I have seen this covered off on another awesome music photographers blog. I wanted to give my own take right here, right now... What is a photo pass? - A photo pass is a sticky picture that you have to stick on your t-shirt / jeans before you are allowed into a concert venue to photograph the fellas up on stage. You usually go to the box office or the stage door and ask for your pass and then, depending on the venue, you go and wait "in the pit" or you're sent to a "holding area" and collected by someone at the right time. For example's sake, Counting Crows at Wembley, usually you're allocated your pass and then you sit by the door and wait for security to come and collect you - however, as I was there SO early, the head of security (An Aussie) for the night came and collected me and I was allowed in to do support and wander about between support and the main act - Counting Crows. This doesn't happen often! It's all about who you know... (sometimes!)
Who gets a photo pass? - It's pretty much upto the body that's responsible for handing them out for the gig you're looking at shooting for. So, right now, Today, I'm trying to get a pass to shoot James Taylor tonight - The agency, RWPublicity are only allowing major publications on this occasion, which is a huge shame as I am still relatively new and don't have that many contacts that will commission me just yet. Some time's it's OK to shoot for a website, sometimes for a blog but mainly for an agency or newspaper is what the photo pass is for.
What does it allow you to do? A lot of the time, your new sticky label friend will allow you in to the pit to shoot the first three songs of a given act. A lot of the time at bigger shows you will only be able to photograph the main act and not the support. I am of the personal belief that 99% of the time the support need more publicity than the main act, so I tend to try and get a few shots in for them / get those shots to the band or out to press. I find that often the support bands are very happy for you to shoot them and let them have the images / let them have them at a reduced rate that if you find a way to get in touch with them upfront you can usually arrange to shoot them in addition to the headliners...
How do I get one? Well, there is no *magic formula* it takes lots of hard work and free stuff... You can't just email a band manager and expect a pass in the post, you have to build yourself up a little portfolio - I did this by going to local gigs at pubs and shooting and pimping....and again, and again, and again!
Keep trying, don't be put off.