Any rock fan knows that super troupers spend their time on stage smiling, having fun, and feeling like a number one, but what goes on behind the scenes? Mercifully, we have tour photographers like Tom Falcone to give us a look. Ten months out of the year, he’s on the road, capturing the life and times of musicians on tour. Falcone started traveling with bands at the tender age of 17, touching down in Boston just long enough to complete a two-year program at the New England School of Photography before hitting the road again. He’s the guy who shoots the photos and videos that end up on the band’s social media outlets, in magazines, and in larger projects like books and DVDs. We asked him about the gig.Photos courtesy of Tom Falcone.
Aimee Baldridge: How did you get into touring?
Tom Falcone: There was a band that I grew up with and they had started touring. They were doing a little bit here and there, and then they started doing it nationally, and then they got signed. I was just taking pictures of them randomly at their studio and I would do weekend runs with them at smaller shows. It all started with friends. That’s how it is in this whole music scene. You just kind of need one person to get you in. You network and network, and eventually your work gets out there and you start touring, and people start liking you for who you are and giving you chances, and it all falls into place.
AB: How did networking work for you?
I was extremely young when I started and didn’t really think much of it, but I used MySpace and Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. That was a huge outlet to begin with, and then there was just talking to everyone at concerts and giving my photos out for free.
Everyone’s a photographer, you know. Everyone can easily snap a picture. You really need to pick and choose who you’re going to give your stuff away to. Obviously, some of the smaller artists are looking for content for free because they don’t have a lot of money, but the smaller bands will go on tour. The bigger bands will see all the photographers shooting for those artists, and if you’re a standout photographer you’re going to get recognized by those other people, because all of the musicians talk.
AB: Why does anyone pay you if lots of people are offering images for free?
Tom Falcone: It’s about having exclusiveness. Any photographer could come to a show and photograph the concert, but a lot of my work is candid and behind the scenes and a little weird and grungy, to show life on the road. I don’t think you can get by with just shooting live stuff. Yeah, it’s hard to get access to some of the bands, to get in with them backstage, but there are ways. People need to be comfortable with what you’re doing and what you portray.
AB: How do you charge for all of the different images and films you produce?
Tom Falcone: I’m put on payroll. Some photographers charge per tour. I know some who will do a month tour for $2000 and some who get paid $1000 a week. But for what I do it’s a little different because I’m working on a bigger project and the band I’m working for is a little bigger, so there’s a little more money involved. I typically start a project with the artist. I’ve done a 300-page photo book that was shot over three years, and now I’m doing a DVD.
Since we travel so much, I also get a per diem. I think it’s $20, but I don’t really have expenses, so it’s just extra money. And then for the DVD they’ll give me a percentage, and if any image is being sold, like if they’re going to do a poster or a book, I’ll get 3 to 8 percent of the profit.
AB: Do you have a vision of your future, or are you just figuring it out as you go along?
Tom Falcone: I’m very grateful that I started doing this so young, because I really realized who I am on tour and what I love, and I’ve met so many people that have dramatically impacted my life. But it’s definitely not a long-term thing for me. I think there’s only so much a photographer can do without getting bored or repetitive. I think there’s probably a year left in me before I start feeling that.
I eventually want to get a studio and follow up more on portraiture. I’d like to do more traveling for myself or with somebody I care about, to see the world outside music. And then after that I’m hoping to become a teacher and give back every experience that I’ve ever learned from, and my techniques. Maybe when I’m a little bit older, like 40 or 50, and I want to settle down.
In our Breaking In series, we ask successful young professionals in photo- and video-related fields about what it took to get into their line of work, what it's like to make a living doing what they do, and how they made the transition from student days to working life.
This article first appeared in Resource Magazine, a quarterly photo and video publication for forward-thinking image makers worldwide. Dedicated to working and aspiring industry professionals, it is a comprehensive photo, video, and lifestyle platform offering readers the latest insight on photography skills, tech news, gear, and marketing techniques, all brought together with awe-inspiring images. Resource offers a unique, fresh perspective on the innovative, quickly evolving photographic world, emphasizing the work, art, and power of imagery. Resource Magazine is sold at newsstands across the U.S. and Canada, and is available for free in all major photo studios, labs, and equipment rental houses in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco, and Chicago.