Part 286: Live! Bootlegs

Part one of a two-part series on bootlegs.

RECORD STORE TALES Part 286: Live! Bootlegs

In the 1990’s, T-Rev befriended a bootlegger named Ralph. I personally purchased from Ralph a Queensryche show that I had attended (and reviewed)  It was a VHS copy of the last date on the Promised Land tour in 1995. Trevor purchased live tapes from him as well. They were usually single-camera, audience filmed videos. Long before Youtube came along, it was the only way you could get videos of shows from bands you liked. Ralph charged between $15 and $20 for his bootleg videos. We even saw him at a Kiss show, covertly filming.

VHS was the common format, usually fuzzy with shitty sound.  I bought a few shows from Ralph of varying quality; thankfully the Queensryche show was watchable enough.  It was a single camera, and unfortunately the beginning of “Take Hold of the Flame” was cut off.  Still, it was a great memento of the Promise Land tour.

A lot has changed since the 1990’s. Youtube has made great vintage concert footage easily accessible for anyone. New concert footage? Usually up later that night or the next day, unless the record labels try to take it down. Regardless, unless you are hunting for a specific show, chances are Youtube have concert footage of just about every band you like, for free.  They do not have footage of the Toronto Queensryche show I saw in ’95, for example, but there are plenty of videos from that tour out there for free.

Bootleg CDs? Same deal. You can find a seemingly infinite amount of concerts online.  I would never purchase a burned bootleg CD anymore. I only collect factory pressed bootleg CDs, which are still being made. They’re a lot harder to come by, because again, most people can download mp3 files from any live show you can think of, for free. If they feel like burning them to a CD they can, or just keep ‘em on the computer or iPod. Hell, way back in the late 1990’s, our own CD stores were selling burned live bootlegs. I never liked doing that but it wasn’t my choice.  (We didn’t make them; we bought them in huge numbers from a customer.)

Above is an actual CD that we sold in-store.  This is one of only two times I bought a burned CD for myself.  We stickered this one at $19.99, and we put a label on it that said “live import” so we didn’t have to use the word “bootleg”.

When I attended the the Toronto Musical Collectibles Record & CD Sale last week, I was pleased to find lots of new factory pressed bootleg CDs.  I’m glad that industry is still alive somewhere in Europe.  I was surprised to see burned bootleg CDs and DVDs for sale, still. In this day and age? There is no way I could pay anyone even $5 for a burned bootleg CD. I saw many: Tori Amos’ first album, Y Kant Tori Read, is one of the most heavily bootlegged albums in my experience, and I saw a burned copy for $5. No thanks. T-Rev found a burned copy of Kim Mitchell’s first solo EP. No thanks!  If you can’t find or afford an original copy, it’s all online.  Just burn, print some cover art on your Epson and you’re off to the races, right?

Ralph was still there, now selling shows on DVD.  The one he was showing was still just concert footage from a single audience camera. I couldn’t have justified paying $15 for a burned DVD of that. (Some vendors were even selling bootleg Blu-rays.)  Truthfully, I was very surprised.  I thought something like that had little monetary value to anyone in 2014.

At least the tables and tables of burned bootleggers were easy to skip, so I could concentrate on better finds. On the drive home, Trevor and I pondered, how could Ralph stay in business? Who would pay good money for a burned CD or DVD bootleg? Times have certainly changed.

Would you pay $15 for a burned DVD bootleg of your favourite band? Under what circumstances? Or, would you save your money and just download?  Leave a comment and discuss!




  1. When I first got into music, I got two factory pressed Slayer bootlegs, and wasn’t sure if they were real releases or not for a while (I was young, wikipedia wasn’t famous yet).

    I also knowingly got a few The Libertines burned bootleg cds/dvds becuase they broke up before releasing a live album.

    Back in the day, my brother got a bootleg Tool DVD and VHS, and a bootleg American Headcharge VHS…that the band themselves sold on ebay to raise studio money.

