From - Sun Oct 15 13:27:07 2000 Return-Path: Received: from ([]) by (InterMail vM. 201-229-121) with ESMTP id <> for ; Thu, 12 Oct 2000 16:37:31 -0400 Received: from ([]) by with smtp (Exim 3.15 #2) id 13jp6Y-0001Ui-00 for; Thu, 12 Oct 2000 16:37:30 -0400 Received: (qmail 11238 invoked by uid 0); 12 Oct 2000 20:37:28 -0000 Received: from unknown (HELO ( by with SMTP; 12 Oct 2000 20:37:28 -0000 Received: from by via smtpd (for []) with SMTP; 12 Oct 2000 20:30:19 UT MIME-Version: 1.0 Content-Type: multipart/mixed; boundary=------------InterScan_NT_MIME_Boundary Message-Id: From: Bcc: Date: Thu, 12 Oct 2000 16:37:30 -0400 X-Mozilla-Status: 8001 X-Mozilla-Status2: 00000000 X-UIDL: --------------InterScan_NT_MIME_Boundary Content-Type: message/rfc822 Received: by with Internet Mail Service (5.5.2650.21) id <4X265W5G>; Thu, 12 Oct 2000 13:37:02 -0700 Message-ID: From: "Svoboda, Brian-WDC" To: "''" Subject: Sages Part II Date: Thu, 12 Oct 2000 13:32:58 -0700 MIME-Version: 1.0 X-Mailer: Internet Mail Service (5.5.2650.21) Content-Type: application/octet-stream; name="editorial.htm" Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable Content-Disposition: attachment; filename="editorial.htm" editorial

An = internet debate=20 organised by THE HITTER and WANTED.

This time not an editorial as usual. What's = published=20 here is the result of an on-line discussion between a couple of people = that have=20 a high profile in the Bruce-internet circles. Richard Breton, Flynn = McClean run=20 popular websites. Richard has one of the largest Bruce bootlegs = database=20 available on line and Flynn Mclean's Boots page is a serious source for = various=20 sorts of info on Bruce. Joe Schwind is a long time Bruce fan and a=20 representative for the tape collecting-side of the Bruce community. = This on-line=20 discussion was started up and lead by Brian Svoboda, who runs the The=20 Hitter-webpage. Previous parts of this discussion dealt with various = issues=20 connected to Bruce and can be found on THE = HITTER-webpage.
This discussion was about bootlegs and related = subjects and=20 we thought it would be appropriate to place the result on this = page.
This is=20 how things went.

Brian Svoboda: The=20 question of whether Bruce will play new material on the road this = spring brings=20 us to the whole question of bootlegging. Rich said earlier -- and I = assume he=20 was referring to Bob Dylan -- that some artists are loath to play new = material=20 live, and that Bruce might be one of them.

Just where are Bruce = and the=20 organization right now on the whole subject of taping and bootlegging? = Is their=20 position really any different from what it was before = 1999?

Flynn=20 McLean: Certainly that has not been the case, as Bruce played = numerous songs=20 on almost every tour before they were officially released. He's also = played=20 relatively obscure covers that were unfamiliar to most fans. The 1999 = tour would=20 actually finish last on the "unreleased songs played live" list with = only one.=20 Even the 92-93 tour had two, until November 1992 when both "Red Headed = Woman"=20 and "Light of Day" were shown on the MTV Plugged special. I find it=20 disappointing that Bruce is now hesitant to play material previously=20 unreleased.

Is your question more "Bruce doesn't want to play = new=20 material because it will end up on bootlegs and then the album won't = sell" or=20 "the general anti-taping/bootlegging issue"? The organization should = realize=20 that while the group that collects bootlegs is quite vocal, they are = still a=20 very small percentage of the audience on any given night, and that = [even though]=20 an entire album's worth of material is played this spring and ends up = on that=20 new Crystal Cat bootleg, 99.9% of his fans will still buy the official = release.=20 As other people have pointed out repeatedly, it's just another example = of the=20 Organization being out of touch.

However, as a collector, my = hope would=20 be that [the reason] Bruce hasn't played any new material is because he = is=20 uncomfortable with it, and not because he's afraid it will end up on a = bootleg.=20 Of course, as a fan, I would hope that Bruce would feel comfortable to = play=20 anything.

Jan Rodenrijs: I don't believe that Bruce is so = occupied=20 with bootlegging that he lets the playing of new songs being influenced = by that.=20 In that case, the set list would never change and one-offs would be = completely=20 absent. The number of different songs played is probably higher than = most if not=20 all previous tours. Change makes for interesting shows, and [is] = therefore . . .=20 more likely to inspire bootlegs.

