CD-R Trading in the
Note: This page is for information
only. By putting down the general "CD-R Trading Rules" here, I am not committing
to any promises of providing any CD-Rs to everyone, upon their request.
I don't have a lot of spare time to enter the CD-R Trading Circles full
time, although I am open to negotiating for a limited number of trades
for something that is very desirable to me. I do ask that newbies need
not apply, as I also do not have the time to personally start newcomers
on the road to trading. Basically, if you've never heard of a bootleg,
don't own any, and don't know how to get any, feel free to glean useful
info by reading this page, but don't please contact me for any trades until
you've built up a collection.
Over the past several years, recordable
CD (CD-R) units have become normal consumer electronics units. Prior to
the existence of recordable CD machines, music fans used to use cassette
tape or DAT tape as a means of trading non-commercially released music
(that is, bootlegs). Cassette tapes have the problem of quality degradation
with each dubbed generation. DAT machines had, at one time, been popular
among professional musicians and serious, well-heeled live tape traders,
but they never really caught on with the general public.
CD-R machines are now wildly popular, and
most PCs for sale these days already have one installed, or as a very inexpensive
add-on option. For those who don't want to learn how to use a PC, or fool
around with learning software, there are standalone Phillips and Pioneer
CD-R units that work almost like regular cassette decks. Either type of
CD-R machine has eliminated the problems of the older analog trading media,
namely generational loss or incompatibility with general consumer equipment.
There are two different types of music
fans in the bootleg world: newbies and players. A newbie
is someone who owns few, or no bootlegs. A newbie can find very appealing
"forbidden fruit" things like bootlegs on web pages all over the place,
but finds very quickly that obtaining such items are a challenge. Yet there
are ways of breaking into the trading world, even as a newbie. The trick
is to spend as little time in the newbie phase as possible, and to graduate
to the player ranks as quickly as possible.
A player is someone who already has a bootleg
collection. A player is sometimes an ultra-specialist... someone who has
300+ boots of one artist. A player already knows the boot trading rules,
making negotiations quick and pain-free.
Advice for Newbies on
breaking into the trading world
Never offer money in exchange for boots. First
off, selling bootlegs is illegal, and any player will stay away from that
sort of thing. Players don't want to be arrested, players don't do boot
trading as a full-time business, and, most importantly, players don't need
the money. Players collect and trade for the love of music, not the need
to make extra cash on the side for mortgage payments.
Do not offer dupes of commercially-released
CDs, or dupes of any items that can simply be bought in a store. Players
are not CD pirates, and do not condone CD piracy. Players will most likely
not accept a offers of these, because dupes of in-print CDs are defrauding
artists of royalty money. For example, if you were to dub a copy of The
Beatles Anthology 2 and pass them out, every dupe you do is one less
legit CD sold. So 5 dupes means that the Beatles had lost out on 5 sales
of their legit product. Players don't dig that.
Find a player that's nearby. Maybe you can
strike up a friendly conversation at a concert. Maybe you work with a player,
or go to school with one, or are involved in social activities that might
bring you in contact with one. You might even be related to one. A player
that happens to be a friend might not be adverse to giving you a few discs,
as a favor, or in exchange for a lunch date, a movie or a few drinks.
Do your research and find out which items
went out of print. There is a great secondary market for commercial CDs
and videos that had gone out of print. It is nobody's fault that record
companies sometimes make stupid decisions and let many CD titles go out
of print. So, now that some music is unavailable in stores, yet there may
still be a demand for it... this can open up a fine trading opportunity
for a newbie. An newbie might be able to offer a dub of an out-of-print
CD in order to obtain a boot in trade. For example, large parts of Olivia
Newton-John's CD catalog is out of print. Believe it or not, several Milli
Vanilli-related CDs are collectable.
Do explore anything unique in your own collection.
CD singles, 12" singles, special-edition CDs, records, imports, fan club-only
discs, etc. may contain music that is not currently available anymore.
These discs may have variant song versions, or unusual songs, or special
live performances that are not on the regular discs, and can no longer
be bought in a store. These too can be potential trade material.
Buy a CD-R machine. Doesn't matter if it's
a PC-based one or a standalone one. Because of the way that the boot trading
rules have changed so quickly over the past 3 years, most players will
no longer accept cassette tapes. Besides, cassette tapes have too many
disadvantages... they cost more to buy, they cost more to mail, they're
subject to speed variations from machine to machine, they sometimes have
different head azimuth settings that make tapes sound awful on a different
machine, they're subject to sound degradation/generational loss and added
hiss, and they need to be listened to and dubbed in "real-time".
