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.

Michael Holst'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.

Michael Holst'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.

Michael Holst'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.

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

Michael Holst'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.

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

Michael Holst'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?

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 .

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.

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.

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

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...

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.

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.

Michael Jin'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.

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.

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