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Ariana Grande's Sweetener Tour Just Went Sour: News And Media Outlets Protesting Tour Photography Policy

Ariana Grande's Sweetener Tour Just Went Sour: News And Media Outlets Protesting Tour Photography Policy

According to the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), the tour agreement photographers must sign to document her concerts requires transfer of the full copyright of the images taken to her tour company and that they obtain written permission from Ariana Grande herself for the photographer to be able to even post the images.

What’s worse is that once the photographer gets permission to use the images, they are only allowed to post as a news-related item for the publication they work for and can only use the image once. Yes, once. The agreement also states that photographers are only allowed to take photos for the first three songs and must stay in one designated location (that part is more standard). The NPPA has posted the full agreement on their website.

At least 15 outraged news and media outlets including The National Press Photographers Associate (NPPA), Associated Press, Gannett, and The New York Times, have sent letters to the tour company protesting the contract. In a letter written to Grande’s Representatives by NPPA General Counsel Mickey H. Osterrecher, he states that “this surprising and very troubling overreach by Ms. Grande runs counter to legal and industry standards and is anathema to core journalistic principles of the news organizations represented here.”

NPPA President Michael P. King has commented on the issue, stating: “We cannot in good conscience advise our members to sign such an agreement as it currently stands, and we will be actively and publicly reaching out to photographers and their publications cautioning them against signing it.”

No word at this point if there has been any response from Ariana Grande's side.

Lead Image by Wendy Wei from Pexels

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66 Comments

Jeff Walsh's picture

Sounds like a case of her people thinking she's bigger than the press that promotes her. They'll learn.

David Apeji's picture

Will they? There will always be some idiot fauxtographer that will sign their life away.

Deleted Account's picture

I mean if I'm a fan of an artist and felt I could get by on minimal equipment I'd consider shooting a show that I wouldn't have been able to attend without sitting in the nose bleeds. What people will trade for work is up to them.

I also find the demands by the tour very extreme. It's a pretty gutsy move. If it pays off I expect every other artist to follow.

Jeff Walsh's picture

Well, based on my very limited knowledge of concert photography, her demands aren't SUPER extreme. Shooting only 3 songs is actually pretty damn good, a lot of performers only let photogs shoot one song, and its usually a specific song. In this case though they've gone too far, and honestly, if someones job is threatened by "amateur" photographers, then their market was on the brink of doom anyway.

My biggest concern is that her promoters are obviously over valuing shooting her, at least when it comes to professionals. This is the part that can cause a lot of problems if it catches on.

Deleted Account's picture

"If someones job is threatened by "amateur" photographers, then their market was on the brink of doom anyway." Truth... A lot of photographers don't understand this.

I say more power to her if it works. It looks like she's testing the industry to see if it pushes back. Her tour can make all the demands they want but ultimately, it's the people who go along with them that make it happen or not.

Andy Barnham's picture

Such a move doesn't stop those who abuse her likeness; they'll still find a way. This blanket contract hurts those who've followed the rules the most.

Deleted Account's picture

I don't really have a dog in this race so I'm not really for or against any of this. I just find it interesting to watch.

Ann Quimby's picture

Michael, chances are next to none that a fan is going to be issued a press pass to shoot Grande.

Deleted Account's picture

I thought it would have been easy to deduct that I meant someone who's a photographer already and a fan of the performer.

Ann Quimby's picture

a fan of Grande's? Most photographers are adults.

Deleted Account's picture

This must be really hard for you...

Ariana Grande's tour has created a contract that takes most of the power away from the photographers who shoot it. This is a bigger topic than it just having to do with Ms. Grande. If it doesn't get much pushback from the industry, it could be adopted by other artists.

I made a comment saying that I would be inclined to shoot an event in exchange for being able to attend if it was.

*An artist that I liked....in this case it wouldn't be Grande.
*A show that's hard to get into.

Any thing else I should spell out for you?

Mike Dixon's picture

From her contract: "...Photographs shall be owned by GrandAriTour, Inc. (“Company”) as a “work-made-for-hire”." - Are these photographers paid?

