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News & Insight

Clarity On The FireFly Festival Debacle | Not Quite The Crisis Some Believe?

By Kishore Sawh on May 12th 2017

“Oh dear, that favored strongly of bitterness,” was the thought that came to mind after reading/watching various opinions on the festival that seems to have some photographers up in arms and incredulous today.

In case you have inadvertently managed to avoid the brouhaha, the Firefly Music Festival had (not to be confused with the Fyre ‘What a horrible sandwich this is’ Festival), about 48 hours ago, posted on their store page a purchase option to be a “Concert Photographer For A Show” for the not inconsiderable sum of $500. This had set off a sizable reddit thread, articles and a video, and some with a voice have offered a level of condemnation you could hear and see essentially stating the festival was charging YOU, the buyer, to take photos for them. But was that really the case? What was it that got people’s Irish up? Here’s what was originally offered:

Get access into one of the most exclusive areas of the festival grounds – the photo pit. You will be escorted by an official Firefly photographer, given a professional camera, and allowed to take photos of your favorite Firefly artist from the photo pit*.

After the show, we will edit your photos for you and the best of the bunch will be featured in our post-festival albums.
*Artists may be restricted and photos can only be taken during the first three songs of the set.

Not long after there was an amendment made to the package copy which gave more specifics on who this was intended for, and clarity about how image rights appropriation would be handled and so on, but it just seemed to make things worse. See here:

Get access into one of the most exclusive areas of the festival grounds – the photo pit. You will be escorted by an official Firefly photographer, given a professional camera, and allowed to take photos of your favorite Firefly artist from the photo pit*.

After the festival, you will be the sole owner of your photographs, and if you’d like, our team can help edit the best of the bunch. With your approval, Firefly is willing to share your favorite photos in our post festival albums.
*Artists may be restricted and photos can only be taken during the first three songs of the set.

This experience is meant for superfans, not aspiring, amateur, or professional photographers…”

There was, however, something missing in all of this, and that was any correspondence and statement for clarification between the festival organizers and those up in arms to quell the generalizations. I’ve since spoken directly to them to get some more details and hope it helps.

When asked what the thinking was in offering this package, Alli, one of the representatives I spoke to, said the idea was (as their amended text would suggest) to offer those without the budget for a Super VIP pass to get a level of access and proximity to the artists and have them leave with that experience with images for show. It was expressed that those images were not going to be used for marketing purposes as they have hired professionals for that job. Here’s an official statement:

“The ‘Concert Photographer for a Show’ was meant to be a limited, fan-driven experience for the super-fans who otherwise would never have the opportunity to see their favorite artists from the photo pit. The experience has been taken down due to the confusion it is has caused.

Firefly hires several professional photographers to capture images from the weekend. These images are used for marketing and advertising.

In addition to the professional photographers we hire, we credential and work with photographers who are on assignment from accredited media outlets.”

[REWIND: Another Photojournalist Cautionary Tale | Are Souvid Datta’s ‘Mistakes’ Forgivable?]

To address quickly some other points, let’s understand that the stipulation of photographing only the first three songs is not an uncommon one and one typically imposed by the bands. This is not only something those paying would have to adhere to but most likely the professionals as well. It was brought up by one or two that this would make the experience a bit of a waste for those paying because they’d likely only get to photograph those who were opening for the main acts, but that’s again not always how that works and in the case of FireFly performers, I’ve been told, they don’t have opening acts.

Thoughts

Creative content creators today, photographers included, can be very sensitive to any scenario we feel may be hindering our work or ripping us off, and given the state of content theft and so on that’s somewhat understandable. In this case, however, I don’t see anything wrong with what they offered. For all kinds of performances and shows there are BTS tours and the like that are offered at a price, so if anyone wants to drop $500 to get close to their band of choice and no one is sneakily taking ownership of their work, I don’t see the problem. If anything, now someone who really was looking forward to the opportunity (how do we judge what they value?) will have to do without.

So no, despite assertions to the contrary, it doesn’t appear the festival was indeed charging the public to photograph FOR the festival.

PS – about who was to profit off the sales of the packages? The response I got was, “Our agreements with each artist are unique, and we do not discuss those terms publicly.” In case you were wondering…

About

A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Ralph Hightower

    $500 for renting a professional camera for 15 minutes? That’s cheap! Right? Actually, satire doesn’t translate well in text. At least they clarified the copyright issue. But $500 for a ticket that’s good for just three songs is outraegeously expensive in my opinion.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      But Ralph, who are we to determine what value something or event has for someone else? If someone is willing to pay for it…. I mean, there are a load of people out there who think it’s ludicrous to pay for a good camera when they have a 7+. But was price the issue? The issue was that it appeared some other news sources felt the venue was charging photographers to shoot FOR them as one title blatantly put it. That’s not the case at all. Now, I have no dog in this fight, but I think it serves well for some photographers to pause before assuming persecution. It’s probably also warranted to mention that it’s a festival so it’s not 3 songs, but 3 songs per performer and there are a lot of them. 

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    • Ralph Hightower

      True. But many people probably don’t know about gear rental places. I’ve used gear rentals to rent lenses that I wouldn’t buy, like the Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L where the EF 70-300 f4.5-5.6L would be more suitable for me and get me into college sports venues that have a lens length restriction.

      To me, it’s a quick money grab by Firefly. I haven’t tried to go through the buying process, but from what I’ve read, it’s possible that one doesn’t get to choose the band that they want to photograph and that some bands may not allow those photographers in the photo pit.

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