It’s been a while since we had a headbanger’s brawl, and figured, there’s no better way to end 2018 with an opinionated debate. While most of us spent Christmas day away from our computers, J Salmeron of Metal Blast published a lengthy editorial explaining how he was banned from shooting Arch Enemy. This has been the biggest story of the week and it has triggered a split set of opinions. However, It is important to address that regardless of opinion, no one should have reacted in a hateful, hurtful, violent manner as well as sending out threats to all parties involved. With that being said, while we did hear from J himself, we decided to show an example of what a peaceful debate looks like by discussing this subject:
Jeff Podoshen: I think one of the key takeaways here is the value of a good PR firm. The social media posts from the Arch Enemy camp haven’t been good and calling your fans “sheep” is not going to go over particularly well, especially when it appears that, overwhelmingly, most seem to blame the band for the issue. I love Angela but she didn’t handle this well. By the same token, however, the photographer might have had more positive results if he toned it down a bit in his initial message. While from the emails he’s published it doesn’t appear that he’s actually asking for 500 euro; to put a value of 500 euro on a photo like that is not realistic. No metal photographer I know has ever received anywhere close to 500 euro for their photographs.
As a metal writer and photographer, the messages from Arch Enemy coming out are a bit disconcerting and would make me think twice about covering them. It does look like the band misconstrued some of the messages they received from the photographer (from what I’ve seen so far) in all this and they didn’t seem to even label their emails properly in terms of who was actually writing them. In case anyone is wondering, there’s no real money in this industry. If I had to rely on my earnings from writing about metal and selling my photos, I’d be flat broke. In this respect, if a band is going to “blacklist” one of us or treat us in a disrespectful manner, we’re likely just not going to cover them anymore. It’s not worth it. 90% of the bands, managers and labels I’ve worked with over the years have been super cool and really nice, and that makes it fun. For example, I’ll shoot and cover Goatwhore any time I can because they are managed really well and have extremely professional PR representation. Same with Amon Amarth, Judas Priest, Ghost, Tribulation, Life of Agony and many others. All so fun to work with. Unfortunately, there have been a few bands who’ve given me problems or treated me poorly, and it’s not worth my time or effort to cover them if I don’t have to. After this mess, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a nearly empty photo pit at Arch Enemy shows outside of NYC and LA. I can’t see anyone thinking it’s worth the hassle. That’s going to reduce the band’s exposure and make any buzz around the band more tepid.
The photo pit is a dirty, smelly, scummy little place where you pray your $3k worth of equipment makes it out alive. Much of your equipment has to reside on the beer soaked floor and get stomped on by overzealous fans and security. You get kicked in the head a lot and security yells at you pretty routinely while you try and set your shot in the face of 115dB. Likely, it’ll take years for even a great photographer to earn that $3k back. A little respect on the part of the band and management can go a long way.
Zenae Zukowski: Jeff, while I agree with most of what you said, I must say that I don’t think J did anything wrong with his initial email. I’ve spent a lot of time observing and reading posts and opinions on this issue. There isn’t much money in the music industry, that’s not a secret. However, he noticed his photo was being used as a commercial advertisement. It’s possible that Thunderball clothing was unaware of what they were doing and thought “if everyone else shares, why can’t I?” Regardless, J, as many artists should do: stood up for himself.
He did something that many fear. But he stood his ground and contacted the clothing company, not Arch Enemy. If you actually read his site – Metalblast.net, you will notice he doesn’t ask for advertisements and has a history with doing an extensive amount of research with images, documents etc.. to prove his case. In that sense, you can tell he’s a lawyer. But he does brilliant work. Work that fellow music journalists should praise him for, not banter (and especially, no one should be threatened after publishing a story, that’s just wrong). The reason why I’m saying that is, it’s obvious he didn’t do this to purposely create Arch Enemy haters etc.. He presented his right as an artist to be paid for his work when used for commercial purposes.