The reason why the introduction = of new=20 songs is unlikely is because Bruce doesn't really take time to = rehearse. Even=20 before the tour the rehearsing wasn't that extensive. It is apparent = that the E=20 Street Band isn't the smooth running machine they once were. They know = the=20 Springsteen catalogue (most of the time) and that's about it. Anything = new is=20 most likely to be far-fetched for that reason, not because of the=20 bootleggers.

I don't think [Bruce's position on taping is any = different].=20 In Europe security was pretty lax, although Terry was a menace for the = first few=20 rows.) I think their policy is to go after anyone they can catch in the = act and=20 that's about it. There's no organized effort to hunt down tapers and=20 bootleggers. Let's be realistic -- it wouldn't be that difficult. The = way people=20 act on the Internet always surprises me. People are selling, trading = and treeing=20 material openly that is basically illegal. It doesn't matter if it is a = bootleg=20 from Crystal Cat or a tape tree on the Lucky Town Digest -- all this = stuff is a=20 violation of copyrighted material. Until there is no official action,=20 announcement or a message in any form to advise fans to refrain from=20 participating in such activities, I consider the position of Bruce and = his=20 organization to be accepting it as a limited fan-thing that doesn't do = much=20 harm.

Joe Schwind: Who knows for sure what their position = was=20 before the tour started? Or what it is now? There's so little = communication from=20 Springsteen's organization you'd think they were the CIA and his = hardcore fans=20 were the KGB. I think this goes back to Springsteen's basic = insecurities and his=20 distrust of anything that smacks of fan worship. To put it bluntly he = thinks=20 we're strange.

Obviously there's been some open hostility = towards tapers=20 in the last six months, but also just as obvious is the fact that = Bruce's people=20 aren't willing to do what is absolutely necessary to keep fans from = recording=20 Springsteen's shows. I'm sure Heinrich Himmler would be proud of = Terry's=20 facebook of
driver's license photos, but if the big dick really = wanted to=20 stop the pros there's be metal detectors at the door and guards with = frequency=20 scanners walking around during the show. They'd know who checked out = ALD=20 receivers and where they were sitting. It may not be a piece of cake to = tape a=20 show these days but it's far from impossible.

Is it = inconceivable that=20 Springsteen would ever make a statement during an interview = similar to=20 what Steven said on Nightline? Would he lose so much by telling = his fans=20 exactly where he stood on the matter? Or would such a Kodak moment be = too alien=20 for Bruce to even contemplate?

I doubt that Springsteen would = ever play=20 [or] not play songs based on how likely they were to wind up on a = bootleg. I=20 just don't think it would pop up on his radar screen. That doesn't mean = Landau=20 wouldn't lobby against having new songs in the set for that very = reason. Such=20 thoughts are probably all he has on his radar when he looks at Bruce's = hardcore=20 fans.

Brian Svoboda: I look at some of the bootleg titles = that=20 came out over the past year, and all I can say is, wow. Remastered = versions of=20 Passaic and Winterland '78 . . . Uncirculated digital audience = recordings from=20 1984 . . . Stellar audience recordings from the '99 tour. Are we in a = Golden Age=20 of Springsteen bootlegs?

Flynn McLean: I don't think we = are, to be=20 honest. The Golden Age of Crystal Cat, maybe.

The problem with = the=20 current bootleg environment is that we have Crystal Cat and then = everybody else,=20 most of who are CD-R labels that seem to release mostly average stuff. = The=20 apparent demise of E St. Records hurts the market because they = concentrated on=20 mostly older, archival stuff on which they did a great job remastering. = Their=20 studio material releases were amazing, especially Deep Down in=20 the
Vaults and their "Definitive Outtakes" series from Born = to Run,=20 Darkness on the Edge of Town, and The River. They also had a = great=20 knack for finding previously unheard material, which, to me, is what = makes the=20 real bootlegs special.

While the recordings from the current = tour,=20 especially those on Crystal Cat releases, are just amazing, the point = of market=20 saturation may be nearing. Although those who attend the concerts are = certainly=20 interested in having recordings of them, the rest of us may not be so = hot to=20 have both Earls' Court Night and Arnhem Night, even = though they=20 both sound great. Same with Bercy Night and Ghent Night. = To me,=20 the second Stockholm show from Crystal Cat is the penultimate document = from the=20 European tour, and all the others are just nice to have.

