bootlegs




Being a seriously obsessed music fan all my life, I spent a good deal of energy acquiring forbidden music. Outtakes, demos, forgotten albums... all fair game. Often, the 'unreleased material' was really insightful. Since it wasn't released, they generally weren't fully produced. So, you get a raw cut of the song. This gives me more insight to the song writer, and how he/she thinks and build their material.

The holy grail of this was always live albums. Why? Because record companies worked extremely hard to make sure you never ever heard anything live forever (until recently). The reasons were often practical, sometimes not. What was practical is that live recording, for the most part, still sucks major ass. It is really tough to authenticate a live show after the fact. Some of it is emotional (you are seeing them in PERSON, man. Also you are drunk and high and took those pink pills). So, seeing a concert is an extremely subjective experience... as it should be. Another reason why labels wisely never released live material is because many bands totally sucked live.

Most bands were made in the studio. Professional songwriters (research Brill Building on this one), professional musicians (research Jimmy Page playing on the first Stone's albums secretly) for this one.

However, the other reason why labels so carefully protected live content was simply retarded. They figured if you could trade this live music with your friends, you would never buy the studio albums. This isn't my theory, it's a fact that is well discussed in Clinton Heylin's masterful work 'Bootleg'. Right, they figured if you could just listen to your buddies cassette of Pearl Jam's unplugged set... you would never buy a proper and full priced album.

They were super wrong about this. If I am going to listen to this absolutely shitty fourth generation hiss fest that may or may not actually contain music back there... I am certainly going to kick down for the studio cuts. I referenced Pearl Jam here because they, like the Grateful Dead, revolutionized the live release business. See, Pearl Jam found out that rare cuts and concerts were sneaking out of Italy (no copyright laws there on live performances) and hard core fans were being charged $30 for thee songs. Often, the cuts weren't mastered well. So, dig what PJ did. They re-released the bootlegs themselves. They would take the same track listing but make sure it was of best quality. Then, they would mimic the bootleg cover verbatim. Then, they would only charge $10.

How could you tell they did this? Each PJ released 'bootleg' has a sticker on it that says
"not to be confused with the more expensive identical import version"

Others have done this. Ian McKay (Fugazi) put stickers on every single cassette saying "do not pay more than $7.99 for this disc. Metallica did something similar with the $9.98 ep. Jimmy Buffet plays his concerts live over his own radio station in real time over the web. The great progenitors of this were the Grateful Dead. They not only sanctioned live taping, they set up a 'tapers section' at each concert for the most optimal audio sound. In addition, for years they allowed tapers to plug directly into the soundboard. Ask any Deadhead about ''77, fall shows. all Soundboard" and they will go apeshit.

Pearl Jam gets huge credit for not only allowing taping, but selling their shows wholesale to the fans. You can prepay for a concert (about $10 for a three hour set) and they will e mail you the MP3 of the show that night... before you get home from the actual concert. Then, they will mail you a mastered copy of that show two weeks later. Pearl Jam once put up every single show (which they now do as standard issue) from a tour on one day. They set a billboard record for having the most albums on the top 100 simultaneously. That day changed everything in the industry. They stood up and took notice.

I just got an offer yesterday for a Willie Nelson show. For an extra $30 on top of my ticket price, I can leave the venue with an MP3 of that show I had just seen as I walk to the parking lot.

Dave Matthews band gets a lot of credit too, in my mind. They didn't do anything different (they allow taping), but they are the biggest band in 30 years to allow it. Now? Now I trade MP3s over e mail with buddies. It's hardly even commerce anymore... just information for dork obsessed fans. Thank god for Cds, no more second and third and fourth generation boots (which were mostly hiss at that point, and don't even mention that piece of shit Dobly treble shredder). Digital music replicates almost perfectly.

in closing, what does all of this have to do with a naked Jake Plummer up there? Nothing at all. Stop being such a square.

Comments

rgdaniel said…
Frank Zappa did something similar with his "Beat the Boots" series, releasing official versions of widely available bootlegs. Not sure if they offered any improvement in quality, and I don't think it was part of some magnanimous ideology that such performances should be widely available. I think he just hated getting ripped off. Robert Fripp is like that as well -- he is still actively mining and marketing the vast King Crimson live legacy, and is known (perhaps apocryphally) for tracking down bootleggers and showing up at their door, requesting they hand over the goods.
Lono said…
according to the Steven Davis Zep bio (Hammer of the Gods), band manager Peter Grant would visit the record stores in the towns when the band would tour there. he would look for Zeppelin boots and personally destroy them on site.

It was said he would also bust heads of anyone caught taping in the audience. Judging by the ugly lawsuit and mess with Bill Graham's kid, I believe every story.
mack said…
I m looking forward to next update!
funny!

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