A couple of San Francisco music venues have recently either changed their camera policy or changed how they enforce it. The rule is "If you want to bring in a professional-quality camera, you must have a press pass," but "professional-quality" is now being defined as "has a detachable lens." Which means that my Sony NEX camera, a compact camera with a detachable lens, is now falling foul of the policy.
When I went to a show at the Fillmore back in February, I left the camera at home because I called the venue and they told me they *probably* wouldn't let me take the camera into the show. More recently, I was at a show in a venue in the city where I've used the camera several times, and this time security sent me to talk to the venue manager, who initially told me I'd have to leave the camera at coat check, and then, when no one else could hear, told me I could keep it and take a few photos as long as I was "discreet". (I'm not naming the venue because I don't want him to get in trouble for being nice enough to bend the rules for me.)
The venues are insistent that they're only enforcing policies set by the artists, but the policies seem to be far more venue-dependent than artist-dependent.
If I were to hustle hard enough for it, I could probably wrangle the occasional press pass. Not to the most high-profile shows, but I've been to plenty of shows where the obscure local band that's first on the bill didn't have anyone doing photo coverage for them or clearly had "a friend of the band with a decent camera" doing photo coverage for them. However, if I were to start taking it that seriously, I'd probably feel obligated to get a properly professional DSLR camera and learn how to use it. So, that would be a big investment of time, energy, and money.
Or I could try to find a non-interchangeable-lens camera that can handle people moving around relatively fast in the dark. I'm not very hopeful on that, but if you know of a compact digital camera that can handle ISOs of 800 and up without the picture turning into a grainy mess, I'd love to hear about it.
Or I could just resign myself to the fact that I won't get decent photos of most shows. I *like* taking photos of musicians, but it's very much a secondary pleasure to the pleasure of experiencing live music itself.