Back in the days before MP3s, the most popular way to get unauthorized recordings was on something called a “bootleg.” You know, just like bootleg liquor.
Bootleg records and CDs were, essentially, the way music piracy was conducted before peer-to-peer file sharing. They contained live performances, demos, outtakes–all kinds of stuff to which the general public wasn’t every supposed to gain access.
But thanks to some interesting copyright laws in places like Italy, Mexico, Germany and Singapore, there was, for a time, a very thriving bootleg industry. For example, there was a very famous series of Nirvana CD bootlegs called Outcesticide. They are VERY good (trust me) and they still show up on eBay. And here’s a question: who started the whole bootleg phenomenon?
The sale and trading of unauthorized recordings goes back to the year 1900 when Lionel Mapleson, the librarian at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, started making surreptitious recordings from a secret perch 40 feet above the stage. He would then share these recordings with, uh, like-minded music fans. File sharing–or in the case of Lionel Mapleson, wax cylinder sharing–has been around a lot longer than just about anyone realizes.