With the excitement of live appearances later this year comes the irritating itch which is questions about the “right” to take pictures at concerts. Questions such as:

“Why are we not able to take pics with NO flash? I am paying a TON of my money to attend??? I was able to take all the pics I wanted to at the Rolling Stones show. Surely no-one’s ego can be bigger than that? Explain what the camera issue is? You can surely rip customers off, but un-willing to explain WHY? Please address my concerns and please elaborate. Thank you.”


No-photography requests have nothing to do with ego (I generally find the larger the ego, the more people want to be photographed). It has everything to do with music and the magic of a never-to-be-repeated musical moment that can change our lives. Imagine if you will, that you have practised every day for the last fifty years to deliver the perfect line of poetry. And when you are finally delivering that line after all those years of practice, the person to whom you are speaking stops listening, rustles around in their pocket and starts taking your photograph. In a flash, their action destroys the magic of the moment, completely devalues the poem, makes a nonsense of your years of preparation, and undermines all you have worked for. Better to have concentrated on your wardrobe than on your art. As Bob Dylan put it “do you want me to pose for photographs or perform music?” You can have either but not both at the same time.

And to those who argue that one picture can surely do not harm, there are two answers:

Firstly, if every person in a 3000 strong audience takes just a single picture in a two-hour concert, there is a picture being taken roughly every two and a half seconds ie. the disturbance for both the artist and other members of the audience (who might, God forbid, being listening intently to the music) is continuous.

Secondly, as The Vicar puts it so succinctly, it only takes one prick to burst a balloon.

The relationship between the band and the audience is inherently unfair. The audience pick the band they want to see (and rightly expect them to be experienced and competent). The band however do not get to choose who is in the audience and whether they are drunk/sober, loud/quiet, listening/talking etc. even though the actions of the audience are just as important for a successful musical event as those of the band. Once a band loses trust in an audience, a “professional” concert, where all the right notes are played, continues to be possible, but all else is lost.

There are, of course, many artists who are happy to be photographed while playing – including the Rolling Stones, as mentioned above. I have enjoyed their concerts, waved my camera and taken many photographs. And they were wonderful, memorable events. Those concerts have a different way of working. But it is also wonderful to be free of the incessant distraction. For some artists a concert is a sacred event – sacred not solemn, where photography would be completely out of place. As might be the accompanying modern culture of “I have paid my money and I have my rights”. Fortunately, the hundreds of emails I receive from those whose souls have been touched by music at recent concerts show that not everyone thinks this way.

If the artist asks you not to take photographs, and you feel “ripped off” because you cannot take pictures, better not to attend.