Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Is That A Recorder In Your Pocket, Or Are You Just Glad To See Me?

This post will probably be lost on anyone who’s not a huge music fan. FYI.

The
bootleg has long been the bane of rock music. I imagine sneaking a tape recorder into a concert has probably been going on as long as portable recorders have been around.

Often the intent is to sell these surreptitious live recordings to hungry fans at record conventions (or now, online). (A different type of boot, which I am not addressing here, involves stealing tapes from a recording studio.)

The quality of these recordings is sometimes unintentionally hilarious. Like when the people nearby the recorder are talking louder than the musicians are playing.

You hear people who don’t actually know what group they’re seeing; they yell out song titles of other groups. You overhear men brag of specific acts they’ve undertaken with specific women. All this is immortalized on tape for the ages.

Boot track listings are typically quite a treat in themselves. They are rife with typos. When a bootlegger doesn’t know the title of a song he’ll simply resort to naming it what he thinks the lead singer is saying. (What the hell is a "Pumpkin Black Clash?")

Digital recorders have sweetened the bootlegging deal. The bootlegger can capture an entire show without flipping the tape over, and with superior sound quality. Meaning there’s no music lost to the eventual boot owner.

As a person who doesn’t typically buy or trade boots, nor ever recorded a show himself, but who has received a number of them over the years, I know the pitfalls and the virtues of boots.

People like myself, who are serious fans of a couple bands, would gladly shell out cash for the legitimate equivalent of these recordings, if such products existed. But, they typically don’t.

King Crimson have made an extensive backlog of concerts available through their website for a fee; Frank Zappa and Emerson, Lake & Palmer have taken boots of their shows and put them out on their own labels. They are in the minority.

I was too young to see many of my favorite bands in their heyday. I missed tour after tour of bands that I would eventually come to idolize. How do you catch up for missing a heyday?

Sure, there are live albums, but they offer select tunes from select shows. People like me enjoy complete shows, sometimes featuring those odd songs the bands never seem to play anymore. If they are even around anymore.

Groups have complained that they are denied profits from the sale of these illicit recordings (see "People like myself..." above). But the approach that most take – prohibiting recording devices from their concerts – actually helps the boot market. If you let people who want to record a show do so, they won’t be buying it from a bootlegger.

Even in that scenario, there may still be a market for boots, but with the market saturated by so many recordings (facilitated by permitting recording, as bands like the Grateful Dead have done), it will be small and struggling. With choices available to consumers, sellers would be forced to lower their prices, or may find the hassle not worthwhile for their return on investment.

Some groups also complain about their fans getting an inferior product. But it’s not the fans who are complaining. For me, getting to hear an entire concert that took place when I was probably already in bed for Kindergarten the next day is an incredible thrill.

Many boots that were initially made for vinyl and sold for ridiculous prices are now available for download on the Internet for free.

Technology may eventually make the whole boot thing moot. It’s easy for people to download things onto/off of private servers. It’s also easy to create a CD from that. And another. And another.

Further, cameras and recorders, historically banned from concerts, are now integrated right into cell phones. And no one seems to be saying “No cell phones allowed” at rock concerts.

It’s conceivable one of these devices will soon have the capacity to store a significant amount of audio and/or video information. Then the whole thing may be over.

Rock bands, do protect your interests. But also take delight in the knowledge that there are so many people keen to hear your music out there.

9 comments:

Hellpig said...

no takers on this one Bogs...next topic?

Pete Bogs said...

that'll do, pig...

Hellpig said...

Actually if you wanna discuss pirated software which I am a fan of...I was using XP Pro 3 months before it was even public and 50% of my software is copied from news groups and never paid a red cent for...I lost touch with my music interests which means I no longer buy CD's or have a state of the art system to play them on,all my music is via FM radio

The next generation console video games have dominated my entertainment budget.I have owned every system ever to hit the market except for the last 2 the Wii and the PS3 which I will never purchase due to the fact XBOX 360 owns them all

K9 said...

