The Man Behind The Most Used Music Photo On The Internet

March 10, 2023

In 2017, LA Historic Park in Downtown Los Angeles played host to Air + Style, a 2-day festival that brought snowboarding and music together. When Tixr’s Head of Creative Austin Neill went to photograph the event, he never imagined how one fleeting moment he caught on camera would show up in so many places.

While Tixr handled VIP ticketing for the festival, Austin beelined for the photo pit. He ended up uploading a handful of select shots of Chromeo, Zhu, and TV On The Radio to the royalty-free photo discovery platform Unsplash on a whim.

Almost instantly, one specific image of TV On The Radio’s lead singer started getting a ton of attention. Perhaps it was the hand covering his face, obfuscating his identity in a mysterious, ominous way, or the red, white, and blue stage lights and haze lending a sense of patriotism to the shot. Or maybe it was the clarity of the frontman’s outstretched arm reaching into the distance. Whatever it was, the image clearly made people instantly feel something and see the infinite possibilities for its use.

From Shazam to the United Nations, you’ll find the photo (quite literally) everywhere.
Since Austin first published the photo to Unsplash on April 26th, 2017, it keeps racking up more and more and more views, downloads, and placements. To date, it’s up to 31 million views and 300,000 downloads from Unsplash, 47,000 uses on Wix, 34,000 uses on Notion, 25,000 uses on Figma, 2,300 uses on Squarespace, 1,200 uses on Medium, 500 uses on Buzzfeed, plus many more to count. It’s also been featured on the United Nations website, Shazam’s homepage for a full year, Yahoo, Mailchimp, and in more presentation decks than we can count.

“Unsplash was pretty controversial at the time,” said Austin. “It gave young, up-and-coming photographers a ton of exposure, but you’d normally have to pay for that stuff on other platforms like iStock or Getty Images. I wanted to put my work out there, so I started contributing photos early, got featured, and built a following on there.” It’s no exaggeration to say that Austin’s creative eye made it to every corner of the internet — or is on its way there. Even if he didn’t intend to make money off the photos uploaded to Unsplash directly, work came his way as a result, and a limitless number of people now have access to a perfect shot to use how they wish.

Photographer, Creative Director, International Man of Mystery
Photography is an artistic outlet for Austin, whose responsibilities as Tixr’s Creative Director look a bit different in comparison. He’s been with the company since the beginning, among the first group of people to join and shape Tixr’s design-oriented culture into what it is today. For starters, he constructed a foundational design system and built every iteration of Tixr’s fan-facing user interface from scratch.

Journeys are rarely linear though. While Austin took an early detour from Tixr for a leadership position at Billabong, he returned two years later to oversee all product and brand design efforts — a role he’s thrived in ever since. Today, he designs with the future in mind — months if not years ahead of what’s currently being developed — and mentors a growing team of visual and product designers.

Six years after Austin photographed Air + Style, Tixr staff and partners still lovingly refer to the iconic shot as “the Tixr photo” when it shows up in pitches and presentations on-the-regular. It’s even hanging on our wall in the Santa Monica office. “Seeing it pop up on Shazam everytime I would open the app to discover a new song was the wildest part for me,” Austin said. “Somehow, it became an integral part of everyone’s music experience.” It’s amazing how one special photograph taken by a live event lover continues to remind us of the power of sharing a live experience.

Interested in going beyond ticketing with the Tixr team? Take a look at our open roles.