Prince Joins Increasing Number of Artists Banning Photography at their Concerts


It’s become a pattern with musicians lately. In an attempt to force people to actually experience the concert they’re attending, many musicians are banning photography at their shows outright. In the past, we shared messages put up by the bands She & Him, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Savages, all of whom are kindly asking concert goers to put away their darn cell phones.

The latest musician to join in is Prince, who posted a sign titled “Purple Rules” at a recent surprise show in New York City, forbidding photography, videography and even cell phones in general.

The Gothamist‘s Ben Yakas attended the surprise show at the City Winery, and says that before they even got in the door, attendees were greeted by employee after employee explaining the “Purple Rules” to them. And if that wasn’t enough, there was the sign:

***No VIDEO recording
***No Cell Phones

These rules will be strictly enforced and violators will be asked to access another experience.

Of course that didn’t stop everyone. At least a few Instagram videos made it online:

The risk wasn’t without its consequences though. As Yakas explains, “the cell phone gestapo” wasn’t playing around. “I watched as they dragged away multiple people who held their phones up just a second too long trying to capture Prince’s essence or whatever.” writes Yakas. “People had their phones snatched from them in mid-air, and if they argued, they were escorted out of the building in a very non-funky manner.”

Although some would agree that smartphones have become something of a nuisance at concerts, and kicking people out for breaking a rule is understandable, we’re not sure how wise it is to start grabbing phones out of people’s hands.

Whatever the case, the strict rules and harsh enforcement still couldn’t keep people from pulling out their phones and Instagramming. In the end, concert goers were still willing to risk the consequences for that perfect (or not so perfect) shot.

(via PopPhoto)

Image credit: Prince! by Scott Penner

  • harumph

    OK, I’m getting kind of sick of these stories, and not for the reason that we photographers are supposed to be getting sick of these stories. We’re supposed to be outraged, and “How dare they!!!11!!” and let’s make fun of Beyonce and Prince and on and on. But all these stories ignore one basic fact: Musicians, concert venues, clubs, bars, etc. have been banning photography for decades. This isn’t new.

    I’ve been an avid concert goer since 1980 and it’s always been pretty much expected that you can’t take pictures at most venues. Long before the dawn of cell phone cameras, you weren’t allowed to photograph or record concerts. I couldn’t bring my camera into a Prince concert in 1987 and I can’t now. Why are we pretending that this is some new outrage?

  • Steve Oakley

    banning cell phones is opening them up to all sorts of legal liabilities. bad idea. my opinion ? just don’t go to shows and let your money speak louder than your cellphone ringer .

    another thought, instead of being an idiot, how about giving the audience a photo op ? basically say everyone has 1 minute to take your pic, do a few poses, then ask that they kindly enjoy the show without anymore. treat your audience with respect, and maybe they will respect you instead of treating them as badly behaved children.

  • Clinton Blackburn

    Some artists do have photo ops.

    Regarding cell phones, the venues/artists are banning the usage–especially filming–of phones during the show not possession. Even if they did ban the possession of cell phones, concertgoers essentially agreed to the ban when they purchased the ticket or entered the venue. The right to a cell phone is not guaranteed by law.

  • Clinton Blackburn

    I am okay with this. I have only ever been to two big venue (House of Blues) concerts in my lifetime. The first I was told at the door I could not bring my Canon 7D and 24-70 f/2.8 because it was “too professional”. No biggie; i put it back in the car.

    The second show I snuck the camera and lens combo into the venue (via girlfriend’s purse) and got some amazing shots. As a photographer, I know the rules: no flash, no bright LCD screen, shoot the first couple songs, etc. My fellow concertgoers did not. I saw bright flashes going off on point-and-shoots and phones. One person had the audacity to hold up an iPad and broadcast the concert to someone via Skype!

    If it means not having to deal with inconsiderate people who give away the concert and generally distract others who have paid good money to see a live act, I am okay with not having photos of the show. I was there and experienced it. If my Facebook-Twitter-whatever followers want to see the show, they should buy a ticket and see it live!

  • ThomasBisset

    No mention of accredited photographers – is he allowing press in these shows?

  • ThomasBisset

    However, most places have laws against theft, which this basically is, and no contract is going to change that. They could ask you to put the phone away, or leave.

  • Jeff H

    Nothing more annoying than to see a couple of thousand tiny LCD screens blocking the view of the 80 foot wide stage with real people on it.
    If you want that tiny screen with the smeary cell phone video and the trash audio, stay home and watch it on your phone.

  • Mark Dub

    As Yakas explains, “the cell phone gestapo” wasn’t playing around. “I watched as they dragged away multiple people who held their phones up just a second too long trying to capture Prince’s essence or whatever.” writes Yakas. “People had their phones snatched from them in mid-air, and if they argued, they were escorted out of the building in a very non-funky manner.”

    So cell phones detract from the show, but this scenario doesn’t?? Yes, please enjoy the music and performance.. Also, watch all the security guard remove & argue with people in the crowd.