I would = have to=20 guess that the CD-R "market" has had an effect on Crystal Cat. It = wasn't=20 uncommon to see CD-Rs of previous shows being sold in the parking lot = during the=20 Meadowlands stand last summer, and many people already had CD-Rs of = numerous=20 shows from the stand. The market for a full-length show that Crystal = Cat would=20 normally put out is relatively small at that point -- if someone has=20 already
gotten X show for blanks and postage or even $30, why spend = $75 for=20 the same show, even if in better sound quality? For that reason, I = think Crystal=20 Cat rushed their New Jersey Nights release. The sound quality of = New=20 Jersey Nights is definitely among the best releases from the tour, = but there=20 are better sounding tapes out there that are circulating. In other = words,=20 Crystal Cat didn't wait to make sure they had the best possible tapes = for the=20 project. And for that reason, I'm disappointed in that = title.

This may=20 not be the best time to judge the bootleg industry. With a tour going = on, the=20 main labels are concentrating on releases from the current tour, for = better or=20 worse. Once the tour comes to a close and more undiscovered material is = released=20 or past tapes [or] releases are significantly cleaned up, then maybe we = can=20 gauge it.

Joe Schwind: We're just in a golden age of = miniature=20 consumer electronics. Recording equipment that 20 years ago would have = cost a=20 year's wages and weighed two hundred pounds is now extremely affordable = and can=20 be carried into a concert in your back pocket. And anybody with a home = PC can=20 then put that recording on CD-R for about five bucks a show.

Of = course=20 all that may translate into a golden age for fan created bootlegs, but = I happen=20 to think it signals the beginning of the end for the Crystal Cats of = the world.=20 When several thousand Springsteen fans can produce high quality = recordings on a=20 cheap, permanent format there's no way the pros can compete. = How
long would=20 Exxon stay in business if half the homes in the industrialized world = had a gas=20 pump that produced unleaded at a tenth the price of your local filling = station?=20 Not long, I'd imagine.

Yes, I know that CC and many of the other = bootleggers originally made their bones on fixing up older shows and = releasing a=20 steady trickle of outtakes from the last thirty years. But eventually = that'll be=20 a dry well -- there's only so many soundboards, great old audience = tapes, and FM=20 broadcasts that either
haven't been released yet or can be = significantly=20 improved upon. And post-Lost Masters, the outtake situation may = be even=20 more dour. Other than a smattering of '82-84 songs like Electric = Nebraska and=20 the '93-'95 sessions -- which I'd bet my life will never see = daylight as=20 a bootleg -- there isn't a whole lot in existence, let alone in = collector's=20 hands.

Which leaves the recording and selling of current = Springsteen=20 shows as the bread and butter of the professional bootlegging industry, = just as=20 it has been for the last decade. And as I said that's where they're = hurting the=20 most. Economically it's not a good sign when a company has an = increasing share=20 of a diminishing market, which is exactly the position Crystal Cat = finds itself=20 in. With the barbarians climbing the gates CC has few options: they can = branch=20 out into other acts or try and compete with the home bootlegger and = trader.=20 Either way I doubt they're long for this world.

Rich Breton: = While=20 the crux of the question seems to mostly deal with those CD bootlegs=20 manufactured by known labels like Crystal Cat, E Street Records, etc., = the=20 answer covers much more ground than that.

In my estimation, the = "Golden=20 Age" of major label CD bootlegs has come and gone. It left us sometime = around=20 the end of The Ghost Of Tom Joad tour. And while there have been = several=20 notable releases since then, they have been few and far = between.

There=20 are several major factors that have caused this decline -- the earliest = one=20 starting with the change to the European copyright laws, which if I = remember=20 correctly took complete effect sometime in the middle of 1995. The = labels that=20 didn't shut down have been steadily and consistently driven further and = further=20 underground. Many have not survived over the intervening years, but = that is the=20 nature of the business. There are really very few labels that survive = for more=20 than a few years in the business, with Crystal Cat being one of the = major=20 exceptions that proves the rule. The CD-R only labels like Doberman and = Piggham=20 are still a mixed-bag, sometimes putting out noteworthy titles and = sometimes not=20 -- but they have been putting out higher quality items in general = lately. And=20 I'm not ready to count E Street Records out yet, nor Dandelion which = also had=20 potential to be a minor contender. But as we speak, one of the last = quasi-legal=20 bastions for bootlegs -- the Asian countries (Singapore, Japan, etc.) = -- the=20 laws are being changed to reflect those of the rest of the world. As = for the=20 newly resurrected Scorpio label, which has been down and out for a = number of=20 years, now there's a strange case. Let's see how long they'll last this = time=20 out.

