There’s a New Arts Editor in Town – And Her Name is Ariana Grande

Arts and entertainment is a cornerstone of AAN publications every week. Crucial to covering concerts, festivals, museums, art galleries, restaurants, sports, etc. is a strong visual, especially photos and videos of those involved. That’s why a key part of AAN’s advocacy in recent years has surrounded the issuance of credentials for reporters and photographers covering these events. We have joined with other journalism organizations in protesting restrictive credentialing provisions because they often inhibit photographer or videographer access to cover an event or condition that access on granting rights to the team, league, event, artist, etc. in return. Many of these credentialing fights occur with regard to sports (mainly pro but sometimes college, high school or local youth leagues) but have implications outside of sports.

That’s what happened here, where photographers covering Ariana Grande’s World Tour were basically told they would have to become the personal photographer for Ms. Grande if they wanted to shoot at her concerts or other events. I realize that many AAN members may not have circled the date on which Ariana Grande is coming to their town (though when I made this joke to our esteemed President Molly Willmott, it was met with “speak for yourself”) but she is a big star right now and these credentials are likely to be imitated by others if she can get away with it (in the past we’ve picked fights with, among others, Beyonce and Taylor Swift; and, of course, the Washington City Paper famously declined to cover the Foo Fighters when they played in DC in 2015).  You can read more about the history of this issue and these credentials in this article in W Magazine.

And what do these credentials require? Among other things:

  • That a photographer covering a concert or other live event grant ownership of all photos – as a Work for Hire – to GrandAriTour, Inc. and Ariana Grande;
  • That the photographer also has to provide all contact sheets and digital files of any and all photographs to GrandAriTour, Inc. and Ariana Grande upon request;
  • That the photographer must allow GrandAriTour, Inc. and Ariana Grande to use any of these photos for any reason – including personal reasons; and
  • That the publication can only use photos under the following conditions:
    • It must be a “single instance use”;
    • It must be in relation to a news item about the performance or event; and
    • GrandAriTour, Inc. and Ariana Grande must preapprove the use – not just with regard to the photo but the surrounding text as well.

We joined forces with 15 other journalism organizations and companies in a letter protesting these credentials. That letter, which was drafted by the National Press Photographer’s Association, seeks the same success we had after interactions with Taylor Swift in 2014, when Ms. Swift’s tour softened its credentials in response to a similar letter.

We’ll continue to fight on your behalf but, when the tour comes to town, you’re on your own. AAN can’t call for a mass boycott of this tour – the most we can do (and all we are doing) is inform you of the issue and let you decide whether you will sign these credentials and cover the event or take other action. If you need more information, you can contact me at 703-812-0462 or

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