December 8, 2013: New song stream via SoundCloud… Kith & Kin – Someone I Love.
New mini-album release via Bandcamp… Ballboy – Merry Christmas To The Drunks, Merry Christmas To The Lovers.
New video via YouTube… Angus Munro – Shooting First, taken from Shooting First EP.
Free album download via Bandcamp… Lovers Turn To Monsters – Now That’s What I Call Slit Yr Wrist Christmas.
Free song download via SoundCloud… Jack James – Florence, taken from fifth album Stopping Distance, out on February 3.
December 6, 2013: New video via YouTube… Prides – Messiah.
New video via YouTube… Rachel Sermanni – Everything Changes, taken from Everything Changes EP, out on January 27.
Free mini-album download via Bandcamp… We See Lights – Every Autumn, Every Winter.
New gigs… Kid Canaveral at Glasgow’s Stereo on February 14, Aberdeen’s Tunnels on March 7 and Dundee’s Beat Generator on March 8.
December 5, 2013: Fatherson, The LaFontaines, Cairn String Quartet, Garden Of Elks and The Holy Ghosts have been announced as The Big Apple Award competition finalists. All five acts play free sets at Glasgow’s G2 on December 11, with an all-expenses-paid trip to play New York City in April 2014 up for grabs for the winners.
New gigs… Silibil N’ Brains (stars of The Great Hip Hop Hoax film) play Dundee’s Buskers on December 27 and Glasgow’s Pivo Pivo on December 28.
December 4, 2013: Mick Cooke has left Belle & Sebastian. The band made the announcement in their latest mailshot, stating: “We wish him all the best with any future projects and hope to work alongside him again in the future.” The multi-instrumentalist, who had been a full-time member of Belle & Sebastian since 1998, will now focus on his work as a composer and arranger.
New gig… Song, by Toad Records’ 5th Birthday Party at Edinburgh’s Henry’s Cellar Bar on December 21 featuring PAWsault, Tom Collins Shatner and assorted label friends and guests.
December 3, 2013: Budding musicians aged between 14-19 can register for Hit The Road, a project that offers workshops, seminars and information sessions about performing live, before they are given the opportunity to tour across Scotland. The next set of tours will launch in January, with each one taking three acts on the road.
New video via YouTube… Red Sands – Too Short A Season, taken from debut album Red Sands, out on December 9.
New video via YouTube… Mickey 9s – Ammunition.
New EP release via Bandcamp… Jo Mango – When We Lived In The Crook Of A Tree.
December 2, 2013: New video via YouTube… Mogwai – The Lord Is Out Of Control, taken from their forthcoming album Rave Tapes, out on January 20.
New album release via iTunes… Cold Crows Dead – I Fear A New World, featuring The Xcerts’ Murray Macleod.
Free album download via Bandcamp… Kobi Onyame – Glory.
November 29, 2013: Brew at the Bog have announced the first 25 acts for its festival in Inverness on May 3. The line-up includes Kid Canaveral, Stanley Odd, Friends In America, Fake Major, Randolph’s Leap, Call To Mind, Beerjacket, Campfires In Winter, Shambles Miller, The Little Kicks, This Silent Forest, Woodenbox, Jo Mango and Atom Tree.
The Holy Ghosts have set up a Kickstarter page for pre-orders of their debut album Ride Them Down, due out in April.
November 28, 2013: New video via YouTube… Over The Wall – Radiator.
New video via YouTube… Book Group – Victory Lap, taken from Victory Lap / The Lowdown Of A LOUD Sound single.
New album release via Bandcamp… Scott McWatt – A Ceíst Amá.
November 27, 2013: New song streams via SoundCloud… King Creosote – Dial C For Cradle; Meddling Gut Wrenches; Impossible To Resist.
New song stream via SoundCloud… Rachel Sermanni – Everything Changes.
Findlay Napier has set up a PledgeMusic page to fund the recording of VIP: Very Interesting Persons, an album of songs co-written with Boo Hewerdine.
November 26, 2013: Free album download via Bandcamp… Olive Grove Records Sampler featuring Call To Mind, The State Broadcasters, Randolph’s Leap, The Moth & The Mirror, The Son(s), Woodenbox, Jo Mango and Pensioner.
Free album download via Bandcamp… Mini50 Records Winter Sampler 2013.
New song release via iTunes… Withered Hand – Black Tambourine. Dan Willson will play solo gigs at Glasgow’s Glad Cafe on November 27 and Aberdeen’s Tunnels on November 28 as well as Glasgow’s Platform on January 24 for Celtic Connections.
New video via YouTube… Kid Canaveral – A Compromise, taken from A Compromise EP.
November 25, 2013: New album release… There Will Be Fireworks – The Dark, Dark Bright on CD and download.