The next factor was the rise in the number of busts. From = the=20 mom-and-pop record stores around the corner, to record fairs, to = distributors=20 and suppliers, and to the actual bootleg labels themselves. There have = been a=20 number of high-profile arrests and/or fines levied for selling bootleg = material=20 over the past 5 years. A number of distributors and suppliers have = bitten the=20 dust, and without a steady distribution route many labels are finding = it harder=20 and harder to get their products out to their suppliers.

The = final major=20 factor to hit was the rise and proliferation of digital trading. It's = as if all=20 those folks who didn't want to spring for DAT machines grabbed onto = CD-R burners=20 in a big way. It's no wonder that a few months after Crystal Cat = releases a new=20 title, there are probably more folks that own a CD-R copy of it than = own the=20 original. And in a lot of cases, folks actually own a CD-R copy of a = CD-R copy=20 of a title. While all this is a major plus for collecting in general -- = a=20 quantum leap over the generation loss prevalent in analog tape trading, = I can=20 see it as a major thorn in the side of the bootleg labels. Some feel = this is a=20 good thing. But I would ask where was Deep Down In The Vaults or = The=20 Lost Masters before the bootleg labels released them? Why wasn't = this stuff=20 being traded before? Sure the bootleg labels make money, probably not = as much as=20 folks would think, but for the most part they release items that are = worth it.=20 Who's gonna keep their old tape of the 7/12/84 show after hearing = Alpine=20 Valley Night? And where would this show be today, and a number of = others,=20 without Crystal Cat? Still in the hands of a few collectors? What good = is=20 that?

These aren't the only factors, just the major ones. Other = minor=20 factors include the number of CD-R labels that have sprung up. With the = exception of Doberman and Piggham, what we're talking about are the = fly-by-night=20 operations that mostly sell copies of existing bootlegs. Others may = release=20 newer items from the current tour, but the majority of these don't rank = that=20 high on the quality scale. At this point in time, Bruce MP3s haven't = been much=20 of a factor. And for the quality-conscious among us, MP3s may actually = represent=20 a step down for trading in this day and age -- the digital equivalent = of=20 generation loss, so to speak. Similarly, Minidisc which also uses its = own=20 compression algorhythm, can also be seen as a slight step down on the = scale=20 quality-wise. But it's cheaper overall price compared to a DAT = recorder, as well=20 as it's small size coupled with good microphones, has narrowed the gap=20 sound-wise and allowed more folks the ability to capture live shows. = I've=20 certainly got nothing against more folks taping a show. A Minidisc from = a good=20 location will probably beat a DAT made from farther away, and that's = not a bad=20 thing.

No, the "Golden Age" of bootlegs appears to be gone. But = we seem=20 to be on the cusp of the "Golden Age" of digital trading.

Jan = Rodenrijs: I have to agree with Flynn. This is definitely not the = Golden Age=20 of bootlegging. On the contrary, the bootlegging business has never = seemed to be=20 in more trouble.

In the past there were always quite a few = exciting=20 releases on the horizon. At this moment, there's hardly anything to = really look=20 forward to. Of course, there are a couple of titles with current stuff = in=20 preparation but when there are no more new shows, what is there to be = expected?=20 More remastered vintage stuff? What's there to still put out? Basically = every=20 interesting tape has already been covered by mainly Great Dane Records, = Crystal=20 Cat and E Street Records in the past years. There's only secondary = stuff left.=20 There are no more Winterlands, Passaics, Main Points, Kansas Citys. = It's all=20 been done. Of course there's still a bit left but that has very little = chance of=20 cropping up on some silver discs these days.

With the = bootlegging=20 business being hurt by legal troubles and feeling the effect of the = flood of=20 mediocre CD-R products their enterprise is definitely in a dark period. = This has=20 obvious effects. The bootleg business is responsible for making nearly = if not=20 all classic stuff widely available in excellent quality. With the = profit margins=20 narrowing, the budgets for acquiring new material are definitely = decreasing.=20 Would a series like The Lost Masters be possible in the current = climate?=20 No. Will the upper echelon of the tape world now circulate all the rare = stuff=20 that' still in their possession since nobody is willing or able = to
lay down=20 some cold hard cash? [That's] not my impression.

I still hear of = pretty=20 interesting uncirculated stuff that is in existence, but directly = following is=20 the comment that this of course is all very secret and [can]not go any = further.=20 The knowledge is kept in small circles to avoid pressure on the people = owning=20 these tapes to distribute their prized possessions.

