A photo pass is your ticket to photographing live music. Not your literal ticket (you'll probably still need one of those), but a photo pass is what will grant you access with a camera to photograph a concert. Here's how to request credentials for live music.
First off, a note:
In the music industry, photo passes are designed to do work for the artist and their team (publicity, label and management teams). That means generating press through live reviews and photos published where people will see them. There is almost no PR value if you're shooting for your portfolio. As a photographer, you need to demonstrate that you're offering something in exchange for access.
The very best way to demonstrate this value is to shoot for a publication. Publications are the key because for a publicist, they represent a known quantity: there's a guaranteed audience and knowledge that the images generated from a photo pass will be seen.
So with the fact that photo credentials are designed for working photographers on assignment from a publication out of the way, here's how to request a photo pass.
Photo Pass Email Template:
I'm a contributing photographer to [Publication]. We'd love to cover [Artist's] show at [Venue] in [City, State] on [Date]. My assigning editor is CC'd.
Is it possible to set a ticket and photo credentials for this show?
Todd Owyoung, Music Photographer
In the US, photo credentials are most often handled and approved by the publicist for a band.
This template assumes a few things:
You're shooting for a publication
You, the photographer, are requesting the passes instead of your editor
You have a REAL assignment
I suggest this template simply because when I was shooting for newspapers, websites, and my own blog, I often preferred to make these requests whenever possible.
In MANY instances, photo passes should be requested by an editor and not the photographer, so keep this in mind.
Needless to say, it should be stressed that requests like this should NEVR be faked. Publicists know the publications for their markets, and if you make up assignments that are never published, you'll be blacklisted. It's as simple as that. The music industry is built on trust, so don't screw this up.
The Real Secret of Requesting a Photo Pass
Here's the real secret of requesting a photo pass. What you write or how you write barely matters (of course you should be polite, spellcheck, and ensure accuracy) — it's the publication and use of the photos is what really matters. If you're shooting for Rolling Stone, there's basically a 100% chance that you're going to be credentialed. The odds go down the smaller the publication go, right down to practically zero if you say that you're shooting for yourself and promise never to show the photos to anyone.
But I'm Not Shooting for a Publication!
Not shooting for a publication? You have a couple options.
Start your own
Make a blog and build your credibility. Yes, it's as simple as that. You may not get huge approvals at first, but with time and a track record showing that you are consistently publishing music photography, you would be surprised what you can do on your own.
If you're trying to build your portfolio, you may need (and should) cut your teeth shooting in smaller venues that may not require a photo pass. This isn't the answer you're looking for, but it's the truth. To this point, I'd even say that shooting in smaller clubs or with local artists who are hungry for images is something that will get you farther in the long run. Images made back stage, portraits, and working with bands to make images no one else is making will let you stand out more than the same 3-song images every one else is making.