Detour will hold their fourth Wee Jaunt in Glasgow on December 7, and the allocation of free places has already been snapped up. Email your name to firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the reserve list.
Free song download via SoundCloud… Sparrow And The Workshop – One Brush.
Blindfolds have split up after three years together – they bow out with the release of new video Lucid.
November 22, 2013: New video via YouTube… Young Aviators – We’ve Got Names For Folk Like You.
New video via YouTube… The Pastels – Kicking Leaves.
New video via YouTube… Conscious Route feat Werd & Jordan Butler – Friends Til The End.
New gig… The Xcerts at Aberdeen’s Downstairs on December 21.
New gig… Glasgow’s Dirty Weekender across five venues on February 28-March 1 featuring Mark Morriss (The Bluetones), Mark Gardener (Ride), Bombskare, etc.
November 21, 2013: New song stream via SoundCloud… Withered Hand – Black Tambourine.
New video via YouTube… Jo Mango – When We Lived In The Crook Of A Tree, taken from When We Lived In The Crook Of A Tree EP, out on December 2.
CHVRCHES’ gig for TYCI’s Christmas Party on December 21 has been moved to Glasgow’s SWG3 due to a delay in the reopening of The Vic venue at The Art School.
New gig… The Jezabels at Glasgow’s Oran Mor on February 26, plus ticket bundles with new album The Brink.
November 20, 2013: Arctic Monkeys have been announced as the one of headliners at next year’s T in the Park on July 11-13. Tickets go on sale on November 22.
New gig… The Christmas Songwriters’ Club at Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall on December 22 featuring Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison, Kid Canaveral, Broken Records, Miaoux Miaoux, Siobhan Wilson, TeenCanteen with Eugene Kelly, Karine Polwart & Findlay Napier, We See Lights and Very Well.
New song stream via SoundCloud… SOS – Fake Hallelujah.
November 19, 2013: New video via YouTube… Franz Ferdinand – Bullet.
Free EP download via Bandcamp… King Post Kitsch – The Silver Screen.
New video via YouTube… The Amazing Snakeheads – Flatlining.
November 18, 2013: CHVRCHES have been confirmed as the live band for TYCI’s Christmas Party at Glasgow’s Art School on December 21.
New album trailer via YouTube… Withered Hand – New Gods, due out in February.
New Beerjacket album Darling Darkness will be released on January 27.
New tour… The Winter Tradition at Glasgow’s King Tut’s on February 6, Stirling’s Tolbooth on February 7, Aberdeen’s Cafe Drummond on February 8, Inverness’ Mad Hatters on February 9, Galashiels’ Heriot-Watt Student Union on February 10, Dundee’s Duke’s Corner on February 11 and Perth’s Twa Tams on February 15.
November 17, 2013: Glasgow venue King Tut’s has unveiled it line-up for the fourth annual King Tut’s New Year’s Revolution on January 3-16, with the likes of Campfires In Winter, Cherri Fosphate, Book Group, Garden Of Elks, Saint Max And The Fanatics and Quinny featuring on all-local bills.
Labels, musicians and fans are being invited to register albums released by Scottish artists in 2013 for consideration for next year’s SAY Award.
November 15, 2013: French Wives will play their last ever gig at Glasgow’s Mono on December 19 after announcing they are splitting up.
New video via YouTube… There Will Be Fireworks – Youngblood.
New album release via iTunes… Ministry Of Stories – Share More Air, an album of children’s lyrics set to original music including Rachel Sermanni’s Love Story.
New song stream via Bandcamp… Water Of Life – Sources And Springs / Abercrombie, 1949, an art-science collaboration between Tommy Perman and Rob St. John exploring flows of water through Edinburgh.
November 14, 2013: New gig… The Wee Chill Festive Weekender at Glasgow’s SWG3 on December 22, featuring Admiral Fallow, Washington Irving, The Little Kicks, Call To Mind and Atom Tree.
The Big Apple Award has launched its annual competition, with an all-expenses-paid trip to play New York City in April 2014 up for grabs. The deadline for applications is December 2, before the winner is picked from a shortlist of five Scottish performers at Glasgow’s Garage on December 11. The last two victors were Stanley Odd and Song Of Return.
Free song download via SoundCloud… Mike Nisbet – Traveling Blues (demo)
November 13, 2013: Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations will incorporate an afternoon of free live music on January 1. Starting at the National Museum of Scotland at noon, the guest-curated SCOT:LANDS event will feature performances across nine Old Town venues by the likes of King Creosote, Withered Hand, RM Hubbert, Lau and FOUND as well as a production of Whatever Gets You Through The Night.
New video via YouTube… Washington Irving – Palomides , director James Houston claims it’s the world’s first autostereogram music video.
