Musicians are barely getting a slice of music industry revenue, largely eating off of live performances instead. For ’Tour Tales,’ we dig into the rider requests, delayed shows, diligent preparation, and future of touring by talking with the multitude of people that move behind the scenes. Record executives, photographers, tour managers, artists, and more all break down what goes into touring and why it’s still so vital to the livelihood of your favorite artists. What happens on tour stays on ‘Tour Tales.’
By the time 29-year-old photographer Brandon Dull was moments away from getting his first solo JAY-Z photo while on the “Aubrey & the Three Amigos Tour,” he had been shooting since he was a teenager. Over that decade, he didn’t let anything stop him from photographing hip hop hitmakers like Nipsey Hussle, Migos, 2 Chainz, Lil Wayne, Jeezy, and Meek Mill. But, then a meme got in the way.
“I was about to ask [JAY-Z] if I could get a portrait, but I remembered the meme of JAY that said, ‘Get the photo while we’re talking.’ So, I was like, ‘I’m going to leave the moment at the moment,’” Dull told REVOLT.
In this installment of “Tour Tales,” Dull explains the backstage moment after Meek and Drake squashed their beef, how he had two hours to decide the next four months of his life, and how he got one of Nipsey Hussle’s most iconic photos.
How did you end up shooting the ‘Aubrey & Three Migos Tour’?
The day before the tour started, I was hired to shoot the behind the scenes of Takeoff’s ‘Casper’ music video. We stayed there until five in the morning, went back home and got a few hours of rest. Then, I get a text from [Migos’ manager] Rel, saying, ‘You have two hours to get on the bus if you want to go on tour and be Migos’ tour photographer on the Drake tour.’ I texted back, ‘I’m all in.’ I got my bags packed. I packed more camera gear than clothes and got to the bus, and was on the tour for the next four months.
Before that, I had been around them for about three years. But, it was only on and off gigs. It just so happens that I went to do that gig and it was like all those little on and off gigs paid off because they were familiar with my work.
That tour had that huge stage in the center of all the venues. How did you figure out how to get certain shots?
The media pit wrapped around the whole stage, so you had to kind of run through the media pit. Once you knew their setlist of songs and saw the pattern, then after a couple of shows, you know, ‘Hey, this song is about to come on. Maybe let’s go in the crowd for that shot.’ Once I got dialed in, that’s when it became pretty easy.
Once you became familiar with the setlist and show, what are some moments you made sure to capture?
When they come back out on Drake set and they’d be in the tunnel. I think he would bring them out for ‘Versace’ and they would rise up to the stage. I would try to get the tunnel shot and then I’d run back out, and get them coming onstage.
I can’t talk to you about that tour and not talk about the shot you got of Drake laying on the ground as the confetti fell. How did that shot come about?
That was definitely one of my favorite shots. That was the final moment of the tour in Atlanta. Pretty much Drake’s photographers and everyone on his team are getting ready to run out onstage. When I got that shot, I don’t think I put it out until about a week or so after the tour. Drake ended up following me and DM’ing me, asking, ‘Could you send me that confetti pic?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, sure.’ He used that photo to promote his Europe tour on Instagram. I think the reason I was able to get that shot was because his whole team was getting ready to celebrate the final moment of the tour. I got lucky for that.
How did that one shot change your career?
I saw the picture was at 995,000 likes and I just sat there until it hit one million, and then I screenshot it. When he posted that, it did a million likes. I think off the tour, I gained 20,000 followers. I had about 5,000 followers before the tour. He posted three photos of mine. Right before the tour started, he posted my photos of him and Quavo playing basketball and that final moment of the tour.
The cool thing that Migos allowed me to do was to keep my watermark on the photos in the bottom center. They respected that. Every time they or Drake posted it, I got more exposure. A lot of times artists won’t tag the photographers. So, that definitely helped.
Speak to me about those basketball games. Out of all the OVO vs Migos games, which team got the edge?
I’m probably going to have to roll with Quavo. He’s a shooter. He’s always hitting threes.
That tour had Meek Mill, J. Cole, LeBron James, Travis Scott, and so many other artists perform. Which special guest had the most memorable backstage moment?
I’d say one of the most energetic times was when Drake brought out Meek Mill and they fixed their issues. The backstage was crazy. There was a lot of energy. Random people in the hallway were pumped up. I don’t think anybody knew he was going to come onstage. When he was walking out, I just held down my shutter and kept snapping. After the stage, I have a shot of Meek Mill walking down the hallway to his dressing room, while Drake was still on.
If there was a guest that came out onstage, I might leave the set and try to grab any shots I can get of them in the hallway. That’s what I did with Gucci Mane. But, for Meek Mill’s backstage, people were partying and it was a good time. It’s been a year since the tour and it still feels like yesterday.
You also got some great photos of the queen and the king, Beyonce and JAY-Z.
I was in the Migos backroom and someone said, ‘JAY-Z is walking down the hallway.’ I went out in the hallway and kept snapping. When Quavo came out to talk to him, I was in the perfect spot to capture a side profile shot. There were so many people in the hallway and I was trying to get the shot. I was about to ask him if I could get a portrait, but I remembered the meme of JAY that said, ‘Get the photo while we’re talking.’ So, I was like, ‘I’m going to leave the moment at the moment.’
On that tour, what are some things you had to adapt to?
It was a little bit tighter when Drake came on and he brought Migos back out. Once his security got familIar [with the fact] that I’m Migos’ photographer and I’m just here to catch them come onstage, they were cool with it. At first, they would question me.
What are some mistakes you used to do when you started photographing artists' live?
At every show I do, I always take a couple of messed up photos just because the lighting will change all the time. On the tour, since the lighting kept switching up, I definitely had a couple of messed up shots. I think every photographer goes through that if they don’t want to admit it or not. Some of these photos didn’t even have a flash. It was really on the go, stopping for a second to get the shot and then keeping it moving.
You got a black and white portrait of Nipsey that’s become pretty popular.
I caught him coming out of V-103 Atlanta radio station and I asked if I could grab a portrait. That was a year before he passed away. I put it back out and it sort of went viral because of what happened to him. People look at it as one of his legendary portraits. He’s always been one of my favorite artists ever.
What do you have coming up?
I did Rolling Loud with Migos in Oakland [on September 29]. It’s back to doing freelance gigs with Migos. So, I’m going to keep doing that until, hopefully, they lock me in on another tour.