    Forcing someone to enjoy your show will not work. People will do what they want. In fact, I think people would be more willing to take photos and video if they are told not to.

  • Yo-Yo Ma

    Good call. I ruins a good concert. I’ve stopped going to concerts. Tired of all the cell phones blocking my view.

  • gochugogi

    Times sure have changed. Back in the day my main concern at concerts was avoiding getting burned by cigarettes, hurled or peed on or groped while trapped in the crowd.

  • Cris Da Rocha

    There are a couple of points to consider. “Professional” photographers are not allowed for an image rights question. There’s a business in selling images or the permit to produce them.

    On the one hand phones blocking the view is bad, one other hand the world has changed and today we have mobile devices with multiple use, including share images in realtime. Some artists have not realized it, or resist to accept the change (as the music industry still resists the change of their business model).

    Taking the joy of a concert out of your public with a “police” that attacks people that take their phones out … please …

    Prince doesn’t surprise me with that, since he was never a really big star (though I like his music) and always used marketing tricks to survive (like changing his name for a symbol without pronunciation).

    Recently been to a Bon Jovi concert, who apparently realized that we’re in the XXI century and that people replaced the lighters by the phones. At his main ballad we’re all asked to take our phones and light the house with it!

    I rather go to a concert where people have fun in the XXI century life stile than on Prince’s spanish inquisition show!

  • heidi

    Prince has been saying this for years

  • Culture Shlock

    Nothing new for Prince. Went to one of his shows in a small club a couple of years ago and before the show they announced the quickest way to get thrown out was to try to take a photo.

  • Erick Watson

    A private premises has every right to enforce rules that are within the law. If one of those rules is “No photos” then stepping on the premises is then agreeing to that rule and any violation can see you removed from the premise and even your photos deleted. Within the law.
    If you choose to contend this, a citizens’ arrest is more than within the law and the authorities and court system can then deal with you breaking the rules diligently expressed to you as you entered the private premises.

  • John

    I’d also throw out the people who go to a gig and spend it talking loudly.

  • Halifu

    I love Prince, but if you’re charging $250 per ticket, you can at least a fan take a few pics.

  • harumph

    Prince was “never really a big star”?! For the last half of the ’80s he was THE biggest star on the planet.

  • Rabi Abonour

    I don’t know where you live, but in America no one can make you delete your photos. If you’re on private property you can be forced to leave if you take pictures, but you can never be forced to delete photos or hand over cards. Ever.

  • Royal Rican Prince

    Prince has been doing that sine his “1999” concerts in 1982!

  • bob cooley

    More than likely, yes. That’s usually cleared through the label.

  • NoSneakingIsNoFun

    I think it’s funny. When I first started attending concerts, no cameras were allowed, period. Now you can bring a digital SLR with you if it’s not “too big”. I used my friends point-n-shoot at a Kiss concert recently, then posted all the pics on Facebook. I sat back and thought about it…the whole show in pictures, why would anyone need to go see it now? How are the letting us get away with this now? When did it all change? Craziness.

  • acetylcysteine

    Last year I attended a Jack White show at a small venue in Chattanooga. They made an announcement asking folks not to be distracted from the experience of the show by trying to take pictures. They hired a professional photographer who took pics of the entire show and posted them online. You could download them at no charge. There were still a few people determined to still take pics and ruin the experience for people behind them, but there were way less phone cameras out compared to other shows I’ve been to. I thought it was a great idea.

  • Kyle Clements

    I was at an Ohgr concert a few years ago, and a girl in the front had a small point and shoot out, recording video. The singer waited until the solo, put down his mic, grabbed the camera, and walked around stage with it, getting a nice close-up of each band member, then took a nice pan of the audience, before returning the camera to the girl.

    Everyone cheered. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen a musician do, and it made one fan in particular extremely happy.

    When singers engage with their audience and do cool things like that, instead of being dicks, fans become even more passionate.

    If a singer had me thrown out of a concert, I’d no longer be a fan.

  • Vin Weathermon

    Um, no. Sorry. Even a citizen’s arrest gives you no right to destroy personal property. Which is what that is. Being asked to leave with your crappy cell phone pictures in hand is fine. Physically wresting it from your body (you get hurt you SUE) and forcing someone to delete them…nope.

  • Vin Weathermon

    You brought up some great points but alienated all the Prince fans…who must be 50 years old or they would probably agree.

  • Vin Weathermon

    That is a great idea….they would get far better shots anyway. But Prince is sticking to his “just hearing me fart is a privilege” schtick, which seems to work for him.

  • harumph

    Lol, yeah, I agree with him. It’s just that saying Prince was never a big star is like saying the Rolling Stones were never big stars. Their heyday is behind them, but….

  • Jake

    All that stuff still happens. But at least you could still see the stage in your day.

  • FabriceB

    Now I hope they start doing the same thing on museum or even weeding. Smart phone camera are getting a really big pain in the a.. with peoples taking (ugly) pictures of everything without looking at nothing.