New video via YouTube… Nightmare Boy – Paranoid (Black Sabbath cover).
New video via Vevo… KT Tunstall – Made Of Glass.
November 12, 2013: New album release via Bandcamp… Medals – Disguises, new project of Sucioperro’s JP Reid.
New event… Vic Galloway – Songs In The Key Of Fife book reading + Withered Hand + Kid Canaveral at Glenrothes’ Rothes Halls on November 29.
New album stream via SoundCloud… Kobi Onyame – Glory, available to buy on iTunes.
November 11, 2013: Next year’s MTV Europe Music Awards will be held at Glasgow’s Hydro on November 9.
Arches singer Michael Rice has left the band, with guitarist Barry Morrell taking over vocal duties.
New EP release via SoundCloud…. Casual Sex – The Bastard Beat, streaming on SoundCloud.
Free song download via SoundCloud… Mike Nisbet – What Will Be Will Be (demo).
November 8, 2013: BBC ALBA programme Buskers has returned for a second series, with the first two episodes available to watch on iPlayer. Episode 2′s spotlight on Glasgow features Donald Macdonald, Alan Tennie, Anna Shields and Holly Wilson.
November 7, 2013: New gigs… Fireside Acoustic Sessions (organised by Comets & Cartwheels) at Glasgow’s Drake Bar featuring free stripped-back sets from Friends In America + Prehistoric Friends on November 7, Finn LeMarinel on November 14, Randolph’s Leap on November 21 and Honeyblood + LightGuides on November 28.
New gig… There Will Be Fireworks + Friends In America + The Youth And Young at Strathaven’s Old Mill Studios on December 7.
November 6, 2013: New video via YouTube… Prides – Roar (Katy Perry cover for Vic Galloway session).
New song stream via YouTube… Fridge Magnets – Chase The Sun.
Rachel Sermanni has set up a PledgeMusic page for pre-orders of her Everything Changes EP.
Free song download via SoundCloud… This Silent Forest – Root To The Seed, taken from debut album Indivision.
New song stream via Gold Flake Paint… Book Group – The Lowdown of A LOUD Sound, taken from Victory Lap / The Lowdown Of A LOUD Sound single, out on November 25.
New video via YouTube… The Button Men – Man With A Plan.
November 5, 2013: New song stream via SoundCloud (today only)… There Will Be Fireworks – Elder And Oak.
New video via YouTube… CHVRCHES – Lies.
The Birthday Suit have a PledgeMusic campaign featuring various incentives and packages to go with pre-orders of their third album A Hollow Hole Of Riches, out in April.
BrewDog Records has been set up by the Scottish craft beer company with its first official release being The Shiverin’ Sheiks single Guided Missiles, taken from the band’s debut album A Curious Case Of…, out on November 20.
November 4, 2013: New album release via Bandcamp… Washington Irving – Palomides: Volume II.
New album release via iTunes… Kobi Onyame – Glory.
New song stream via SoundCloud… Over The Wall – Radiator, taken from This Is How We Did It EP, out on December 9.
November 1, 2013: New gig… There Will Be Fireworks + Friends In America + Kevin Harper at Glasgow’s SWG3 on November 22.
Arctic Monkeys have rescheduled tonight’s show at Glasgow’s Hydro to November 21 as singer Alex Turner has laryngitis. All original tickets remain valid.
New video via YouTube… Michael Cassidy – Everybody’s Scared. He plays with Beerjacket + Julia And The Doogans at Glasgow’s Mono on December 5.
October 31, 2013: New video via YouTube… Nightmare Boy – Mary (first solo offering of ex-Kassidy member Barrie-James O’Neill).
New video via YouTube… Frightened Rabbit – Holy.
A fan-led campaign to boycott all of Idlewild’s side-projects in the hope of spurring them to make new music has been attacked by band member Rod Jones. The guitarist, who also fronts The Birthday Suit, wrote: “If anything this just has the opposite effect in that it made me really consider whether I wanted to make music anymore. My other band The Birthday Suit and its touring and releasing records has absolutely no bearing or influence on whether and when an Idlewild tour or album might happen.”
October 30, 2013: New gigs… The Reflektors (Arcade Fire) at Glasgow’s Barrowland on November 15 and November 16 – general sale from November 1; presale passwords are available to those who pre-ordered the band’s new album from their official website.
New album release via iTunes… Cairn String Quartet – One (streaming on SoundCloud) featuring orchestral covers of Lana Del Rey, Coldplay, Oasis, The Stone Roses, Ocean Colour Scene etc.
October 29, 2013: Free song download via official website… Mogwai – Remurdered (streaming on SoundCloud), taken from eighth album Rave Tapes, out on January 20.
New song stream via SoundCloud… Pinact – Brew.