You can = twist and=20 turn and say we are entering a new age of freely sharing Bruce's music. = Well,=20 that may be the case if it concerns a mediocre recording of a Bruce = show in=20 Fargo but when it comes down to the Electric Nebraska tapes -- if they = exist --=20 there are more powerful forces necessary to make these available to the = common=20 Springsteen fan. This was always the prerogative of the bootleg labels. = I can't=20 really see that happening if the situation doesn't = change.

Flynn=20 McLean: Jan said it better than I ever could. Without the revenue = that a=20 "real" bootleg can generate, without somebody outlying the cash, the = rarer=20 material will not circulate. Thus, CD-R trading has all but eliminated = anything new and exciting from being released.

Don't get me wrong, I love = my CD-Rs=20 and they are definitely better in sound quality, but I would trade my = CD-R of=20 the second Stockholm show for a tape of Electric Nebraska or the = Nashville 87=20 sessions.

Jan Rodenrijs: I think the high quality is = still=20 something debatable. You only have to look at the ongoing discussions = on the=20 Lucky Town Digests about CD-R's with problems. Also, the recordings = being of=20 high quality is a matter of discussion. I frequently hear about = recordings that=20 exceed the quality of the average tape in general circulation by far = from=20 premiere sources. But these don't come available in trees or are freely = traded=20 in newsgroups and Digests.

Crystal Cat Records in current stuff = and E=20 Street Records with vintage stuff have presented the common fan with = material in=20 a nearly consistent unparalleled quality that is virtually unavailable = to them=20 due to these labels having access to the best tape sources as well as=20 professional remastering. The difference between access of the larger = trade=20 community and the bootleggers to good tapes is frequently blatantly = obvious when=20 the source for a lot of trees are the products of Crystal Cat. Name me = one CD-R=20 release that contained a new and completely uncirculated tape or a even = an=20 amazing upgrade to commonly circulating material. They don't = exist.

If=20 one would be given the choice of Songs being printed on a high = quality=20 inkjet printer or photocopies but stapled together for a couple of = dollars, or=20 the original book professionally printed for the full price, what would = the=20 majority choose, even though theoretically the content is the same and = the=20 quality is close? Someone who wanted to save money might go for the = first, but=20 most people wouldn't mind shelling out the money for the real thing . . = . I=20 think Exxon would still have a healthy business when people have to = choose=20 between guaranteed and sustained quality or getting gas from unknown = pumps who=20 have no previous record and whose operation is amateurish to say the = least and=20 the gas frequently proves to be of bad quality.

For the record: = Crystal=20 Cat does release products with other artists. They frequently do = Stones, Dylan=20 and other artists. My opinion is that Crystal Cat doesn't have to = compete with=20 the trading world. Those are two different things. The people who used = to trade=20 tapes are now trading CD-Rs, the people who preferred boots still buy = boots.=20 It's mostly a matter of preference. Of course, a certain amount of = people might=20 be confused and think a homemade CD-R is the same as a "proper" = bootleg. But=20 most people who know a bit about the products they want will most = likely stick=20 with what they know, be it trading mostly average tapes or buying the=20 boot.

Rich Breton: Jan is right when he talks about = quality in=20 general as it pertains to CD-Rs. Early on, there was a great stir when = Great=20 Dane produced a mostly consistent string of quality CDs. There were = other=20 notable releases on other labels. And another label specializing in = Bruce titles=20 -- Winged Wheels --produced a bunch of releases of varying quality. = None could=20 match Great Dane's run. But Crystal Cat & E Street Records, and to = a lesser=20 extent Labour Of Love, Gamble Records and Doberman, have surpassed = Great Dane's=20 run and managed to up the ante on quality a few notches higher. = And there=20 was little overlap between Crystal Cat and E Street Records -- one = mostly=20 concentrated on newer tour items, while the other mined the past for = shows, some=20 untraded previously in such quality, or not traded at all.

And = while this=20 was happening, DATs have been prevalent in the taping circles as the = serious=20 trading medium of choice. Many folks took the opportunity to transfer=20 low-generation analog tapes to DAT, and DAT taping of live shows was = almost a=20 requirement.