  • Bjorn

    No, Prince has a no-photo rules for press as well (or at least has the last time I have seen him)

  • Scott Killeen

    No problem but STOP running photos and videos of him then! Fair is fair….

  • jkantor267

    Can you say Dumb F***?

  • Pod

    Most venues have a ban on photography in place, regardless of the act performing. That being said, most venues just limit that to actual dedicated cameras, not smartphone photos. One venue I work at has a sign out front (from when the venue was built in 2000 haha) that says “no photography or recording devices”. However, they tolerate cell phone photos, and the security staff even helps with group photos of patrons. Now this is a nightclub and not a concert venue, where there is no live act per se. That being said, any venue or artist can restrict or ban photography, but the most they can do is eject you from the premises. They can’t ask you to delete footage or seize your phone.

  • Brendan

    These bans are aimed at removing people from behind their screens too quite often, rather than being like the beyonce fiasco. I don’t have a problem with that.

  • Brendan

    The most offensive ones are clueless people with SLRs. Curse auto mode and the fit inducing flash assisted auto focus. Thankfully these folks are much rarer than the iphone/ipad breed.

  • Brendan

    It really is celebrity culture biting them in the arse. Tool singer MJ Keenan has asked people not to record his Puscifer shows and the one I went to, I noticed people were very respectful.

    Someone like Prince though, where so much of his popularity comes from celebrity idol worship, status and (more recently) infamy. People care less about his art and more about wanting to be seen by their own friends at his show.

    People have grown up being sold media narratives as a desirable thing, and celebrities that cashed in on it by selling themselves as a brand are surprised that fans care more about being associated with that rather caring about their art, or acting or whatever. The information age allows us to create our own narratives… some big names are clearly still trying to get their heads around that.

  • AngelGreg

    I go to Kenny Chesney concerts. 60,000 people filling stadiums. The ticket only says “No Video”. I have never been stopped from shooting wth my Nikon DSLR’s and 300mm lens.

  • Ron

    Who cared anout prince, it’s always been a pompous snob!

  • Cris Da Rocha

    Vin, you cannot make an omelet without breaking some eggs ;-)

  • Cris Da Rocha

    harumph, sure Price IS a big star. My sense for “big star” was on the big sales scale. Let’s say U2 sells more (albums and concert tickets) than Prince.

    Don’t get me wrong, I like his music! But he always resorted to the “darker” side of Marketing. And he was always a pain for show promoters. To play in Brazil in the 90’s he wanted a couple hundred “tiger towels” (or some weirdness of that sort). On the other hand his weirdnesses get imprinted in people’s minds. Every time we have to rename something at work someone comes with the joke “let’s do it like prince, we rename it to a weird symbol and refer to it as ‘the XXX formerly knows as YYY’.

    We’re digressing :-) The point is the shooting or not shooting in a concert. But sorry if I offended your favorite artist!

  • Cris Da Rocha

    Brendan, the branding point is an interesting take on that.

    I also think that the artists approach on the subject, actually on any subject, helps a lot on the respect part.

    Something like “photo pit etiquette” could help. Start with “ok folks, lets get your phones and shoot the first three songs, than put it down and enjoy the show, after all that’s why we’re here!”

  • Miron Arnold

    It’s funny how we miss half of what we experience while trying to capture it on video. I think this is good. Makes us appreciate the moment rather than trying to save it for later.

  • Daniel

    I really don’t see the problem people have with this, it’s a private venue and they can institute any rules they want regarding photography/videos. If you don’t like it then don’t support the artist(s) or go to their concerts.

    Plays, movies and other forms of live entertainment ban photos and videos because it would ruin it for everyone else, and i don’t see anyone complaining about that, why should a music concert be any different?

  • Mark Insertgenericband Roach

    “in America no one can make you delete your photos.”

    Except the US Government if what you recorded could compromise national security or secrets.
    But you point is right, they had no right to take their phones forcibly but they can ask them to leave.

  • tertius_decimus

    Prince WHO?

  • Tamara Foubert

    That’s not true. There was one in Belgium 2011, who took pictures that were used in the Welcome 2 Canada tourbook (I know because I was on one of them !)
    And just recently there was one in Holland too. It doesn’t happen very often but sometimes there are accredited photographers allowed.

  • Randell

    I totally agree with you Scott.
    If these prima donna’s want publicity photography and video, then let them actually pay for it, like the rest of us.

  • ThomasBisset

    So yes, no, and maybe? :P

  • ThomasBisset

    Likewise at the venue I often shoot at. I think it’s less a matter of them tolerating mobile phone snaps as it is having little control over it. I don’t think it’s very likely venue security is going to confiscate many hundreds of phones between, what, the ten of them?

    They’ll go after people with “pro” cameras because they can be singled out.

  • bob cooley

    When I shot him (years ago) they were giving credentials to accredited press. It may have changed – The purple one is genius, but no one has ever accused him of playing by anyone’s rulebook…