music collecting

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!

MET3

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