New video via YouTube… The LaFontaines – All She Knows.
Free song download via SoundCloud… SOS – ROCK N ROLL.
New song stream via SoundCloud… Madison – Mending, taken from Mending EP, out now.
Gig venue change…. Katie Sutherland plays Glasgow’s Faktory instead of Mackintosh Church on November 2.
October 28, 2013: New album release via Comets & Cartwheels… Blood Relatives – Deerheart.
Free song download via SoundCloud… Call To Mind – A Family Sketch.
New album release via Lost Map… Monoganon – F A M I L Y, streaming in full on Gold Flake Paint.
October 25, 2013: Born To Be Wide will host a seminar on record shops at Edinburgh’s Electric Circus on November 7. Panelists include Rose Norton (Coda), Sandy McLean (Love Music) and Darren Yeates (VoxBox).
New gig… Blood Relatives album launch at Glasgow’s Bar & Fly on October 26.
New gig… Scottish Fiction presents Beerjacket & Friends + Julia And The Doogans at Glasgow’s Mono on December 5.
New song stream via SoundCloud… The LaFontaines – All She Knows (Prides remix).
The 1975, Nina Nesbitt and The 10:04s have been added to the Concert in the Gardens bill at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay alongside Pet Shop Boys. Other stages feature CHVRCHES, Django Django and King Creosote.
October 24, 2013: New gig… TYCI Christmas Party featuring secret live act plus DJ sets from CHVRCHES + Pretty Ugly + Adele Bethel at Glasgow’s Art School on December 21.
New song stream via SoundCloud… Honeyblood – Kissing On You.
New gig… Starz In Their Eyes featuring RM Hubbert + Eagleowl + The Pictish Trail + Kid Canaveral + Two Wings (each covering a female artist of their choice) at Edinburgh’s Pilrig St Paul’s Church on November 23.
October 23, 2013: New video via YouTube… Siobhan Wilson – All Dressed Up.
New video via YouTube… TeenCanteen – Honey.
New video via YouTube… Young Fathers – Low, taken from forthcoming album Dead, out on February 3.
New video via YouTube… Biffy Clyro – Sounds Like Balloons.
New EP release via Bandcamp… End Of Neil – Less.
October 22, 2013: Local Natives’ Nik Ewing had his Fender Coronado bass guitar stolen during their gig at The Arches in Glasgow last night – contact police if you spot it.
New song stream via SoundCloud… Michael Cassidy – Everybody’s Scared, out on November 28.
October 21, 2013: New song stream via SoundCloud… TeenCanteen – Honey, out on October 28. They play Edinburgh’s Summerhall on October 25, Glasgow’s Rio Cafe on October 26 (free) and Aberfeldy Festival on November 3.
New album release via Bandcamp… Saint Max & The Fanatics – Saint Max Is Missing And The Fanatics Are Dead.
New video via YouTube… Kobi Onyame – Goodbye World, Hello, taken from new album Glory, out on November 4.
Free download via official website… Plum – Death Comes With A Bow, taken from Betsy Thunder EP, out now.
October 18, 2013: Dumfries Music Conference has announced its upcoming four-day programme of free events in the town.
October 30: Screening of LCD Soundsystem documentary Shut Up And Play The Hits at Robert Burns Centre.
October 31: Music Industry Experts seminar featuring The Pop Cop and others at The Stove (ticketed).
November 1: Songwriting Workshops featuring Findlay Napier + Finding Albert’s Robert Shields at The Stove.
November 1: Live showcase featuring Hector Bizerk + Honeyblood + Barstow Bats at The Stove (ticketed).
November 2: Record Fair featuring Rebecca Vasmant (Ministry Of Sound) + Jason Reid (Sub Club) at The Stove.
October 17, 2013: New song stream via SoundCloud… Washington Irving – Babble. Their track Palomides is also available for free download. Both are taken from Palomides: Volume II album, out on November 4.
New video via Clash… The Birthday Suit – A Bigger World, out on November 4.
New video via YouTube… Atom Tree – Die For Your Love, taken from Tide Of Thorns EP, out on October 18.
Free gig… Rachel Sermanni at Glasgow’s Love Music on October 21 (5pm).
October 16, 2013: New video via YouTube… Colin Macleod – Devil Pavement (Live from the Green Bus), taken from The Anchor EP, out on October 21. On the same day he will play instore sets at Edinburgh’s Coda Music (1pm) and Glasgow’s Love Music (5.30pm).
57ᵒ North have published their Guide To DIY Gig Promotion – a useful resource for anyone venturing into this side of the music business.
Michael Cassidy will play at the opening night party for Glasgow’s The Bar & Fly on October 19.
