I received the following email and I thought as well as answering it I would address the question here. If you have any questions, please don’t hestitate to post them in the comments or send them to me at: alan@alanhessphotography.com

Hey, Alan.
I ran across your website and hoped you don’t mind my picking your brain a little about the rules of shooting  concerts. I’m not a photographer. I’m a reporter. But with the cutbacks these days, reporters are being asked to do more and more, which is unfortunate because I know I won’t capture ‘the’ shot that a true photographer could. But my question is more about the rules of shooting concerts.
When there is an opening act and a three-song shooting rule, do you have to leave and come back if an opening act goes longer than three songs?
When you’re done shooting your three songs for the main act and you have to leave, does your photo pass typically get you readmitted to watch the rest of the show or are you done after the first three songs?
Thanks for any insight you can offer.
The simple answer is that it changes from show to show, and I am sure that other photographers will have different experiences but this is my experience.
  1. When I got to shoot Willie Nelson I was allowed to shoot 2 songs of the opening band and then 2 songs for Willie. After the opening band had played their first 2 songs, we were removed from the photo pit and made to stand at the back of the venue with a security making sure we didn’t photograph any more. After Willie had played his two songs I was given the choice of checking my camera gear into the security office or leaving the venue. 
  2. When I shot John Legend, the same rules applied. 2 songs for both John and the opening act Estelle. Again we were not allowed to stay in the venue with our camera gear after the first two songs were over.  
  3. Some venues, like the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles let us stay to see the rest of the show but only if we had a ticket and locked our camera gear in the production office.
My best advise is to check with publicist from the venue or the band, and if you are reporting on the show, make sure they leave you a reviewers ticket so that you can go out and lock your camera up and still get back into the venue. Make sure that when you walk out, they know you are coming back in. And in my experience, a photo pass will not get you a seat for the whole show.