This could have easily been avoided if Thunderball responded directly to him. Instead, they sent it to Arch Enemy, and so forth. It seems like they acted more on an instant reaction/emotional basis than actually reading what he was asking for. They could have also said, “sorry, this has nothing to do with us, Marta, can you please look into this?” Followed by Marta responding with “That’s a lovely idea to donate to charity. Sorry, we thought since everyone else does this, it would be OK since your watermarks are there. But now we see your point, the photo has been removed.” Simple.
While Thunderball has written a heartfelt apology, Angela and Alissa have shared a statement as though J went directly to them, not Thunderball. Fans, members of the industry, photographers, writers, etc.. are all being misdirected and misinformed thinking and assuming this guy just did it for exposure as well as wanting 500 Euro. It also shows how much people actually read what’s being said as well as watching videos. People react and have an instant response, when maybe they read a single paragraph or just the headline of the story and say, “that guy must be a prick.” etc.. If someone is using someone’s art for commercial purposes, it’s simple: pay them. There’s a chance his entire concert photography career could be over because of this. Which would be a shame since he has talent, but I am proud of him for his dignity and courageousness to stand up for himself.
Bram Teitelman: Everyone overreacted as far as I’m concerned. No one wants to see their work used without permission, but at the same time, Thunderball did give him photo credit, which would have been more than enough for the majority of photographers, especially one shooting for a website I’d never heard of until this week. J of course, decided to flex his lawyer muscles, which likely scared the hell out of the clothing company. Many photographers would’ve been perfectly happy with having their name out there, but as a lawyer, of course he couldn’t resist writing to the company, which was within his right to do. Arch Enemy, for their part, completely reacted out of anger and without much thought. It’s obvious they didn’t really read the initial email, looking at it as extortion and stating he was demanding $500, which he never did. The attitude that both Angela and Alissa initially took was flippant towards both photographers and the band’s fans.
I’d have to imagine shit like this happens all the time, but J’s subsequent story about it and the fact that many people who don’t know Arch Enemy from Public Enemy read about his misadventures made this the biggest news story of the last week of 2018 (unless someone dies as I’m writing this). With that came way more scrutiny, harsh criticism of the band, and “they haven’t been good for years” from jaded elitist metalheads that suddenly think we want to hear what they think of AE. Still, Arch Enemy come out looking worse for the wear on this one. Will the “all press is good press” adage work out? We’ll see when their covers album comes out next month – and in the photo pit at their next tour.
Zenae Zukowski: Bram, Thunderball used it for commercial reasons. No one wants to see their photo on a mug, poster etc. without being compensated. No band wants to see their song used to be monetized on a YouTube video or in a film without compensation. Thunderball could have removed his photo and be done with it, but instead they took it to the band and ended up blacklisting the guy. It was all handled poorly. With how easy it is to misinterpret text, I would say that yes, maybe J should have avoided saying that he’s a lawyer.
And sadly, yes, this happens all the time. There’s a much bigger issue out there, which is: people are stealing photographs all the time. I’ve seen someone share one of my personal photographer friend’s image with his watermark. The person adjusted the photo by making it black and white, claimed it as her own as well as recalling the exact angle she had “taken” the photo. People in general tend to crop, add a filter and repost an image as well as removing the photographer’s watermark. There are websites that exist having stolen images being sold as merch (can’t remember the name of the sites). What else? Oh yes, there are fan clubs out there that share photos as the cropping and removing of the watermark continues. There’s a book that’s currently available to purchase on Amazon that I find questionable. The list goes on. It’s scary out there. Hence why this is a HUGE issue and sadly, many feel it’s best to shrug off because no one knows what the solution is. And most likely, there are many people who are unaware of what they are doing thinking and believing it’s OK.
Many concert photographers are treated like little fleas or assumed they are “privileged fans.” While there’s a mix, there are many professional photographers working very hard at what they do and made serious investments in their equipment. Many deal with disrespect when they are truly trying to make a career out of concert photography. In short: it’s a shit show out there. I can write a book on this because there’s a lot of grey areas that many don’t understand or simply, don’t have the time to care for it.