Free gig… French Wives + Randolph’s Leap + Laki Mera + The Graveyard Band + Donald Macdonald And The Islands + The Mademoiselle for 1st Birthday Bash at Glasgow’s Broadcast on October 25 (RSVP required).
October 15, 2013: New video via YouTube… Travis – Mother.
New video via YouTube…. Casual Sex – Nothing On Earth, taken from The Bastard Beat EP, out on October 28.
October 14, 2013: Anna Sweeney, who spoke out on The Pop Cop about her mental health issues after quitting her solo career, has started a new project with Maeve McCrorie called The Scarlings. They play their first gig at Glasgow’s Oran Mor on October 31.
October 12, 2013: New documentary via BBC iPlayer… The Great Hip Hop Hoax.
New song stream via Clash… Washington Irving – Palomides, taken from Palomides: Volume II album, out on November 4.
Free download via SoundCloud… Beerjacket – Glow (demo).
Free album download via Bandcamp… Louie & Bigg Taj – Paranoise.
October 11, 2013: New gig… Withered Hand at Edinburgh’s Whale Arts Centre on October 19 (free tickets) with free return coach travel from Waterloo Place as part of Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival.
New tour… Travis at Edinburgh’s Picture House on November 17, Inverness’ Ironworks on November 18, Aberdeen’s Music Hall on November 19 and Glasgow’s Barrowland on December 20.
October 10, 2013: The venue splits and stage times for Haddowfest in Edinburgh on October 11-12 have been released.
New video via YouTube… Honeyblood – Bud. The band play Glasgow’s Broadcast on October 29 and Edinburgh’s Electric Circus on October 30.
New video via YouTube… Camera Obscura – Troublemaker. The band’s Break It To You Gently double 7″ single is out now.
Free song download via SoundCloud… Saint Max & The Fanatics – Soul Surrender, taken from debut album Saint Max Is Missing And The Fanatics Are Dead, out on October 21.
October 9, 2013: New video via YouTube… Katie Sutherland – Canvas. She plays Glasgow’s Mackintosh Church on November 2.
New gig… Rachel Sermanni + Bwani Junction + Vigo Thieves at Edinburgh’s Liquid Room on November 23 (for War Child). Rachel’s The Boatshed Sessions EP is out on October 21.
The Great Hip Hop Hoax will be broadcast on BBC Two Scotland on October 11 at 9pm.
LCD Soundsystem documentary Shut Up And Play The Hits will be shown for free at Dumfries’ Robert Burns Centre on October 30 as part of Dumfries Music Conference which runs from October 30 to November 2.
October 8, 2013: CHVRCHES, Django Django, King Creosote, The Rezillos, Treacherous Orchestra and Fiddlers’ Bid have been announced to play Edinburgh’s Hogmanay street party alongside headliners Pet Shop Boys.
New song stream via SoundCloud… SOS – ROCK N ROLL.
October 7, 2013: New song stream via YouTube… The LaFontaines – All She Knows, out on October 27; B-side My Yo-Yo available now on iTunes.
New album release via iTunes… The Fratellis – We Need Medicine.
New album release via Bandcamp… The Grand Gestures – Second.
New album release via Fortuna POP!… The Spook School – Dress Up.
October 6, 2013: New video via YouTube… De Rosa – Spectres. The band play their first gig in four years as part of Kid Canaveral’s Xmas Baubles IV at Edinburgh’s Portobello Town Hall on December 14.
Free song download via SoundCloud… Beerjacket – Androgynous (The Replacements cover).
New album stream via SoundCloud… L.Pierre – Neverland Transmission, A Disney Mix (tracklist on Dazed and Confused).
October 4, 2013: 57º North will run a free music journalism training course at Aberdeen’s Seventeen every Wednesday for four weeks from October 23. Email email@example.com to apply for one of six spaces.
New song stream via SoundCloud… Katie Sutherland – Canvas, out on November 18.
New gigs via Ticketmaster… The Twilight Sad performing debut album Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters at Glasgow’s King Tut’s on December 20 and December 21.
New album release via Bandcamp… The Little Kicks – Put Your Love In Front Of Me.
New video via BBC iPlayer… Rapal – Series 7, Episode 8, featuring Vukovi, Donald Macdonald And The Islands, The Velveteen Saints, The River 68′s and Conquering Animal Sound.
October 3, 2013: The Glasgow venue formerly known as The Barfly, which shut in February 2009, will reopen as The Bar & Fly at the same location on Clyde Street on October 18.
New video via YouTube… The Deep Red Sky – Kids (MGMT cover), out on October 7.
New song via YouTube… Finn LeMarinel – Love Is Waves (demo).
October 2, 2013: Free album download via UK Rock Radio… Free Sample Issue #03 featuring songs by The Xcerts, Sparrow And The Workshop, Admiral Fallow, A Band Called Quinn, Mull Historical Society and Unkle Bob.
