J Salmeron, writer/photographer/editor of Metal Blast, surprised Arch Enemy and their fans as he penned a lengthy piece on Christmas Day explaining how he got banned and blacklisted from taking photographs of the band. The incident took place this past June after covering FortaRock Festival in the Netherlands which also included acts such as Opeth, Nightwish, Kreator, Meshuggah, and more. Just like any photographer, Salmeron shared an Arch Enemy image of vocalist Alissa White-Gluz he captured during the event via Instagram.
While everything seemed normal seeing his photograph being well received by fans and Alissa herself, Salmeron noticed Thunderball Clothing, a company that creates clothing worn onstage by Alissa, had shared the image to promote their products. Salmeron reached out to the company and eventually emailed the owner to address the issue as well as explaining the amount of his licensing fee followed by asking if they could keep their post in exchange for a €100 donation to the Dutch Cancer Foundation instead.
The back and forth emails eventually went directly to Alissa White-Gluz and manager/former singer, Angela Gossow instead. And that’s where his story escalated:
“Fair enough, Mr Salmeron.
We have immediately removed the picture you took at FortaRock. By the way, we are sure you don’t mind that you are not welcome anymore to take pictures of Arch Enemy performances in the future, at festivals or solo performances. I have copied in the label reps and booking agent who will inform promoters – no band wants to have photographers on site who later send such threatening correspondence to monetise on their images.
Btw, the email below was not from Marta, but from Alissa herself personally. The artist you blatantly wanted to sell the picture to. Nice price tag. 500 EUR. In bcc the band so they know about you in the future.
Thank you and have a nice day!
Btw – we do frequently donate to charity, but on our own terms and free will.
best regards, -Angela Gossow”
You can read Salmeron’s full story here or check out his video explanation below:
Within two days, Salmeron’s editorial piece went viral as both the band and Angela have received backlash via social media. The story has not only made it to metal/hard rock publications such as ThePrp, Loudwire; but it has also made it to Ultimate Guitar, Boing Boing, PetaPixel, and Reddit.
While the band hasn’t made an official statement, Alissa, Angela, and another photographer Jeremy Saffer have shared the following:
Initially Alissa shared indirectly via comment on Instagram:
After the story went viral, Alissa shared her side of the story via Facebook, stating:
“In early June, I reposted a photo of myself on instagram from a concert photographer, which is common practise. The photo was already posted to Instagram by the photographer himself. I like doing this because it is a way to say thank you and tip my hat to photographers and usually there is a nice symbiotic relationship between bands and photographers this way. If you follow my socials you know this is something we all enjoy. His watermark was visible, the photo was unaltered and he was tagged and credited in the caption, the way we always do it. The girl who made the outfit I am wearing in the photo, Marta, reposted my post shortly after that. She didn’t print it, didn’t use it commercially, didn’t upload or copy it – she reposted it with a free Instagram application called “get_repost”, like many of you do. She was just happy to repost the news that I wear her creations (one of a kind clothing items we designed together, not a product that you can buy), and share it with her followers. 99% of the time, this is how this online world functions like a supportive community and everyone wins this way. Often, photographers send us folders of photos in hopes that we like them and we post those, always with their name and credit. We really felt we were doing just THAT.
The photographer of this particular photo was ALWAYS fully credited for the ENTIRE duration of his photo being on my Instagram and Marta’s. As soon as he expressed discontent the posts were immediately removed. There was never ANY attempt made by Thunderball or Arch Enemy to use that photo for commercial use, and certainly not without compensation. To our understanding, since there was nothing being sold or advertised in the posts, it was not commercial, but we still took his concerns seriously and immediately took the photo down. To be clear, this is not a photographer Arch Enemy hired, this is one of the hundreds of photographers who are in the photo pit at festivals. Once the photographer stated he wanted a fee for online use, we immediately (within minutes) agreed to remove the posts (which were online for a few days at most) so as to avoid any complications. If we were going to use a photo for any commercial application, we would pay them and there would be a contract ahead of time, like we always do and have done with hundreds of photographers.
Marta forwarded us an email from a lawyer saying she owed 500 euros, was in breach of copyright and the email included payment method information. Marta goes by the name Thunderball Clothing online and is a fellow musician, artist and one-woman clothing maker from Poland. We tried to explain that this photo isn’t selling anything, it is showing off the custom outfit I am wearing, but the emails felt more and more coercive, so we simply removed the posts. There was no product for sale in the photo and no attempt to keep using the photo once the photographer stated his discontent. I understand that there are laws in place that dictate when and how a photo can be used, although promotional online use is usually appreciated, especially when it provides exposure for all parties involved. But, the photographer was unhappy with the reposts so we removed them, plain and simple.
We didn’t want any trouble so we deleted the posts and thought that was the end of it since we had no contact since June. Normally, in my experience, people are happy to see the subject of their photo sharing their work and its a beautiful thing to be able to have one concert experience be a platform for musicians, lighting directors, clothing designers, photographers, sound engineers and fans alike all sharing in the art that is created.
