The vinyl bootleg. Not only do these exist, but they are making their grand return.
The bootleg started in 1969 when some hippies created the Great White Wonder, containing unreleased Bob Dylan recordings. This may seem like thing of the past but vinyl bootlegs are back!
First we need to understand what exactly a bootleg is. A bootleg is a recording of an audio or video performance that was not officially released by the artist. This can often been confused with piracy, which is the copying of an official recording for profit. As you can imagine, the legality when it comes to bootlegging can be murky.
Companies like Keyhole Records are finding legal loopholes to bring you classic recordings. They use unofficial product only, like live tapes, radio sessions, outtakes and concert footage. Most of these vinyl bootlegs are manufactured in Europe where the laws are a little different.
In the 80s and 90s vinyl bootlegs of unreleased material were acceptable so long as it was recorded abroad and labels paid all the proper mechanical royalties. In time the labels evolved and went on to produce bootleg CD’s with unofficial material. Naturally with the rise of file sharing, Mp3s and sources like Napster, the process of bootlegging died and the music industry changed forever.
With the recent return of vinyl and a fan base to follow, we are now seeing the vinyl bootlegging industry resurfacing. Believe it or not, there’s even a bootleg cassette label Das Boot Tapes. A common factor of these grey market bootleg labels is all royalties must be paid to the nearest local rights society (like the Recording Artists’ Collecting Society), where they would then be distributed to artists appropriately.
Artists still try to fight bootlegging by releasing their own live albums. Even though vinyl bootlegs have returned, the way we buy them has changed. Once upon a time, bootlegs could be found in the back of car trunks, or in an ad in the back pages of collectors magazines. Now it’s much easier to pick up that LP you’ve been after. Many can be purchased on Amazon and you can even find those live recordings on iTunes. Not only have the channels to buy bootlegs evolved, but the buyers after them have also changed. Fifteen years ago, the bootleg market was primarily DJs, now its amateur record buyers.
The legal aspect of the whole bootlegging thing remains murky. But because vinyl bootlegs are mostly imports being produced in Europe, the legal loopholes exist and the sources remain obscured. The vinyl labels try to stay under the radar and within their legality. With vinyl bootlegs easier than ever to get your hands on, your favourite artists repertoire is at your fingertips.