All this has made expectations for bootleg quality = much=20 higher than before CD bootlegs or DATs were ever thought of. Back in = the days of=20 analog tape trading, it was a crap-shoot on whether you were going to = get a good=20 low-generation item or a muddy mess with a hiss so thick you'll be = wanting eggs=20 with that bacon. Well, a lot of folks who use to trade tapes years ago = seemed to=20 have forgotten how it use to be, because the minute someone burns a = CD-R of any=20 tape regardless of quality, especially those tapes (or Minidiscs) made = from the=20 current tour, it's as if some mystical element comes into play and the = quality=20 is perceived to be higher than it actually is. And those that burn = CD-Rs that=20 day after a show only to sell them the following day are particularly = loathsome=20 in this respect. I'd rather listen to a well recorded old show with = some hiss=20 than a number of DATs from the current tour with no hiss at = all.

At this=20 point in time, the proliferation of CD-Rs has only served to drop down = the=20 quality [generally] attributed to CDs a few notches. And it only serves = to make=20 the CDs produced by the bootleg labels stand that much farther above = the rest.=20 As long as Crystal Cat et al put out a quality product, they needn't = worry about=20 what's being traded on CD-Rs today.

Still, the quality of what's = being=20 traded out there today is leaps and bounds greater than before the = advent of CD=20 bootlegs or DAT tapes. And you can only thank the bootleg labels for = that. Had=20 they not released the 6/3/74 or 2/2/75 or 12/15/78 or 9/22/84 or = 5/10/88 or=20 6/24/93 or the "Nebraska" tape or countless other high quality items = from the=20 past and present, trading today wouldn't be that far above what is was = in the=20 late 80's. The "ubertraders" and those with connections would still = have their=20 great tapes, and heaven knows they still have plenty of others that = haven't=20 leaked out, but little else would have gotten out to the masses. Great = Dane=20 hasn't been in business for years, and who knows how many they sold = when they=20 were in business, but the number of folks who have DAT tapes and/or = CD-R copies=20 of their releases continues to grow and far surpasses the number of = folks who=20 ever plonked down $60 to $70 bucks for a 3-disc set. Sure, it would = have been=20 great if those with access to the best tapes decided to run trees of = all these=20 items over the years -- then no one would have bought the bootlegs. But = this=20 didn't happen before the CD bootlegs existed and it hasn't really = happened much=20 since. While some folks can't stand for bootlegs labels to make money, = the=20 pluses have far-outweighed the minuses over the past decade. And if = anyone is to=20 blame, in a lot of cases it's the person who sells the tapes to the = bootleg=20 labels. The stuff on Deep Down In The Vaults didn't just fall = out of the=20 sky.

Joe Schwind: I think Jan makes some good points, = namely that=20 few (if any) fan produced bootlegs have approached the quality of your = average=20 Crystal Cat release. And that the pros -- despite occupying a moral and = legal no=20 man's land -- have still contributed mightily to the catalog of = unreleased=20 Springsteen music that has become available to fans over the = years.

But=20 it has to be obvious to all concerned that a sea change has occurred in = the=20 bootleg world in the last two years and that most of the big time = producers are=20 hurting, if not DOA. How can that be if they're doing such a great job? = I=20 maintain that even though Crystal Cat's product is superior in sound = and=20 packaging to anything else on the market (including the legitimate = stuff), it is=20 not superior enough. Not enough for the vast majority of fans to = make the=20 effort to seek out a genuine Crystal Cat bootleg at $60 to $75 a show = when they=20 can wait a month and get that same show on CD-R for $12. Or they can = wheel and=20 deal on the Net and get an amateur's copy on CD-R within a couple of = weeks of=20 the show. Sometimes it'll be a great recording, and even if it's not = most of the=20 time it'll be good enough. In any case it'll be better than nothing and = why=20 should they eventually pay that $75 for what amounts to an = upgrade?

The=20 bottom line [is] that three years ago Crystal Cat and its bootlegging = brethren=20 provided 90% of all the digital boots that circulated among fans. If a = fan=20 wanted it on CD they were the only game in town. Not so these days with = PCs,=20 CD-Rs and Minidiscs the fans today have almost too many options. And = paying top=20 dollar for the best quality is just one of those options, one I don't = think a=20 lot of fans are taking.

Think of it this way: if all that = mattered was=20 having the best product, then 15 years ago Betamax would have crushed = VHS. Sony=20 had the better video cassette recorder, no doubt about it. But VHS was = cheaper=20 and more convenient and the quality was good enough. Today you'd = practically=20 have to visit a museum (or my basement) to see a Betamax in action. 10 = years=20 from now you'll probably see Crystal Cat in that same = museum.