    Nowadays I couldn’t give a crap about bootlegs. I might have a look on youtube if nothing official is available, but I wouldnt ever buy anything. I can barely afford to buy official stuff I want never mind bootlegs. That and I’m spoiled, and prefer to have super-high quality production value.

    I got Bootleg Quality Pantera and Biohazard DVDs from a real HMV shop in around 2009-2010, and I’ve become so spoiled for quality that they were basically unwatchable.


    1. I really enjoyed your perspective King! Sometimes as a collector, I forget that not all music fans value the same things.

      We are definitely treated to a wide selection of super high quality live albums. There have been excellent recent ones by bands such as Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and Iron Maiden that essentially beat the bootleggers. By releasing multiple live albums with different setlists, bands really can delete any demand for a bootleg of questionable quality.

      Where I go nuts for a bootleg, and we will follow up on this tomorrow, is when there is a band that I follow religiously, but they don’t have a live album to represent an important part of their history.

      A great example is Deep Purple. They have two short lived lineups that never recorded live albums. The infamous Joe Lynn Turner fronted Deep Purple Mark V, and the better-received Deep Purple with Joe Satriani. I bought a video bootleg of a Satriani show in Belgium years ago. The quality was not there at all, but at the time there was no other way to hear it.

      Today, if somebody was selling a great CD quality boot of a Satriani or Joe Lynn Turner show, I would buy them at a reasonable price.


      1. I could understand that. Nowadays I’ll fulfill the missing history thing via youtube, but yeah, I remember buying an animals era Pink Floyd bootleg really badly when I first go into the band.


        1. I’ve got a nice DVD of that, one of the shows they filmed for the movie but didn’t include because it “looked crappy.”

          I was glad to own it at the time I was most into Floyd, but nowadays, I just stick in Roger Waters Wall Live In Berlin….

          as I say… I’ve become a quality snob.


  2. I’ve never been interested in buying bootlegs. The only one I’ve ever bought and genuinely enjoyed would have been Carnival of Souls before that got officially released. I’ve got interested in hearing some bootleg recordings (mostly KISS) recently but there’s no way I’m paying for them. With the possible exception of the radio broadcast cds that come out now. At least with those you know you’re getting good performances and sound quality.


    1. Again, I often forget that as a collector, not everyone values the same things as me!

      When I worked at the store, I had a policy regarding bootlegs: I wanted anything by any band I liked, period. Because used, they were scarce, and much cheaper.

      I pretty much did that. I have about 10 Kiss bootlegs from back then. I have some great Maiden and Faith No More stuff from back then. And you can’t argue with the staff discount aspect.

      The one that I didn’t buy, that I wish I had, was an early Black Crowes bootleg. Chris did a lot of what I call his “preachin'”. “The Black Crooooooowes are coming to your town people.” That exaggerated preacher voice. I loved it. Wish I bought that CD.


  3. I bought VHS bootlegs out of some guy in Montreal thru the mail.
    The better one was the Halen US Featival vid kinda grainy but Dave was beyond fucked up and it was so rare at the time……
    Pretty $ too with shipping but worth it…..
    Audio CDs as long as they were soundboard I would by…audience recording I wasn’t gonna pay $ for to here some yahoo scream some drunkin babble…


    1. A buddy of mine had the US festival vid. Now it’s all on youtube in great quality sound.

      One of the best audience recordings I have is a Kiss club show on the Revenge tour. Sounds awesome for an audience recording!


  4. Yeah I bought a few of those bootlegs in yer shop. The internet sure wasn’t what it is now. Would I plump for a ripped botleg now? Probably not. Unless it was GBV. Always GBV.


  5. I have tons of bootleg DVD’s from various artist, love them. I do not buy them as often as I once did, because I have run out of space and life, with marriage, kids, jobs, etc I just do not have time to watch them. I have a few CD bootlegs, loved them and back then it was more exciting, no youtube, or ebay, so finding one was like finding the ark.


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