Summerfest is one of the biggest music festivals in the United States. It sits on Milwaukee’s lakefront and draws millions each summer with the biggest names in pop and rock music. Unfortunately for them we won’t be covering the actual festival this year or any year until they change a few things.
For those who don’t know how media establishments, like The Dead Hub, receive passes to these festivals and shows I’ll explain. For a festival I’ll contact the Head of Marketing for the event, or in most cases it’s a high profile PR firm that will handle all incoming media credential requests. There are times where they make you fill out an application with your basic information and the media outlet you write or shoot for. You’ll wait to receive a response and if you are given approval you’ll have media and photo passes either mailed to you or waiting for you at will call.
Now here’s the kicker, most festivals, once approved, will let you photograph all the artists on the festivals bill and stages. There may be an artist here or there with restrictions, but you know walking into the festival you don’t have to receive individual clearance from each artist, because that would be time consuming and frustrating since most times you receive your approval day of show (not cool).
This is where Summerfest has dropped the ball. Once approved by Summerfest you only have permission to shoot the grounds of Summerfest and NOT A SINGLE ACT ON THE GROUNDS.This means you can photograph as many drunk people and squirrels as you wish. Crazy right? So as a media outlet we need to email every band that we want to cover and ask for permission, and again, 98% of the time this is the festival’s job not the media outlet. This is STRIKE 1 for Summerfest. The biggest strike they have going for them is their “Rights Grabber” photo contract.This means that the photographers I send out to shoot the bands-that we emailed to get permission from- don’t own any of the rights to the photos because according to their contract Summerfest does. Typically it’ll be an artists demanding rights to the photos to use not a festival or venue.
So how did this come about? Summerfest emailed one of my photographers explaining that ONE photographer abused their previous contracts so that’s why they implemented their new Photo Release contract. (You can read that here) So as a media outlet I have to email each artist to gain permission to shoot their set and neither myself – the media outlet – nor my photographer owns any of the rights. This means neither my photographer nor myself can bring in revenue from the coverage of the festival. By the way, Summerfest isn’t paying us either. The festival never pays the media, but if they want all the rights to our photos they need to ante up or change their contract. We are looking for them to change their contract.
This is feeling strangely familiar to the Soulja Boy story we broke over a week ago. Soulja Boy was combating racist fans with bigotry and racist. You don’t fight hate with hate and you don’t abuse a group of people because one abused your contract. In both situations there could have been a better approach to a solution and it looks like both made the wrong choices.
So this looks to be a fun year at Summerfest. It’s just a shame The Dead Hub and other photographers and media outlets are boycotting the festival this year and future years until they change their contract. Help spread the word!