Go to used record stores, small privately-owned
stores, collector's record stores, record conventions, or even street vendors
in search of boots. Sometimes boots come up in collectable record collector's
publications, like Goldmine, or on online auctions. Be prepared
to spend a lot of time hunting for these treasures. The prize goes to the
patient. You'll never find them in large chain stores, so don't even ask.
They'd laugh at you.
Do seek out players who like helping newbies.
These players can help ease your own transition into becoming a player
by providing you with a seed which can blossom into a full-fledged, viable
boot collection. Look for players that accept "3 for 1 + p" trades.
This means that you would send them 3 discs for every one boot disc that
you want back, plus you would cover the return mail postage costs. So,
in a real life scenario, this is how it works... you're browsing for some
great Elton John boots. You land on a page that accepts "3 for 1 + p".
You select a double-CD Elton set, and e-mail the player to make sure that
they understand what you want and who you are. So then you'd go to an office
supply store and buy a package of blank CD-R discs, and perhaps some cardboard
mailers. Follow your player's instructions re: brand names, sometimes they
accept only certain brands. Then you would place six blank CD-R discs and
a self-addressed, stamped cardboard mailer inside of a larger envelope
and you would mail it, and your request to your player (make sure you arrange
to get the cover artwork!). You should eventually receive your mailer back,
with 2 Elton discs in it. Your player has kept the other 4 as the standard
"fee" for the service.
So You Think You're Ready
to Be a Player
Okay, once you have obtained a few boot or
useful trade-bait discs, from whatever source, you are now ready to start
playing. Your discs should have inserts, front and back, in order to make
you a contender. You wouldn't really want your collection to consist of
CD-R discs in empty jewel cases. You want your collection to look like
a "real" CDs with "real" inserts. Guess what, players like that, too. So
you would need to dupe your inserts somehow. If you have them physically,
you can take them to a copy shop and have them copied in color. The "big
boys" like Kinko's or CopyMax might refuse to do it for you. No problem,
use a self-service machine, or find a Mom n' Pop copy shop run by friendly
immigrants with foreign accents, and they'll be glad to help. Or else,
you can simply scan your inserts as .JPG files.
If you're going to be scanning inserts, at
least make them of decent size and quality. A player would expect to be
able to print a good-looking insert from your scan. So, choose a resolution
that would make the insert at least 750 x 750 pixels, and compress at medium-compression
JPG. Smaller-sized inserts at higher JPG compression get much poorer printed
results. A properly-done scan can be as low as 115k in size.
If you don't have inserts, then make some
up. If you're not savvy on this, then find a friend or co-worker who knows
how to make those things. Or else, surf the Net and see if someone else
happens to have scans of that title on a website. Then mooch the scans
from that site. You can print them yourself, or bribe a friend with a nice
printer to do that for you.
Now you can put up a webpage, or join a CD-R
Trading ring, or e-mail people, offering what you have as trade-bait. Doesn't
matter if you originally got your discs from someone else... all that matters
is that you'd obtained them fairly and squarely, and now they're part of
your collection. You will eventually get "nibbles"... people who want to
trade with you. So, from these nibbles, more boots get added to your collection,
which can be used to obtain even more boots. Notice that now, being a novice
player, you can now trade 1 for 1: one boot disc for one boot disc.
Cast your net wide. It's not a good idea to
specialize in only one artist- that limits your potential trading partners
to only fans of that particular artist. That could be a problem once you
try to get something by a different artist. "Everybody" loves the Beatles,
or at least, knows someone who loves the Beatles. So make sure you have
at least a few titles by hugely popular artists- sticking with low-sales,
cult artists only marginalizes you and your collection.
Do not ever add in-print, commercial CDs to
your trade list. You don't want to be a slimy CD pirate. Your intent is
not to take money away from artists. The recording industry already howls
over bootleggers and non-commercially released live shows. Don't give them
ammo to group "CD-R traders" with "CD pirates". And do not ask for money
for your boots.
If you are using a computer, burn your discs
as "disc at once". That means that the dupe will play all the way through,
with no dreaded 2 second gap between songs (the gaps annoy players). You
would get consistently better results by copying your original disc to
the hard drive, and then doing "disc at once" to copy from hard drive to
Once you dupe your discs and you're ready
to mail them, do not write on the physical discs. Players hate that, they're
quite content to make their own labels.
Do not mail your discs in jewel cases. Players
usually avoid cases- they crack if manhandled by the Post Office, and then
the disc could even be damaged by the pieces of the broken case! Your disc
will be better off mailed in a paper CD envelope or Case-Logic sleeve,
sandwiched between 2 pieces of corrugated cardboard inside of a larger,
heavy-duty manila envelope.
The Bootleg Manifesto
This article is Copyright 2001, K.F.
Louie. May not be reproduced without the written permission of the author.
Got questions? Or do you have something
interesting to trade? Write to me at:
There's no place