George Strait: No Unflattering Photos, Please

George Strait jan17 d.JPG
Marc Brubaker
Evidently shooting George Strait from this angle and distance is OK.
Rocks Off does our best to shield our readers from all the red tape we have to go through in order to bring you a steady stream of concert reviews.

For one thing, it's pretty boring - a bunch of emails and release forms not much different from the paperwork common to about a thousand other lines of work. About 99 percent of the time, we secure the necessary credentials from the promoters, publicists and/or artist management, publish the review, and get on with our lives.

However, the old saw about sausage tasting better the less you know about how it's made applies to the music business more than a lot of other fields. But every once in a while, something sticks in our craw enough that we feel it's necessary to break the fourth wall.

And so it came to pass that last Friday, Rocks Off dispatched Rocks Off Jr. and Marc Brubaker to cover the opening night of George Strait's 2011 tour at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin. They loved it, an outcome only slightly less surprising than Slim Thug tweeting something off-color.

After we published our review Monday morning, Rocks Off Jr. emailed Strait's PR firm, Nashville's Front Page Publicity, a link to the article, as both a thank-you for the tickets and proof we weren't scamming them just so we could go hear "Amarillo by Morning" one more time for free.

They wrote back thanking us for the review... and also requesting we take down the photos of Strait we posted and send them to Nashville for approval. Say what?

straitalbum.jpg
These must be acceptable shadows for a Strait picture.
This would be like letting an artist see a review or article we had written before we published it, so they could take anything out they might not agree with. Rocks Off does not work this way - getting the facts wrong is one thing, which is why we have editors and fact-checkers on staff. It's impossible to get an opinion wrong, in a concert review or anywhere else.

But Front Page had us in a bit of a bind. A clause in their photographer agreement that Brubaker signed, and Rocks Off Sr. sent back to Nashville, said "photographer may not publish the photographs in any manner without obtaining the prior written permission of Artist."

Generally, all photographer agreements look about the same, but this is the first time Rocks Off can remember seeing that specific clause in one. We generally don't see them at all, because most of the time photographers sign them at the box office where they pick up their photo pass. If we had read this one a little more closely before sending it to Nashville, we might have called off the review.

But we didn't, and after consulting with some higher-ups here at the paper (including Village Voice Media legal counsel), we decided to play nice, take the photos down and send them to Front Page. Brubaker is a talented photographer, so we fully expected Front Page to say they were fine.


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11 comments
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Mg Rick
Mg Rick

Funny. I met him when I did landscape lighting for his home in SA. Totally laidback guy. Probably some pr person overreaching. But a great tale.

Jjohn
Jjohn

See, there's the difference between British and American media. Any British outlet would have told Strait's people to go fuck themselves. But then they wouldn't have bothered covering a George Strait concert in the first place. Strait has spent the last 30 year lowering our expectations.

Maazzzy
Maazzzy

I think you should have read your contract more. It's no surprise that music artists are getting older and don't want people taking an unflattering picture of them. If they went through the trouble of putting that in a contract, you should respect it and not write a whole article criticizing it. Been to a Bob Dylan show recently? Even the on-site cameras broadcasting on the large screens wouldn't go near that guy. It was disappointing but we all understood.

Marc Brubaker
Marc Brubaker

I read the contract through. These contracts are commonplace, and the language didn't suggest anything other than the ordinary. This is, however, the only instance in which publicists have blocked any of our photographs upon seeing them.

Most of the time these "image control" contracts are in place for situations more akin to a photographer publishing a book, so that the artist and/or their representatives can have the chance to approve the photos in question.

I appreciate Chris taking the time to defend the photos, though, and for offering an explanation of why they aren't seen on the site anymore.

Gary Packwood
Gary Packwood

Troubling turn of events in my opinion as we continue to define and understand freedom of speech.

Why not create a text box inside the article the next time you see that ridiculous condition and disclose that all photos must be approved by the publicists.

"Photographer may not publish the photographs in any manner without obtaining the prior written permission of Artist."

Just tell us you had better things to do.

Or create a category of music reviews for Old Timers and Curmudgeons.

Formica
Formica

Yeah, we sure don't want to see our genuine cowboys looking like...........um, genuine cowboys.

<eyeroll>

(I still heart George, no matter what geeks his publicists may be. Or how much he may look like a real man, instead of a pretty boy fake cowboy.)</eyeroll>

Formica
Formica

(That's really funny - the comments auto-program closed my "eyeroll" for me!)

wms
wms

Publicists can be such morons. Oh, they're in Nashville. Goes without saying, then.

straitfan
straitfan

Good God, at 58 years old he oughta look like the cows punched back at least a little bit! Good thing you don't have the pictures we took at his show in Sep 2010, they would have been flopping all over about those!!

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