Jan=20 Rodenrijs: Although I acknowledge that the rise of CD-Rs has had an = effect,=20 I also want to make the point that there are other influences that have = been=20 hurting the bootleg business. First we got a change in legislation in = Europe=20 that ended what I call the "Italian era." In the following years the = pursuit of=20 bootleggers has been, although very inefficient and unorganized,=20 relentless.

With a situation were E Street Records, Gamble = Records,=20 Dandelion have suffered heavy (maybe temporary) setbacks, the number of = Springsteen-related bootleg releases has declined tremendously. = However, again=20 that may be only temporary. Bootleg distribution and manufacturing = seems to=20 slowly get back on its feet. About four new releases are in production = from=20 major forces in the European bootleg world. With two and maybe more = Crystal Cat=20 releases scheduled in the immediate future, a return of
Scorpio in = America=20 with two recent releases and one in the pipeline and with apparently = renewed=20 activity on the Springsteen front from Doberman, I think the bootleg = industry=20 seems to disagree with Joe. They still seem to see business = opportunities=20 regardless the rise of amateur CD-Rs

Joe may be heavily involved = in the=20 trading circles and therefore may get a slightly subjective image from = the=20 current situation. The same may apply to me. The segment of Springsteen = fans I=20 get in touch with may be more involved in the regular bootleg market. I = don't=20 see a decline in the sales of my Wanted magazine, though it = mainly deals=20 with commercial bootlegs. So there's still a pretty strong interest. My = point=20 remains that we are talking about two groups of fans -- one that is = prepared to=20 go through the rigors of tape trading (copying, shipping, getting their = stuff,=20 keeping in touch, follow complicated procedures when it comes to tape = trees,=20 etc.) with all the risk involved; and another that likes to pay money = for a=20 bootleg and be done with it. There may be a group that will cross-over = from=20 bootleg to CD-R but I don't think that amount is as substantial as Joe = thinks it=20 is.

Joe Schwind: If the bootleggers are selling many = fewer copies=20 of each show (as I suspect) because of CD-R technology then one way for = them to=20 stay ahead is to release more shows while cutting the number of units = produced.=20 Where four years ago a big time bootlegger might put out 3-4 shows a = year at=20 10,000 copies each I would expect that in the future they would issue = twice as=20 many individual shows but cut the production run of each by half. In = fact doing=20 so might be one of the few ways for them to stay in business under = current=20 conditions.

Just because fans read [Wanted] doesn't mean = they're=20 spending money on bootlegs. The hot boot today is the hot trade = tomorrow and the=20 seed for a tree the day after. Even though I may not spend the money = for the=20 latest Crystal Cat release it is in my interest to know as much as I = can about=20 it because very shortly it'll be all over the place.

I think = we're=20 talking about mostly the same people, the same fans. I for one used to = buy all=20 the big releases, price be damned. Now 'days I'll get maybe one a year = and the=20 rest I'll wait for the CD-Rs. I keep track of all the good tapes that = circulate,=20 whether they originate with a professional bootlegger or not. These = days Crystal=20 Cat is just one more supplier of good source recordings, same as any = number of=20 tapers who know what they're doing. Obviously I'm more into the trade = end of=20 things than the average fan but that's just because I've had a CD-R for = a year=20 and a half now. Buying bootlegs at $60 a pop just doesn't make sense = when I can=20 get it through other means for next to nothing. I firmly believe that = more fans=20 with CD-R recorders equals more trades and fewer bootleg = purchases.

But=20 all is guesswork because the bootleggers aren't exactly forthcoming = with their=20 operational statistics. Who knows for sure if their sales have been = hard-hit?=20 And if so, what happened? I tell you what I'd like to do: let's take a = poll and=20 see what the bootleg buying and trading habits of those fans are. Have = they=20 changed in the last two years? If so, why?

Jan Rodenrijs: = Joe is=20 hugely overestimating the size of bootleg production. In reality, with = the odd=20 exception, bootlegs are pressed in runs of 1000 copies instead of = 10,000. If it=20 is successful it may get re-pressed, again in a run of a 1000 but maybe = in the=20 minimum run of 500 depending on the expected success in the near = future. A=20 release with little confidence of commercial success may even be = released in a=20 run of 500 to begin with.

I know it's hard to get cold hard = sales=20 figures. It's just my impression from talking with people in the = business is=20 that they acknowledge that CD-R technology has had an effect but that = they still=20 aren't worrying. But things might change.

Nice to know the = Magazine still=20 has a future regardless of the state of commercial = bootlegging!