Meursault frontman Neil Pennycook will be a guest speaker at Born To Be Wide’s seminar on promoting gigs, which takes place at Edinburgh’s Electric Circus on October 3.
New video via YouTube… We Were Hunted – You Know Me Now.
What The Blood Revealed have announced they are splitting up.
Free song download via SoundCloud… Lorraine McCauley & The Borderlands – Belong.
October 1, 2013: Free song download via iTunes… CHVRCHES – Tether. Singer Lauren Mayberry has written a Guardian article about the online misogyny she has been suffering, it’s well worth a read.
Free song download via SoundCloud… Julia & The Doogans – Love At First Sight (Kylie Minogue cover).
New song stream via SoundCloud… Cold Crows Dead – Ghost That Burned Your House Down, taken from debut album I Fear A New World, out on December 2. The band is a collaboration between The Xcerts’ Murray Macleod and Brighton songwriter Paul Steel. They play Aberdeen’s Tunnels on December 10 and Glasgow’s King Tut’s on December 11.
Fan photography is as common at gigs as hearing the audience sing back the songs, but for those wanting to come away with a shot worthy of sharing online, doing justice to what you see on stage can be a real challenge, especially if you’re relying on a camera phone to work its magic.
So how do you go about getting the best results in an environment where the subject matter moves, the lighting changes constantly and – if you have a photo pass – a ban on using flash and a three-song limit?
Here, two prominent Scottish music photographers offer their expert advice to gig-goers with cameras of any shape and size.
I photographed my first gig in February 2010 in Inverness. I’d been playing with an old film camera I had inherited. I loved it pretty much straight away and carried on shooting loads of stuff for Detour when I got my first digital camera. I couldn’t even count how many bands I’ve photographed since then. It’s taken over my life (literally) to the point where I quit my job last year to go self-employed and do this full-time. As well as working for bands and labels directly, I freelance for various publications including NME, Clash Magazine, BBC, STV and DF Concerts.
Tips for non-DSLR users (in the crowd)
Pretty much everyone now has a camera of some form in their pocket and you can drastically improve on the photos you take at gigs by keeping a few simple things in mind.
• TURN OFF THE FLASH! This is an almost universal rule in the photo pit, primarily to avoid distracting performers. When you’re not in the pit it’s still important, but for different reasons. The flash on your camera is designed to illuminate people who are, at most, a couple of metres away. It simply isn’t strong enough to reach the stage and compete with the lighting, even from the front row. All you’ll end up with is an obscenely bright foreground with that bald guy in front of you distracting all attention from the band.
• From the crowd, you’re unlikely to get a close-up action shot of the performers. The more you zoom in, the more of an issue motion blur becomes (your shaky hand gets more noticeable the more you use your zoom) when shooting over shoulders, hands in the air – all obstacles to a nice, clear, sharp shot from the crowd. Instead, it’s better to focus on capturing the atmosphere of a show. Watch out for house lights illuminating the audience, catch some silhouettes, wait for the exaggerated moves from the singer (arms in air etc) to make them stand out.
• If using a smartphone, make sure you’re utilising its full capabilities. For example, on an iPhone, you can tap the screen to focus and set your exposure (very roughly). For example, tap a dark part of the screen and it will expose for that, brightening everything, and vice versa.
• Try not to spend the entire show with your camera in the air. Once you get a cool shot, stick it away and enjoy the show. It’s amazing how much of a performance will pass you by when you’re watching through a lens.
• Loads of venues don’t have barriers and have relatively lax rules on camera use. This means you can arrive early, get a nice spot and shoot away from the front without worrying about photo passes. Some wise words I heard when I started doing this are, “It’s much easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission”. If someone asks you to stop, that’s fine, but at least you’ll have a few shots in the bag.
In (and around) the pit
Speaking from experience, the photo pit can be a daunting place, particularly the first few times. There are a few things you can do to make sure nobody bats an eyelid, even if you’re secretly bricking it. Good etiquette is of paramount importance in the pit. A lot of it is common sense but in the heat of the moment it’s easy to forget some simple points.
• Don’t get in people’s way. If you need past, go behind, go underneath their lens or wait. If you walk through a shot, you have pissed someone off.
• Don’t leave a bag in the way. It’s dangerous, end of. Keep it on you or tuck it away.
• Move around. If you inhabit a single spot the entire time, not only will your set of shots be a bit boring, you’re also going to be getting in the way.
• If you’re behind another photographer shooting, let them know you’re there. A quick hand on the shoulder means they’re not going to fall over you when they move.
• This should go without saying, but be nice to people and invariably they will be nice back. Chat to people before/after and make connections. For the most part you only get three songs to photograph, so that’s not the time to ask for tips and advice.