/bark bark bark

i need illustrator 12 helly!

this is actually an interesting topic. how does one safeguard their intellectual and creative property when it is floating around in the ether? WIRED had a great article on this a few years back...the gist of the editorial was that you would always have to go back to the source for the next idea, and that giving for free: ie boots and downloads and free samples was a way to build clientele the same way that first free sample of crack did. grrherha

and yeah there are lots of bands that encourage recordings, look at the explosion of band advertising on my space and places like that...it circumvents the monolithic record labels and i like that. and saves money on the advertising machine which spends fortunes on pop tarts while talented songwritiers and real musicians work a day jobs at the guitar shop. i dont know how this will sort its self out.

i just want the artists to get their money.

/grrr

Pete Bogs said...

hell - you can rip a game as easily as a music CD... it all depends on your interests...

k9 - I was hoping to hear from you on this... I agree about the artists and their money, and I said, would love "legit" releases of some of these shows... I haven't done the newsgroup thing, but have generous friends who know my tastes... I see the musician in the guitar shop as akin to the actress who's waiting tables, though in the musician's case it's at least relevant to their interests... but I don't need to tell about "paying your dues"

Hellpig said...

Dawg find a newsgroup and register with them most are about $5.00 a month..then post what you are looking for and someone will post the software in sections for your downloading pleasure

K9 said...

/bark bark bark

i download all kinds of music. when theres something that really sticks, i buy the cd. i buy more cd's now that i listen at will for free.

it boils down to the path of least resistance. its a clunkier process to go legit at .99 a song than log on with your p2p and explore

i like that theres more control at the grassroots level...the way bands get known now. with available tools get you as independent as you want to be. right now seems like the messy disorganization that preceeds a big shift.

i have a jimi hendrix live in NYC 1969 and a blue merle in some little club somewhere. both are in my top 20 rotation. you can hear conversation in the club in both recordings, chairs scraping floor, glass, static....they have the raw athentic appeal that makes art blaze.

i want artists to get their money by seeing the shift and adapting to it quickly. theres plenty who do. when it works they will have financial and creative control over their product.

i listen to my itunes radio 75% of the time. the other day i listened to a playlist assembled by david byrne and a station out of east africa. many stations are still run by labor of love types....but they are bringing to me stuff i would never know. its a free for all for creative endeavor right now in history. gotta figure out how to exploit it to our strengths.

/grr

/grrr

Bird said...

i am a deadhead.(kind of like being a catholic, bogs - once a deadhead, always a deadhead - but i don't twirl).

i have a small collection of bootleg dead tapes/cds. the quality is quite good.

yeah, the Dead encouraged their fans to record - they even set up a special tapers' section at each concert for folks recording. and we loved it! most tapers didn't sell the tapes, but traded. this still goes on today - i have a friend who burns cds of the various shows in his collection as trades for shows not included in his collection. and sometimes just for empty discs. and sometimes just because he's a nice guy.

the dead in the studio always sucked. that wasn't their gig.

in their heyday, they earned more money than any other American touring band. not because of their ticket prices, but because they played so much.

but they weren't greedy. the Dead "machine" made all the Dead members a more than decent living and supplied a more than decent living to numerous others.

of course, in later years, the dead argued a bit amongst themselves about the availability of their work via the Internet.
but the tapers still trade. barter. but never an exhange of money. they don't profit off the dead's creativity.

Pete Bogs said...

bird - I saw the Dead at Alpine Valley in '86, and was impressed by the taper section... people had stereo mics up on stands and everything... sweet... the Dead really understood the value of allowing the audience to record... I used to go to these record shows, and I never saw Dead material for sale... saw many other groups, though, who didn't allow recordings... I think it's a combination of (as I said) of people not needing to buy them because they can make them or trade them, and of devoted fans who wouldn't sell their band's work...