Alex Reiff's picture

According to the article, they're employees of various news outlets, so almost certainly not.

Bert McLendon's picture

If GrandAriTour, Inc isn't paying for their work, does it not invalidate the work for hire contract? Any lawyers here?

james aitcheson's picture

I would guess that due to the "work for hire" status you have the right to be paid since you are classified an Employee of the company while you are doing that work. This is not the kind of language one would use in order to get out of paying photographers. It seems to me that someone is telling her that she is loosing money by allowing photographers to sell her image. I have a problem with this as these same people bitch about pirated music and loss income as an artist but here we are as artists laking a loss for them.

Section 101 of the Copyright Act (title 17 of the U.S. Code) defines a “work made
for hire” in two parts:
a) a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment
or
b) a work specially ordered or commissioned for use

1 as a contribution to a collective work,
2 as a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work,
3 as a translation,
4 as a supplementary work,
5 as a compilation,
6 as an instructional text,
7 as a test,
8 as answer material for a test, or
9 as an atlas,
if the parties expressly agree in a written instrument signed by them that the
work shall be considered a work made for hire.

Andy Barnham's picture

I thought the same, until I checked the contract which includes;

"In the event that the Photographs are determined not to be a work-made-for-hire, this Agreement shall constitute an assignment to Company of any and rights in and to the Photographs."

ie AG is covering herself either way.

Paul Asselin's picture

I figure theie are enough pictures of this woman on the internet already. Maybe she should go dark for awhile. Gotta figure the paparazzi need a rest at some point.

Leif Sikorski's picture

We don't know both sides of the story. Some media wrote that photographers were abusing the material multiple times for unauthorized merchandise. If that should be true the reaction would make sense .

Alexander Petrenko's picture

How it helps to fight unauthorized merchadise?

Lane Shurtleff's picture

I'm guessing in your broken English, you're asking what does the control of media photographers using their images to make more money on illegal/unauthorized merchandise like shirts or posters, etc have to do with taking copyrights away? It has to do with the overreach of her management to control where every single image is published. If they verify a certain photographer's image shows up somewhere on unauthorized merchandise, then they have grounds to pursue legal discourse against the photographer or agency.
I had one of these stupid contracts shoved in my face 3 minutes before I was to cover Britney Spears in 2001. I signed it after crossing out all the unethical rights grabs. I was part of a massive news agency at the time, so I told my boss what I did, sent him all the images. They may have used a few nationwide, I used them in my portfolio for future work marketing. With all the fans using cellphones these days it's nearly impossible to control this.

Ann Quimby's picture

her people choose who to issue press passes to. They should be vetting them. Illegal merch isn't going to be created by legit photographers. Ripoff bootleggers almost certainly aren't working for the NY Times. They're running their own businesses and most likely often in other countries. No doubt also swiping photos off the internet to create the merch.

tyler h's picture

They call out still photos only. I am guessing that people were coming in as photographers then only shooting video and selling it. Along with other things. It's her tour she could have an embedded tour photographer to capture the event and wants to protect that. There are a lot of reasons for this. And, let the free market decide if people want to photograph her shows. I am sure there are people who will sign it. *edit to correct spelling

Andrew Eaton's picture

I'm Guessing it will only get coverage by an in house photographer.. But im sure they don't care as her fans are all about the Instagram...

Jon Kellett's picture

Valid points.

I think that the real issue is that more and more bands are starting to think similarly to Ms Grande - Not seeing photographers as promoters, but leaches of no intrinsic value.

The music industry has long had trouble seeing photographers as visual artists and valuing the contribution they give to the success of their artists. It just seems that recently the lack of understanding and appreciation has grown - The value of the photographer has decreased, as smartphones with "decent cameras" have increased.