• Some of the ‘old guard’ tend to look down on younger photographers, or people they don’t recognise. Thankfully, these guys are a minority. The vast majority of people I’ve encountered while doing this are great. Don’t let a condescending look put you off. You have a photo pass and are just as entitled to be there as they are.
• Security are your best friends! Or at least they should be. Always chat to security when you arrive. These guys are running the pit and if you piss them off they’ll be much less accommodating. Do what they ask you to do (within reason), be courteous (they’re there to do a job too) and you’ll have a much better time.
• Once you’ve shot a few gigs from the front and want to get in the pit, you’re going to need to start dealing with the PRs. The easiest way initially is to get in touch with the multitude of blogs that offer regular live reviews. They should have some contacts with PR agencies etc that will make it much easier to get into your first few shows. Also, with a publication (even online) behind you, it’s much easier to get in touch yourself with bands to request photo passes. There’s no golden rule to this part. Again, be nice, courteous, concise and don’t hound people. They’ll probably not get back to you for ages and there’s a good chance you won’t get a pass confirmed until the day of the gig.
• This may sound a tad negative, but be prepared to be disappointed. Sometimes someone will screw up and your name won’t be on a list, and nobody will answer their phone. This happens. Just bite the bullet and get on with it.
If you can, get your camera into manual mode. You won’t appreciate how much more control you have over your photographs until you try it out. There’s no right or wrong camera for shooting gigs. An SLR will give you the most control, and with changeable lenses, you have loads of room to upgrade. Generally speaking, get the best you can afford. You’re going to want to upgrade sooner or later, so you may as well make it later.
• By and large, things are dark at gigs. You’ll need to venture into the higher regions of your ISO range – this is how sensitive your camera is to light. The higher the number, the more sensitive, but it will also bring added digital ‘noise’ to your photographs.
• Get your aperture as wide as possible, which means using as low an ‘f-stop’ as your camera will allow. This opens up the lens blades to let in more light when you take your shot.
• Once you have these set, use your shutter speed to control your exposure – this is how long the shutter stays open for. The slower you get, the more blur you will have in your photograph. Aim to keep it above 1/100 second. Every gig is different, though, so treat these as guidelines. Explore and experiment and the settings will eventually become intuitive.
• A 50mm f1.8 is an amazing lens for the money and will be a staple of your gig shooting for a long time.
Here are photos I’ve taken in Glasgow which may be useful to illustrate some points.
• (1,2) As much as it’s nice to get a tight shot of a singer, showing the room and the atmosphere is just as, or sometimes even more important, and doesn’t require you to do right down the front.
• (3,4,5) Make the most of smaller venues that don’t photo pits. If you can get some of the crowd in, particularly if they look like they’re having fun, it’s going to add to your photograph.
• (6) iPhone photography. If you concentrate more on the atmosphere of the shot, you’ll get something you’re happy with. This isn’t going to win any awards or be published, but it’s a nice shot of the crowd getting into a good gig. Wait for some light on the audience to lift them out of darkness.
By James Gray (website)
I started photographing gigs by accident after a friend asked me to shoot his band at King Tut’s. Since then I’ve photographed at many venues in Scotland and shot acts such as Green Day, Biffy Clyro, Kasabian, Atari Teenage Riot and Bullet For My Valentine. I was a winner of the T Break photography competition and have had work published in the Sunday Herald, The Skinny and STV. Earlier this year, I put on the SoundExposed live music photography exhibition (featured on The Pop Cop), showcasing the work of 18 music photographers.
Gig photography is challenging but also rewarding, not to mention fun. Fun, that is, apart from the fact you have no control over the subject matter or the lighting, security hate you because you are in their space and the crowd hate you because you have a better view than. I love it. No, really, it’s not that bad and the security guys are really very nice.
If, like me, you’re not on the books of a major photo or news agency and aren’t taking gig photos as a means of paying the bills, you’ll probably have a passion for music and a desire to bag some images which capture the excitement and energy of a live performance.
Finding a band to shoot
• Unless you have accreditation you’re unlikely to get anywhere near the pit, the promised land between the security barrier and the stage. At small venues featuring local bands, photographing from the crowd can be just as good, if not better, than being in the pit. You can go almost anywhere and take shots from many different angles.
• Up and down the land there are gigging bands who’d love someone to take live shots for their website. Contact bands via their website and ask if you can shoot them at their next gig. Alternatively, contact the venue or just turn up as a paying customer. Want a pass for a big-name band? Trying asking the support act instead.
• Irrespective of how you approach it, always make sure you have permission from the band before you shoot – bear in mind that 99 times out of 100 a band won’t be able, or willing, to pay for your services. However, if you’re starting out and want to build a portfolio or gain some experience it’s the best way to go.