Therefore, this guy did something that no one else did even though, Arch Enemy supposedly has a history with this.
Jeff Podoshen: For the record, Arch Enemy hasn’t been that good for years
Jeff Podoshen: Also, Arch Enemy really needs to drop that anarchy schtick. “Under black flags we march”… more like “Under blacklists we enforce.”
Jeff Podoshen: Today I learned there’s a metalcore band from TN called White Chapel.
During our brawl, Thunderball clothing decided to close their doors after receiving backlash. We responded:
Jeff Podoshen: It’s unfortunate that Thunderball Clothing is going to close its doors. Clearly mistakes were made but her apology seemed very genuine and she worked out the issues with the photographer. I do believe that she probably was simply ignorant of the law and didn’t do anything deliberate. It seems that Angela led her astray on this and I’m hoping that Marta and Thunderball are able to keep their doors open – but perhaps a little wiser.
Zenae Zukowski: After seeing Thunderball closing their doors as well as Angela’s response to it, I still stand behind J. I believe they are reacting based on emotion than business. This entire situation has blown out of proportion and a simple, bite the bullet and apologize would have sufficed. Instead, there’s continuous misleading information that sadly, all parties involved are receiving public backlash. The back and forth essay statements do not help the situation either. The heat everyone have been taking as well as threats are beyond uncalled for. Having friends in the industry does not help rectify anything either. What people fail to realize is: J never contacted the band and most likely never expected such an outcome as this. The drama is exhausting and redundant. J brought up a case that photographers deal with on a daily basis. And now, people who are in signed bands have somewhat attacked photographers in general as you saw Gabe’s initial Twitter statement. The whole thing has gotten ugly where everyone looks bad. A solution should still come from Angela to apologize and be done with it. And hopefully, Thunderball clothing will either resume their business or go by a different name to ring in 2019 with new beginnings. Poor Jeff Loomis.
Bram Teitelman: If you really think Thunderball is closing, I’ve got a custom leather suit to sell you. Marta is getting a lot of heat since this situation blew up, and she’s probably going to lay low for six months, wait for this to die down, and reopen as Lightningball or something. I don’t really stand behind anyone in this whole thing. All parties involved with the possible exception of Marta overreacted as far as I’m concerned. The post was taken down, and if J didn’t write the article about how badly AE overreacted, it would’ve been fine. It’s his right as a lawyer/journalist/former fan to do so, but waiting six months to air your grievances comes off as petty to me. And if Arch Enemy is going to ban everyone that reacts negatively towards this article that’s clearly snowballed, maybe they should think about closing their doors as well.
Zenae Zukowski: Regardless of where anyone stands, there’s one thing that needs to be addressed: threats, bullying, excessive attacks on all parties is absolutely inexcusable. No matter how much this story has blown out of proportion, no one should have received the horrific backlash, threats, and negative word vomit. It’s atrocious. If you want to side with J, do something to stand up for photographer’s rights, read into copyright issues. If you want to side with Thunderball, support the company and buy their clothing. If you want to side with Arch Enemy, buy their albums and attend their shows. It’s simple.
However, no one should attack, raise death threats and horrific comments to any and all parties involved. It’s disturbing. It’s scary out there because how can one stand up for their rights while people react in such a violent manner? That should have never been the case and now it’s a back and forth ball of unnecessary aggression. I hope for the sake of the band, photographer, and everyone involved that there will be a peaceful agreement, one that doesn’t need to make headlines.
Despite my personal opinion, I will most likely be seen at an Arch Enemy show because aside from how poorly they handled this, they’re still a great band and fun to see live. I wish Thunderball clothing, Arch Enemy, Alissa, Angela, and J will all somehow pull through all of this and use it as a learning experience. And for the fans of all sides: do not react with violence whether verbally or making physical threats. No one, absolutely no one wants to be part of that.