Ongoing History of New Music

The Ongoing History of New Music, episode 1008: Another look at bootleg records, part 2

Once upon a time, I was deep into collecting bootleg recordings of my favourite bands. This obsession came from a really good place. At least I thought so.

I’d already bought all the albums and singles, collected a bunch of memorabilia, snapped up the t-shirts, and gone to all the shows. But I wanted more. The only place left to go was unofficial—read: illegal—releases.

Almost everything I accumulated was on CD. Some were burned discs that I traded for with other hardcore fans. I might have gone to eBay occasionally before they started cracking down on things. There were a few stores I knew that stocked these discs for special customers. Whenever I went overseas to certain countries where copyright laws were lax—Russia, Indonesia, a few places in the Caribbean—I’d be sure to visit the market stalls to see what they had.

I honestly wasn’t trying to rip off or hurt anyone. I just loved these bands so much that I needed to own a copy of everything they did. Once, when I talked about my bootlegs on the radio—probably not a smart idea—I got a letter from the head of a recorded industry organization calling me “morally reprehensible.”

But over the years, these hardcopy bootlegs became harder and harder to find, thanks to crackdowns on illegal exploitation of intellectual property, the disappearance of these record stores, and, most importantly, the rise of online file-sharing. By 2008 or so, the physical bootleg market had all but collapsed. I haven’t acquired anything new for my collection for almost a couple of decades now.

But I’ve never lost my fascination for these recordings. Where did they come from? How were they made? Who distributed them? Did they really hurt artists and the industry? And what kind of legacy did old-school bootlegs leave behind?

I’ve found some answers to those questions and more. This is another look at bootlegging, part 2.

Songs heard on this show:

  • Smashing Pumpkins, 1979 (Sadlands demo)
  • Oasis, Roll with It (Live)
  • Sex Pistols, Seventeen (Live)
  • Blur, Parklife (Live)
  • REM, So. Central Rain (Live)
  • Jane’s Addiction, Been Caught Stealin’ (Live)
  • Stone Roses, She Bangs the Drums (Live)
  • U2, Vertigo

And there’s this playlist from Eric Wilhite.

The Ongoing History of New Music can be heard on the following stations:

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38053 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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