Getting the shot right
When shooting bands you are likely to encounter some of the most harsh and unpredictable lighting scenarios in photography – low lighting, red lighting, backlighting and every other nightmare lighting scenario you can and can’t imagine. Here are some tips which may help you manage some of the challenges.
• A digital single lens reflex camera with a fast (f2.8) standard zoom lens is best. If you don’t have a fast zoom lens, a fast (f1.8) 50mm fixed lens is a good alternative. Although the fixed lens is limited in terms of variable focal length, it is great in low-light situations and a second-hand one of the Canon or Nikon variety isn’t too expensive.
• Many photographers start of on the highest ISO setting available. Personally, I recommend experimenting with ISO levels to determine the point at which noise becomes unacceptable. Setting the correct ISO level is a balancing act, but a sharp, grainy image is usually preferable to a blurred, smooth one. Remember, excessive noise can always be reduced using software such as Noise Ninja or Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3. Alternatively, try converting to black and white.
• Shooting RAW images allows greater flexibility in managing the final image and dealing with any exposure issues. Alternatively, shoot RAW plus JPEG to cover all scenarios. If you’re happier with JPEG, no problem, it’s really whatever you feel most comfortable with.
• Shooting in manual mode gives the greatest control over exposure. Set your preferred ISO and dial in the widest aperture (lowest number). Experiment with shutter speeds between 1/30 and 1/200.
• Use spot metering and meter on the subject’s face rather than the stage lighting. It’s better to take a reading from a small area than an average reading from a larger area.
• Look at the action through the viewfinder. If you don’t, you may have missed that once-in-a-lifetime shot by the time you lift the camera up to your eye.
• Set the shutter drive to fire at the highest frames per second and on a three-frame burst. Some photographers recommend continuous auto focus but I prefer single AF.
• Keep an eye out for crowd action like crowdsurfing.
Everyone at a gig is there to have a good time. Be polite and courteous and show respect to your fellow gig-goers and photographers.
• Be especially nice to those nice guys on security. You never know when you might need their help. If they tell you to do something or not do something, I recommend you comply.
• You worked hard to get your gear so look after it. Keep bags closed (it’s amazing the amount of beer that gets thrown towards the stage). Keep straps and bags out of the way of passing traffic, both in the pit and out. That way you can avoid a potential claim for broken limbs.
• Don’t carry your camera around your neck or over your shoulder. Wrap the strap around your wrist instead.
• Make friends with your fellow photographers.
• Always carry spare batteries, memory cards and a torch. Check your gear before you get to the venue and don’t forget to reformat your memory cards. If you’re going to be close to the stage or in the pit, wear earplugs. Most venues will give you some if you ask nicely.
Compact cameras and iPhoneography
Don’t have a DSLR? Fear not, most venues allow the use of personal compact cameras or camera phones. In many cases, compact cameras carry 80% of the features of a DSLR and allow manual control over ISO levels, shutter speed and aperture. If you intend to shoot from the crowd with a compact or camera phone, here are some tips.
• Get to the gig and bag yourself a spot as close to the stage as possible.
• Use both hands to minimise camera shake. Tuck your arms into your side or rest the camera on your girlfriend/boyfriend’s head, shoulder or other suitable body part.
• Memory is cheap, shoot a lot of images.
• A bit on the short side? Turn the camera upside down and hold above your head – this will give you a few valuable inches. Just rotate the image once downloaded.
• Keep the flash turned off. Built-in flash on compacts and camera phones will have just about enough power to light the back of the head in front of you, never mind the stage. Getting closer to the action will improve your chances of getting a good shot – and it will it be brighter.
• Turn on image stabilization if you have it. And ramp up the ISO.
• Wait until the stage lighting is at its brightest.
• If you don’t have manual control, try using the night scene mode with the flash turned off.
If you’re lucky enough to be in the pit, you almost certainly won’t be allowed to use flash. No matter – you won’t need flash to capture the atmosphere and mood of a live performance. If you are going to use flash, make sure this is OK with the band and/or venue before you start.
• If you’re using flash you can probably drop the ISO. Using flash can give some really cool effects with light trails and zoom effects. Try experimenting with long shutter speeds in conjunction with second/rear-sync flash. This fires the flash at the end of the exposure rather than at the start. After pressing the shutter release, try moving the camera around or zooming the lens in or out before the flash fires which will then freeze the action.
• In the pit you will be limited to the first three songs with no flash. But no matter where you are, use flash sparingly. It can be distracting to fellow gig-goers, the band and those nice guys on security. Rather than using flash it’s better to wait until the stage lighting is sufficient to give a decent exposure.
- Don’t forget to enter The Pop Cop’s annual Best Scottish Music Photo competition