I found this explanation of the three song rule for live music photographers interesting and if you read the rest of the interview you’ll see how he’s recently got out of it. Photo editor Nicole Radja interviews Chicago music photographer Paul Natkin on her blog called“In Studio On Location.”
Nicole: Another story I wanted to get out of you, was about our favorite three song rule. (Photographers are only allowed to photograph bands for the first three songs of a live show.) I know you don’t subscribe to that. I know you have a story of where this thing came from.
Paul: It started in the ’80’s with bands in New York, especially Springsteen. When a band played in New York, especially places like the Garden, they gave out tons of photo passes. At least half to paparazzi guys. Those people don’t know how to photograph, their only option is to put a flash on a camera. A lot of people didn’t even know how to change film, they knew they only had 36 shots. They were just doing it for the excitement of doing it.
Bruce would go up on stage, and there would be 50 photographers, all shooting flashes in his face. I don’t blame him, he walked off stage one night and said, we have to do something about this. Somebody said, why not just let them shoot the first fifteen minutes? Somebody figured out at a normal rock show, a song is about five minutes. Somebody said, let’s just let them shoot the first three songs. So it started with him and people in that era. It was also that MTV started around that time, and everybody wanted to look perfect, the way they looked in their videos.