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Bootleg recording

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Bootleg recording

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A bootleg recording is an audio or video recording of a performance that was not officially released by the artist or under other legal authority. A great many such recordings are simply copied and traded among fans of the artist without financial exchange, but some bootleggers are able to sell these rarities for profit, sometimes by adding professional-quality sound engineering and packaging to the raw material.

Some artists consider any release for which they do not receive royalties to be equivalent to a bootleg, even if it is an officially licensed release. This is often the case with artists whose recordings have either become public domain or whose original agreements did not include reissue royalties (which was a common occurrence in the 1950s and before).

The market outlets for bootlegs-for-sale have been varied. Swap meets, street vending, record collector shows, and smaller record stores would stock them. Mail order and Internet sources were advertised by word of mouth, and there have been assorted unique sources for individual bands. There were major bootleg markets in Japan and Europe for bands like KISS, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and Queen.


Sources of material

Some bootlegs consist of works-in-progress or discarded material without the artist's involvement, and sometimes against his or her will; these might be made from master recordings stolen or copied from a recording studio or a record label's offices, or from demo recordings.

Live bootlegs

Bootlegs can also be recorded "unofficially" with gear smuggled into a live concert—many artists and most live venues prohibit this form of recording (many, on the other hand, actually allow this—The Grateful Dead is famous for explicitly allowing their shows to be taped), but modern portable technology has made such bootlegging increasingly easy and has dramatically improved the quality of "audience" recordings.

A number of bootlegs originated with FM radio broadcasts of live or previously recorded live performances.


"Official" bootlegs

Many recordings first distributed as bootleg albums were later released officially by the copyright holder; for instance in 2002 Dave Matthews Band released Busted Stuff in response to the Internet-fueled success of The Lillywhite Sessions which they had not intended to release, while The Beatles' release of their Anthology albums effectively killed the demand for many Beatles bootlegs previously available.

  • Bob Dylan has released an entire bootleg series, which as of 2005 had seven "volumes" (but only five discrete releases).
  • Frank Zappa released two series of Beat the Boots recordings in 1991 and 1992, remastered directly from bootleg discs. Zappa also copied the packaging directly from the bootleg releases, adding no additional material other than a cardboard box (they were available as a boxed set of LPs or as individual CD releases).
  • In 1994, Prince finally released The Black Album, initially shelved in 1987 and widely bootlegged since then.
  • The Smashing Pumpkins' last official album, MACHINA II/The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music, was distrubited to fans on vinyl and released independently as a gesture of defiance to Virgin Records, who the band felt didn't give them the support they needed.
  • Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy is one of the most vocal pro-bootleg musicians (despite the band not having an open taping policy), running an official bootleg label called YtseJam Records.

Authorized live bootlegs

An increasing number of artists, such as the Grateful Dead, Metallica, Phish, Dave Matthews Band, The Smashing Pumpkins, U2, Ween, the German electronic music ensemble Tangerine Dream, and Medeski Martin & Wood have allowed and encouraged live audience recording, but they and their fans generally consider selling such recordings—as opposed to keeping them for one's own personal enjoyment or trading them for other audience recordings—to be illegitimate bootlegging. The Mars Volta also encourage bootlegging, and nearly every show the band has ever played has been recorded, but when the band released their live album Scabdates, sales did not seem to suffer.

Fans cite the encouragement of these recordings as a key factor in their long-term loyalty to these bands.

A few artists like Peter Gabriel, Jimmy Buffett, Fugazi, Pearl Jam and Duran Duran have responded to the demand for bootleg concert recordings by experimenting with the sale of authorized bootlegs made directly from the unmixed soundboard feeds, or from on-the-fly multi-track mixes, and thus superior to surreptitious audience recordings which are typically marred by crowd noise. These releases are generally available a few days to a few weeks after the concert.

In the mid-2000s, improving technology in high-speed CD reproduction made some of these "official boots" available to audience members immediately as they leave the concert; however, a key patent in the process (that of dividing the single recording into discrete digitally marked tracks) was bought by media giant Clear Channel Communications, which has led to complaints from smaller competitors and uncertainty on the future development of the technology in the United States.

Bootlegging in the vinyl era

In Los Angeles there were a number of record mastering and pressing plants that were not "first in line" to press records for the major labels, usually only getting work when the larger plants were overloaded. These pressing plants were more than happy to generate income by pressing bootlegs of dubious legality. Sometimes they just hid the bootleg work when record company executives would come around (in which case the bootleg record labels could show the artist and song names) and other times secrecy required labels with fictitious names. For example, a 1972 Pink Floyd bootleg called Brain Damage was released under the name The Screaming Abdabs.

Collectors generally relied on Hot Wacks, which was a catalog of known bootlegs published annually, for the actual artists and track listings as well as source and sound quality information.

Bastard pop

Main article: bastard pop

In the early 2000s, "bootleg" became an alternate term for bastard pop or "mashups", a style of remix melding two or more music records into each other to make a new piece of music out of the old components. The term was likely derived from the fact that early examples copied sound clips without paying royalties to the original artist. Among the most popular artists in this genre are The Freelance Hellraiser, Soundhog, Go Home Productions, Soulwax and Lionel Vinyl.

Bootlegging vs. piracy vs. counterfeiting

Bootlegging is often incorrectly referred to as piracy but there are important differences between the two terms. Bootlegging is trafficking in recordings that the record companies have not commercially released and may or may not be legal. Piracy is the illegal copying/sale of recordings that are available commercially or are planned/scheduled for commercial release.

A pirate release is further distinguished from a counterfeit. Counterfeits attempt to mimic the look of officially released product; pirate releases do not necessarily do so, possibly substituting cover art or creating new compilations of a group's released songs. A counterfeit is always a pirate but a pirate is not necessarily a counterfeit. Historically, pirate (but not counterfeit) releases were widespread in the 8-track cartridge format, many with labels spuriously claiming that "all royalties have been paid."

"Bootlegging" is sometimes also used to refer to the unlicensed filesharing of copyrighted music but, as alluded to above, the term piracy is often more appropriate.

External links

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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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