All that happened here was I simply posted a photo of myself with full credit, watermark and tagging, then took it down when a lawyer contacted my friend who was among several pages that reposted it. Lots of fan pages are run by teenagers in countries where there may be different laws or a language barrier, who might not understand, and I didn’t want them to end up with some lawyer’s letter in their inboxes, and I know they like to repost things I post, so I just took it down. I’m not really sure why this non-issue has been twisted to scapegoat us 6 months after the fact, especially considering we simply did what he asked and the last interactions I had with him, personally, were pleasant.
We reserve the right, however, to decide who is allowed to photograph our shows and after having corresponded with him we didn’t want any more issues like this in the future, especially when passes are limited and we know so many photographers who love having the opportunity to get a photo pass and have fun with us at shows.
In conclusion, no one from Arch Enemy nor Thunderball ever denied paying the photographer in question for the commercial use of his photo: We simply did not use it.”
Angela shared Alissa’s statement and offered her thoughts:
“A bit of slander happened to us today. Nice alternative facts story, copy and pasting bits and pieces.
As for me: short story. Some guy introduces himself as a photographer / lawyer and threatens us over an Instagram re-post. I make sure the picture gets removed everywhere and he doesnt get to come close to my artist ever again.
Sad bit: Too many people buy into that story without questioning it at all. They react with pure malicious hatred. In this day and age shouldn’t we be alarmed and vary of such ’stories’??? Sheep.”
From another photographer’s perspective, Jeremy issued the following:
“I see a lot of photographers and non-photographers posting their “insight” on the Arch Enemy photo situation, so being that I am a photographer who often works closely with Alissa, I figured I would chime in with my 2 cents… take it for what its worth.
If someone reposts your image on instagram (with credit), and your first instinct is to attack them and ask them to pay you obscene amounts of money or trap them into a forced self-created negative pr situation… you need a new hobby or a new job. (I say hobby because most photographers who do this for an actual living tend to know better). If someone reposts an image you don’t want them to repost you simply reach out politely asking them to take it down before you get aggressive and start burning your own bridges toward someone you claim to like working with or claim to be a fan of.
The specifics of this situation is 6 months ago, a lawyer, who is also a photographer got upset at a custom clothing designer who designs Alissa’s stage clothes. Alissa re-posted this photographers image with photo credit and the watermark, and then her clothing designer reposted Alissa’s post of this photographers image with credit and the watermark. He claims the clothing designer was using the image to try to sell the outfit… which isn’t for sale, it was custom made for Alissa. So instead of being polite, diplomatic, or respectful, he sends an extortive message demanding they pay an obscene amount of money (€500) and then guilted them with an “either pay this obscene amount of money, or pay €100 as a donation to cancer research” – which is obviously pre-gaming the post to bash them for “not (forcibly) donating to people in need”. give me a break… this post he made was pre-planned the moment he gave that insane ultimatum (keep in mind this dude is a lawyer). Both Alissa and her friend, the clothing designer, immediately removed the photos after the nasty email and there was some back and fourth… where he continued to insist he is owed an obscene amount of money, and the band said no, the photos had already been taken down anyway and they swore to never use his work again… but he kept pushing asking for compensation after the fact, ending with management stepping in and finally responding that this photographer is no longer welcomed to photograph Arch Enemy (well…DUH). Then… 6 months after the fact… they make this post for attention… slandering the band… and now photographers really think Arch Enemy did something wrong here?! hell no!
Whats the end game there? they donate or pay you and the band never works with you again/tells other bands, their management, their label, their publicist that this photographer will drop a lawsuit if you repost their images on instagram with credit?! – you’re now a liability, there goes your career (or hobby)
Listen… if you photograph bands live, and post those photos, expect people to repost them. If the band reposts them and you don’t want them to, reach out to them, don’t immediately threaten them/send them extortive invoices with out any prior contact or agreement.
These photographers who go after bands for reposting their photos are the same one who complain about photo-releases/right grabs… which exist because of PHOTOGRAPHERS WHO GO AFTER BANDS FOR REPOSTING THEIR PHOTOS. – its an easy way to ruin your career and make sure you don’t work with bands, ever. I wouldn’t be shocked if AE starts having photo-releases moving forward because of this situation, and each photographer who groans about it… this is why. These situations are why they exist. I thought it was funny that in the article he mentioned release forms as something take advantage of photographers, but his actions are what cause bands to implement them.