This hasn't been helped by a change in the way that promotional images are used. Big prints are done from staged shots, or photos from the embedded photographer and who prints big these days? We have concerts almost weekly from Oct-April in my city. It's rare that I'll see advertising bigger than A1. A smartphone would be usable for that and almost anybody can take a "decent" photo with a current one. Where's the skill? Where's the value? Of course that's a mistaken conclusion, but it's an easy one to make. Add to that the increased reliance on social media and you can see how their mindset changes towards the lower-end productions...

Andrew Eaton's picture

yeah I agree, I have seen some shockingly shit advertisement photo's massively over scaled and pixelated from hell.. I have seen rights managed photos being bootlegged for unofficial merchandise creating tension between promoters and photographers which I think has created part of this problem.

Jonathan Brady's picture

There's a VERY simple way to handle this. Have everyone band together and refuse to photograph her tour. She will quickly realize she needs them more than they need her.

Leo Lee's picture

At this point of her career most of these concert photographers are using her more than she needs them. Maybe 6 years ago your statement would be more accurate. I don’t think it holds its value as much with her current fame though.

michaeljin's picture

Only one way to find out. After all, with a contract like this, it actually doesn't seem like concert photographers will have much use for her anyway.

Ann Quimby's picture

but she does need to continue to get coverage and reviews. Photographers are working for publications. If they are working for a major like the NY Times, they can't sign the release and the NYT sure as hell isn't going to sign it. They also won't run photos provided by her. Reviews sell tickets...

Lane Shurtleff's picture

Unfortunately, not many bands truly need "pit" or media photographers anymore. They get what they need by the only tour photographer and the millions of Instagram fans posting video and stills.

Jonathan Brady's picture

Well, if that's the case then they're are only hastening the previously snail paced inevitable, which is a service to the photographers, IMO.

Ann Quimby's picture

but publications won't run photos provided by the artist. Artists still need reviews.

molten pros's picture

They don't need photos for reviews. They are reviewing performances not what color shirt they are wearing.

Deleted Account's picture

The problem is you'd have to have 100% participation for it to work and these things never work.

Jonathan Brady's picture

I hear threats of decapitation are a strong deterrent... 🤷‍♂️
😂

molten pros's picture

This is what happens when Photographers sue artists for using their own photos. Now the artists are fighting back with contracts. I am with the artists on this one. I think that when a photographer takes a picture of an artist the copyright should be split down the middle or at least the artist should be able to use the photos for any purpose. It is ridiculous that photographers sue artist when the picture would not be possible or worth anything without the artist being in it. This is what photographers get for being greedy and unreasonable.

Leo Lee's picture

I’m with the Artist as well. I’m not fond of (mainly the New), yet also the older generation of Photographers overly eager to make money rather than a piece of art. Those who do it for the quick cash have that certain mindset that push these new rules to be made.

Robert Escue's picture

So you two don't object to artists bending photographers over a table in order to get more photos under their terms as opposed to the ones generally accepted by most musicians, publications and record labels?

I shoot concerts and Ariana Grande and her management team are (1) wanting to force photographers to give up the rights to their work in order to shoot and (2) if you bothered to read the contract, they are punishing photographers by forcing them to shoot from the soundboard, not the photo pit. For most venues, the soundboard is at the back of the venue (what they call the front of the house).That means the photographers either get lousy photos or they buy or borrow expensive glass to get the shots they would normally get from the photo pit. A guy I know had to use a 500 mm lens to shoot Ringo Starr. I told him that I would have said no and went home. My perspective is that Ariana and her management is punishing photographers by denying them pit access whether they shot her and used the photos correctly or not.

It is easy to claim that Ariana's (or any other performer for that matter) image is being used inappropriately, so where are the lawsuits and prosecutions at? Funny I haven't read any articles about photographers being sued by Ariana Grande or her management.

Some of my friends have experienced artists who wanted contact sheets and to approve every photo used by the publication to the point where the newsworthiness of the event is long over. You hang out with enough concert photographers you will discover that we are getting screwed just as much as the artists claim they are.

I am not saying that improper use of photos doesn't happen, but this isn't the 1970's where guys would shoot shows and sell prints from a van less than an hour after they shot them. And what about all those people shooting stills and video with smartphones? If close enough, the quality is good enough to use for the very purposes Ariana and her management is complaining about.

