Justin Kool, bass player with the John Fairhurst band, said something interesting to me on Saturday after their show. He said "One of the best things about you taking our photographs is that I never notice you taking the pictures. I'm not aware of you being there."
I liked that comment.
One thing I'm very wary of as a music photographer is my presence at the gig when I start to 'work'. That goes for off stage as well as on stage. My natural instinct (probably due to my appreciation of the great street photographers), is to remain inconspicuous. This is despite a recent, notable event (more on this some other time).
At gigs I don't want to be spotted by the musicians. And I want to keep out of the way of the audience if I can help it. That's equally as important. I don't want to distract from the show; the focus should be on the bands not what crew and photographers are doing in the wings.
I've seen some photographers who stand directly in front of the musicians in their eye line with a lens pointing them square in the face. They get some amazing closeup shots, but that style is not really for me. Distracting for bands and audience? I'm not sure. To a large extent I like to focus on the environment as a subject as well as the musicians.
Having said all that, some musicians will certainly play up to the camera if they spot you aiming a lens at them. I noticed this the first time when I was in Anerica. I was at a blues festival in Arkansas, and there were some heavyweight artists playing on smaller stages.
At first I was very wary of standing out and drawing attention to myself, but one of them saw me pointing my camera at him. He swaggered over before giving a sly grin and then playing a mean harmonica riff right in my lens.
So, in this scenario being more conspicuous definitely was beneficial.
I think one of the key things for me is not to remain static. I keep moving around looking for angles, and try and stay out of the audiences' way as much as possible. And if one of those positions happens to be in front of the lead singer just as he/she bursts into a full expressive yell, I need to be ready to capture the moment quickly and make sure I don't overstay my welcome.
Also, I'll drop my camera to my hip and have a boogie for a bit; bands seem to appreciate that.