give to photographers who might find themselves in similar situations? Sound off in the comments below.