Guns N Roses Bootlegs Introduction

An Introduction to Bootleg CDs and DVDs

If you're trying to avoid bootlegs, or trying to locate bootlegs for your collection, this is the place to start.  Essentially, bootlegs are recordings that have not been released by an artist's record label.  They could be live recordings, studio outtakes, rehearsals, or jam sessions.  The source for these bootlegs might be CDs or DVDs that are put out by various overseas bootleg labels, recordings made by fans or roadies at concerts, or tapes that one way or another "escaped" from the recording studio.  They may also be recorded from radio or TV broadcasts.

Bootlegging is something A LOT of people disagree with.  Bootlegging is where people go into concerts, record the show, then burn the music/video onto a CD or DVD and, in turn, sell it for monetary profit.  The live music or video may also be downloaded from the Internet.  With today's technology, it is very easy to make a bootleg look official and sell it.  There is a CD Title Printer by Casio that will print artwork, lettering, and labels directly from a computer onto a disc.  Then the fan prints his/her own jewel case liners from any number of band or member photos that were downloaded from the Internet, scanned, or a screenshot taken from a video.  Afterward, the discs can be easily duplicated using a CD Duplicator by TEAC or by using a DVR.  A nice marketable bootleg can be whipped out in a matter of minutes and for no more than a one-time capital investment of around $500 for the equipment, plus $18/50 for printable white cds/dvds, $3.99 ea for printable gold cds, $44/200 clear jewel cases, $50/200 dvd cases and a ream of glossy paper, the return investment can be astounding if it becomes popular like the Guns N' Roses Unplugged CD or the Live in Chicago 92 DVD.

From the record company's point of view, boots are illegal.  By having that recording, you are in *theory* depriving the artist and recording company of their rightful earnings.  The counter-argument to this statement is that if a fan purchases a ticket, the recorded show is paid for.  A fan should have the right to tape the show as a souvenir.  Many bands allow the taping of their shows.  The most famous band to allow taping is the Grateful Dead.  Other bands "look the other way" when it comes to bootlegs.  However, most of these bands that allow taping distinguish between taping for personal use and trading, versus taping for monetary gain.  In the most famous cd case, the Grateful Dead had a store busted for selling boot Dead CDs.  In the most famous video case, Axl stage dove into the audience to confiscate a video recorder from a fan which started the St. Louis riot.

In reality, if you are simply trading tapes/cds or dvds, no matter what artist or where the original material came from, you are not likely to be bothered.  However, if you make it a profitable business...well, I hope you donít get caught.  Itís one thing to expect to be reimbursed for expenses and demand that the other party pay shipping.  Itís quite another to add $30 over and above the value of materials.  When that happens, the bootlegger is charging for time and labor to burn the discs and perhaps to digitally enhance the recording.  That makes it a viable trade, which in turn makes it a bootlegging business and thatís illegal.  Itís also illegal to charge a collector value for a highly sought after bootleg because youíre making a significant profit from the desirability of the item.  You should never pay more than $10 for a bootleg cd and no more than $15 for a bootleg dvd regardless of the rarity or quality of the item.  Otherwise, itís a rip off and the seller is only trying to turn a profit. 

Another type of bootlegging is called pirating.  Pirating occurs when people or companies make copies of legitimate releases and sell them as if they were legitimate.  This type of activity is what record companies are most concerned with.  Pirated recordings are definitely illegal and carry heavy penalties.

Most boot CDs and DVDs are recorded overseas or by foreign fans who attend concerts in the US.  They are then burned in Europe and exported by independent or false recording labels to the United States.  Any time a CD or DVD is listed as RARE or an IMPORT and it is not an official release, itís a bootleg.  The rare/import label and the name of the recording company is how to spot bootlegs.  Guns Ní Rosesí official recording labels (in order of ownership) are: Universal, Warner Brothers, Interscope, Geffen, and Uzi Suicide (no longer exists).  Bootlegs are consistently sold on Ebay illegally, but Ebay is not wise to the practice or the violation of its policies by sellers.  Click on the following search link: Rare Guns N Roses cd and you will see several rare cds listed.  The majority of these are bootlegs, which can be cross-referenced in this guide series.

Personally, I feel that the trading or selling of bootlegs should be allowed and encouraged for several reasons:

1) To increase the availability of rare live or studio recordings.
2) Bootlegs hold academic value to those who study music as an art form.
3) Bootlegs are important to impersonators who cover a particular artist as a trade.
4) Bootlegs offer a rare opportunity for students of music appreciation to analyze the development of a particular sound or recording technique.

The value and importance of bootlegs is immeasurable to those who study music or the performing arts.  Guns N' Roses performs songs live or in the studio that may never be officially released and a bootleg offers the rare opportunity for fans to hear them.  A lot of people cannot attend the live shows and bootlegs benefit them as well.  It isnít enough to simply buy the over-produced albums or attend concerts and hope to memorize every note and movement down to a choreographed facsimile of the original.  In order to be a convincing cover artist or impersonator, one has to be able to improvise and interact with the audience the same as the artist being covered.  The feeling and energy has to be right first.  The skills are developed through practice.  Axl Rose is the best cover artist alive today and this alone makes him a valuable study subject.  Axl has the ability to apply his own style to a song without changing the melody or recognition of that song.  This is an important skill that would benefit any music student.  Studying improvisation is crucial to understanding artistic interpretation.  Though a class in music fundamentals is essential, Axl seems to have a feel for improvisation and this feeling cannot be learned in a classroom.  It has to be experienced.  In my opinion, there is no better way to study improvisation than by analyzing a bootleg.