I am not saying don’t value your work… If a band was using your image for a shirt, for a dvd, for commercial usage, of course you should work out compensation… but don’t shoot a show the band gave you access to and expect them to be obligated to pay you to repost a photo you’d already posted on the internet with out a pre-existing agreement or contact – thats just insanity. Not to mention, a band re-posting your image with credit, showing their vast fanbase your name and your work… absolutely doesn’t hurt your career one bit. Its how my career got momentum… fans, bands, brands, magazines, managers, publicists etc. seeing bands post my photos with my name and watermark on them. This is why I never understood the mentality of a photographer being upset when a band would re-post one of their images (with credit) on social media, promoting that photographer! It is an exercise in ignorant futility to attack bands for promoting you and your work.
If you treat your photography like a constant legal battle between yourself and people who re-post your images on the internet, thats your prerogative… but the amount of time you spend on take down notices for reposts is time you aren’t spending working on your photos or booking more work… seems like a big waste of time. If you post photos of bands you’ve taken on the internet and get upset every time anyone reposts it… you probably should avoid posting photos of bands you’ve taken… or avoid social networking entirely. And while you do own the copyright to your images of course, if you are going to consider anyone who re-posts your post, promoting you and your work, as a copyright infringement case… you are not going to have a good time as a photographer. And while you can message them politely, you absolutely have the right to send over an obscene extortive invoice or cease and desist letter, but whats that going to get you? how could anyone possibly see that ending well? And of course photo credit doesnt pay your bills, but if you expect every band to pay you every time a band re-posts your image on instagram, you are sorely mistaken. And while you can make the argument that photo credit wont pay your bills, I assure you, burning bridges in the music industry is far more detrimental to your bills being unpaid than photo credit.
I hate to see all this negativity coming from the concert photographer realm, but It keeps happening… and its usually from photographers who shoot concerts for some reason. let me help… you should not be a concert photographer if you are this angry about being a concert photographer… do it if you love it. don’t do it if it makes you a miserable person. I also think these situations are what hold photographers back from becoming career photographers… you trivialize the relationship between photographers and their subjects not knowing that sending a band an extortive message (or friends of the band, i.e. THEIR CLOTHING DESIGNER!) will blacklist you and hold your career back. The music world is small… don’t think one band blacklisting you means only one band wont want to work with you… thats seen by many. you are now a liability. bands don’t want to get sued, they don’t want to be threatened. they will tell magazines they wont let you shoot them, they will tell sites and managers and venues and publicists… and i assure you, they all talk to each other, much like many concert photographers do.
As much as you might be able to argue the legality of what you think you are owed… you cant argue your way onto a guest list, you cant argue yourself a photo pass, and you cant argue yourself into paid work when you’re blacklisted.
I am not saying you should undervalue your work as a photographer or not know your rights with your copyrighted work… I am just saying to keep things in perspective and realistic. if you want to work with bands, don’t damage your working relationship with them. If a band posts a photo with out credit, message them politely and ask them to fix it, if a band reposts a photo and you don’t want them to, politely message them, they will likely remove it, they have plenty of other photos from plenty of other photographers to choose from, If they do not comply, if they are disrespectful to you… that is when you can become upset and take action… but don’t start off your communication by threatening bands, managers, or people who work with the band… it wont get you anywhere but NOWHERE.
scenario one: a company re-posts your image on a social network from one of their artists, with out your permission, you message them saying hi im the photographer of this work, im glad you like it, usually i charge for usage, as I own the copyright, but would like to work for your company and do shoots for you in the future if you ever need a paid photographer. – which can lead to paid hired work.
scenero two: a company re-posts your image on a social network from one of their artists, with out your permission, you message them an invoice for an obscene amount of money demanding they pay it due to copyright infringement, they take down the image and block you, they message other companies, management, and the band letting them know, the management team bans you, and messages the label, venues, publicist, the band messages other bands… all of them block you.
which one of these seem like a better way to go about this?
sure this photographer has a slew of photographers rallying behind them with their post… they also have bands, managers, publicists, labels, etc. reading their post… slandering a band well known for their professionalism and kindness isn’t a good look… and while this may give this photographer a moment of fame… it’ll be their last one… its a coffin nail for any band, label, publicist, or venue wanting to ever have anything to do with you.
Remember, those photos you are upset they are reposting wouldn’t exist with out them… and you wont have photos of bands for others to repost when you’re blacklisted from shooting bands.
lastly, if you follow Alissa, you know she goes above and beyond to credit any photographer she posts a photo from… she will message and respond to photographers, she truly cares about artists of every medium more so than pretty much anyone else you will find. Alissa and Arch Enemy also make sure photographers are compensated for any commercial work/commercial usage of their images (merch, cds, shirts, ads, etc). So putting her on blast is just silly considering how incredibly she treats photographers and to say other wise is ridiculous. You would be hard pressed to find another artist who treats photographers so well, goes out of her way to message and respond to them, makes sure they are properly credited and respects photographers as much as she does.
So… thats my two cents on it all, burning bridges is a great album, but not a great thing to do with bands if you want to be a photographer in the music industry.”
Much like photos of Arch Enemy that are posted without the photographer’s consent, we’ll let you know as more develops.