An Introduction

I first became interested in 4AD, a UK independent record label founded in 1980, towards the end of the '80's. I was falling in love with the music of Dead Can Dance, Clan of Xymox, Pixies, Bauhaus and The Birthday Party and was surprised when the 4AD label sampler "Lonely Is An Eyesore" came out in 1987 that all these bands were from the same label.

After visiting a Pre-Raphaelite exhibition of some American's collection of art, I came to thinking of all this musical art that 4AD have released that may one day drift into obscurity unless someone shows it as art. So now I'm on a crusade, to collect the first ten years of 4AD's releases and exhibit the collection on 4AD's 50th anniversary in 2030. This is a big task which will have some interesting twists and turns along the way.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Beg, steal or bootleg?

I’ve taken it upon myself to have a go at trading online. Maybe it can help fund this epic project at least in some small way. I have therefore been buying in stock where I can find it cheaply. While doing this I noticed and bought an item that has brought up interesting questions about authenticity and bootlegging.

The greater problem I have is with defining at what point does a demo or promo start to look dodgy and counterfeit? The cost of making vinyl and the equipment needed to do it, meant that a counterfeit copy had to make more than the cost of making it. So to a certain extent very common and generally easy releases didn’t justify the effort needed to copy them. But cassette tapes and CD’s are very cheap to copy. An issue arises when you see a demo tape or promo tape for sale. Sometimes these can be quite polished and well finished, looking as professional as the full release it promotes. These aren’t too bad to take a risk on as they would cost more to replicate, so a counterfeiter may not have bothered to replicate one of these. Some demos and promos though, are little more than a TDK tape with handwriting on the label and a cover of handwritten song names.

The big problem is knowing what is genuine and what isn’t. The TDK tape with handwritten labels may be genuine, but is it worth part of a collection. It’s not a release, it’s just a promoter at the record company copying the album onto tape and sending it out for review.

Then there’s bootlegs. These are unofficial releases. They can be either a counterfeit copy of an album or an interview or live performance cut onto vinyl. The Birthday Party’s Junkyard LP is  a fine example. The album was released in Germany on the GeeBeeDee label. But there is a white label version (which you may think would be a test pressing) with the same GeeBeeDee label on the cover. The only real giveaway is the poorer quality of the sound and the poor reproduction of the cover of poor quality card, it also has no matrices on the run out. It does make you wonder why someone does this. But then I found and bought it for 15 Euros (Muppet!). Should these be collected, well I think I need it so as to be able to distinguish between what is real and what is counterfeit.

Then there are other bootlegs that have more value. These are demo versions, live recordings, interviews etc. For me these are valuable in a collection. They don’t steal work from the record label, as the record label could easily release stuff like this themselves.

They add another dimension to the portfolio of work from a band. The greater downside is that the band themselves don’t receive any loyalties. But then they don’t always from the label either.

The other downside to some of these recordings is the state of the production. Live recordings are usually made by a guy stood at the back of a venue with a little tape recorder and a cheap handheld microphone. The quality can be atrocious, and can be mixed in with the general chit chat you usually find at the back of gig, some drunk arsewipe singing badly to the songs, or some dimwit boasting to his mate about how he took this “bird” home last weekend. I used to see the bootleggers at record fairs in the eighties. Rows of cassettes with badly photocopied covers of all the gigs the guy had been to with his trusty tape recorder.

So I suppose the question is what should I collect and what should I not. I include some bootlegs and not others. My argument at the moment, is that straight copied releases such as the Birthday Party example are fraudulent and illegal copies. The example such as the Cocteau Twins interview picture disc, are not copyrighted releases by the label and so are a greater insight into the artists themselves.

Saying that though, I still went and bought the Birthday Party bootleg. At least I know the difference now though between the bootleg and the actual release it copied.

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