Rich=20 Breton: I'm sure Jan will back me up on this, but [Joe's] got at = least one=20 too many zeroes in that number of copies you think are pressed for any = Bruce=20 title. I wonder if Great Dane even sold 10,000 copies of all their = Bruce titles=20 combined, let alone any individual title. For Crystal Cat and/or E = Street, I'd=20 say 500 copies is more like it. They may re-press some of the more = popular=20 titles, possibly up to another 500. For other labels like Doberman or = Piggham,=20 that figure is around 100.

Geez, 10,000 copies. = Backstreets and=20 Wanted and all the other Bruce fanzines must be rolling in dough = and have=20 tons of subscribers. But I just don't see that, nor do I see pages and = pages of=20 trading ads in all those fanzines. As for online Bruce fans, I would = even=20 question whether there were 10,000 folks in total that read the = Springsteen=20 newsgroups and/or the LuckyTown Digest and/or any of the other online = Bruce=20 forums.

But let's just for the sake of argument that there are = there are=20 10,000 folks subscribed to the various Bruce fanzines, and that there's = another=20 10,000 folks online that are reading the various Bruce forums or = digests. That's=20 still only 20,000 altogether. For 10,000 pressed copies of any CD title = to even=20 be a close number, that would mean that on average 50% of the folks = either=20 reading the fanzines or online would have to buy them. That's a pretty=20 unrealistic percentage. Sure there may be more Bruce fans than that, = but without=20 access to any fanzines or online forums how would any even know what = bootleg CDs=20 exist, let alone where to get them? Pretty much most of what I see at = record=20 shows and any mom-and-pop store that still sells bootlegs are CD-Rs all = over the=20 place, and you can bet most of those didn't come from the = labels.

Joe=20 Schwind: Are you telling me that Crystal Cat only sold a couple of = thousand=20 copies of Freehold Night or Asbury Park Night? If you say = my=20 numbers are high then okay then, it doesn't change the point of my = comment. If=20 they used to sell a thousand and are now selling 500 it has the same = effect --=20 sales are down. The question is why.

Jan says the pros aren't = worried=20 about CD-Rs and I find that incredible. I would like to know several = things for=20 sure: A) Are sales down? If not then this discussion is for the most = part moot.=20 If the answer is yes then B) why? CD-Rs? Or legal crackdowns? Both? I = still=20 think a poll is in order.

Rich Breton: I would turn this = question=20 around and ask if everyone owns an original copy of both these titles, = or a=20 copy. Chances are a bunch just own a copy.

Before CD-R copies = there were=20 DAT or Minidisc, and before that it was the good old analog tape that = folks use=20 to trade. Folks were mostly trading tape copies of Great Dane titles, = and now=20 they're trading CD-R copies of Crystal Cat titles. Trading for copies = of CD=20 bootlegs has been happening since the beginning, CD-R and DAT are just = different=20 mediums. You may think sales are down, when they may actually be the = same -- or=20 higher. There are a lot more traders online than there was in the early = 90s, and=20 you may see a lot trading for CD-R copies of bootlegs, but someone had = to buy=20 the bootlegs to start trading them. And there are still those = collectors who=20 want to get the original issue.

Sales could be down, I don't = have any=20 hard figures. But I would tend to doubt it. Just as I'm sure there are = more=20 folks trading Bruce today than ever before. There's a larger market = now, so it's=20 probably a wash. And I would also guess that the only thing on Crystal = Cat's or=20 any other labels radar is looking out for their equivalent of the=20 RIAA.

Jan Rodenrijs: The impression is that sales seem to = be down=20 but that can be attributed to various factors. My point of view is that = both=20 CD-Rs and legal crackdowns have had an influence. Also, commercial = CD-Rs are=20 clouding the issue a bit because in what camp should we place those? = They are=20 not glass-master bootlegs but also aren't amateur productions that are = meant to=20 be shared freely among the fans.

Another factor is that there's = nothing=20 released in recent times that really got the Springsteen fans going. = The=20 Ghost Of Tom Joad CDs practically all sound the same, and the = same goes=20 for the CDs from the recent shows. There's no standout show and nothing = has been=20 pulled from the vaults recently that really caught the imagination of = the fans.=20

Basically there's very little potential for bestsellers and = sales are=20 scattered over various titles. The total may still end up to a = substantial total=20 and may not be too far from previous figures. However, I do support = Joe's=20 suggestion to do a poll. I have had an idea for a while to do something = similar=20 with readers from Wanted Magazine and visitors of the Web site = but have=20 yet to organize it.

If you want to react to this = editorial don't=20 hesitate to do so and send an email to:


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