I hope photographers and publications give Ariana the finger and refuse to shoot her shows out of principle and see how long it is before the terms become more reasonable. Other artists have done similar things with various degrees of failure. Some people will agree to the terms, most won't.

Leo Lee's picture

She gets paid by album/song sales also including merch, not by the children hungry to take her picture and make a name for themselves. Get over your photography skills, move on to the next client. Adapt to the world, don’t except the world to adapt to you.

I’ve hung out with great concert photographers who respect the art, and I’ve hung out with concert photographers who are pumped to get a media pass and watch and shoot a show for free. Let’s be honest of those two catagories which do you think there are more of, Moochers or people who treat this industry like a true art form?

Keep in mind, She is the most followed woman in the world on Instagram, respect her decision. People don’t make rules like this because they are mad with little, to no reason. Understand the shooters want her more than she will EVER need them.

Andy Barnham's picture

Who makes decisions such as this; is it the artist or management? Such a contract is bound to get a reaction which makes me wonder if the purpose of it was to garner column inches and media attention?

And I agree that I haven’t seen any news regarding legal action against unauthorised merchandise.

molten pros's picture

If you didn't see reports of Photographers suing Artists then you are living under a rock. I understand how copyright works, I just don't agree with it because I find it unfair to the Artists. If I am a famous person and someone takes a photo of me, that photo becomes valuable and I agree that the photographer should be able to sell the photo and gain a profit. What I don't get is that the artist cannot use the photo without the Photographer's permission, even though this is a photo of the artist and all value of the photo is derived from the artist image. The artist should have the right to use the photo for personal and for marketing. The reason why we are here to today is because photographers are too greedy and now artists have to protect their own image rights. Photographers who don't want to share rights can choose to shoot landscape. A tree won't challenge copyright.

Robert Escue's picture

Then explain the contract I signed when I shot Slayer last year stating I cannot use any of the photos I shot of them outside of the article I wrote about the show without their permission. Do you even shoot concerts?

This is yet another rights grab by an artist. Ask a concert photographer besides me what they think of it. I'm over the "poor starving artists" who laugh to the bank and have an army of lawyers to beat people up.

michaeljin's picture

Yeah... that's not how copyright works. Also, you can't just monetize photographs you take however you want to. You can sell them for certain uses, but many commercial uses would require a model release. Our legal system is already structured to deal with this scenario.

Ann Quimby's picture

split the copyright? that's idiotic. Your opinion has nothing to do with the law. You obviously must not be a photographer or a creative of any kind. Giving away Intellectual Property to someone who has nothing to do with it's creation is just irrational. Ok, so give the subject the copyright? Let's expand on it. Give the copyright to the subjects in all those family photos, wedding shots, business and acting headshots, etc. Have you ever taken a photograph? I'm sure you should give up your copyrights too.

molten pros's picture

I am a full-time professional Photographer and Cinematographer. Try to stay on topic. We are talking about Artists not weddings and family photos.

Stephen Ironside's picture

I hope she just starts getting zero photos and zero press coverage. I'm sure their tone will change pretty quickly...

Lane Shurtleff's picture

HAHAHAHAHAHAhahahaaha is if she needs "press coverage". That's the big problem these days now that every Tom, Dick or Harry has a cellphone with video or IG uploading during a show. Concert photographers are useless.

Robert Escue's picture

If her management team is still offering credentials, there must be some use for concert photographers unless you actually believe that every Tom, Dick and Harry can outshoot a concert photographer with their phone.

Jacques Cornell's picture

Unless you want photos that are actually GOOD. Phone photos from the 35th row in low light pretty much just suck.

Lane Shurtleff's picture

Don't know about what crappy cellphone you use, but I can get really good HD video from the 35th row (it's not as far away from a massive stage as you might think. But again, we're talking about all those fans in the first 10-15 rows holding up ipads and phones blocking all the others who can't see a damn thing.

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