World English Dictionary
At 12:50 pm PST on June 6th, 2011 I received an e-mail from the fine folks at You Tube. It informed me that Sumerian Records claimed that my video contained copyright infringement. They were indeed correct; I uploaded “A Prophecy” by Asking Alexandria from their 10/16/10 appearance at the House of Blues in West Hollywood, CA. Put the handcuffs on me and send me to the federal fuck me in the ass prison, I stole. I went out, got myself into House of Blues, paid for parking, paid for drinks and as I sat there I hit the record button on my camera. Upon my return home, I shared that moment on the Sunset Strip with fans of Asking Alexandria from Seattle to Singapore. When I awoke in the morning, that video had hundreds of hits from kids who had one of two comments. If they had not claimed that it was the best night of their life, they were begging me to upload more footage (which I simply didn’t have).
My story begins in 1994. I was in High School and I was forming my identity through music. A classmate allowed me to borrow a cassette tape she had. On this cassette tape was a band called Bush and their debut album Sixteen Stone had just hit shelves. My classmate did not pass me a copy of Sixteen Stone, but instead she hooked me up three separate live concerts performances that managed to fit onto that 90 minute cassette tape. Upon hearing that cassette tape, I ran down to the long-gone Blockbuster Music and handed over my hard earned babysitting money for a copy of Sixteen Stone on Compact Disc. While my love of Bush may have faded over the years, the important moment to take from this experience was my introduction with what is often referred to as a bootleg.
Sure, it’s plausible that I would have picked up Sixteen Stone somewhere in the outdated cycle of MTV spins of Buzz Bin clips like “Little Things” and “Comedown.” But long before Napster and YouTube that cassette tape converted me to the Bush army long before Gavin had Gwen on his arm. I told my friends, who went out and discovered Bush and fell in love and bought their own copies of Sixteen Stone. Ask anyone who experienced their teen years from 1970 on; friends are as big of an influence on your music listening habits as the big publicity machine like MTV, Magazines etc.
As my legally acquired collection of officially released record label approved music grew, so did my collection of bootlegs. Phish was the element that took that small door and kicked it down. The fact that this band could sell out arenas because fans shared the music vs. being “made” by mainstream America had a huge impact on my life. My guitar skills are limited, I can’t sing and my folks could hardly afford to send me to college let alone give me an advance to start up a record label. Yet my passion to share music was still there and my way of sharing with the world was live music trading. I made friends with tapers. I helped them sneak gear into shows and created a wall of silence around them as they worked their magic. You would be amazed at my fake screaming/clapping skills, check out Weezer 03/17/01 for example.
As technology evolved, so did my trading. Maxell XLII tapes gave way to CD-R’s. Trading discs in the mail with strangers gave way to bit torrent. Even in 2002, I was over MP3’s insisting that live shows downloads must be from .shn or FLAC files. I knew my habit was out of control when I took one look at my etree list and realized that I had actually acquired live recordings from Barry Manilow and Lionel Richie. It got to a point where I couldn’t keep up and I eventually burnt out. Then technology made the next leap…
For Christmas 2006, my parents got me my first digital camera. It was small, compact and took both photos and grainy videos. My goal was to document life and share it with friends/family via Myspace. But 8 months after getting my camera for Christmas, I realized my bootleg hiatus was officially over. I had brought my camera to the 2007 Sounds Of The Underground festival figuring I could sneak it in and take some photos. When I made it to Will Call that day I discovered that in addition to my ticket there was an all access photo/video pass with my name on it. It was that hot Orange County day when I hopped back up on the bootleggin’ bandwagon.
Over the past five years I have used three different cameras to capture the concert experience. Each camera a giant leap in quality from the previous to the point where today I cringe at those initial Sounds of the Underground videos. You know and I know that there is a lot of crap on YouTube. I take great pride in clear, high quality footage of bands because it is important to me. I won’t give you :30 seconds, I will give you the entire song. I try to follow the music, I’ll shoot the singer when he is singing and shoot the lead guitarist when he is shredding. I have never made a dime off live recordings, be it from CD trading, YouTube ads or even this site (that’s right folks, the ads revenues have never equaled the cost to run the site and I am perfectly fine with that). It has always been about the love of the music.
I would not be a fan of bands like Tenacious D, Widespread Panic and Death Cab For Cutie had it not been for me hearing them via a bootleg. I have received messages from all over the world where fans have thanked me for posting footage of shows they could never make. The last 24+ hours, I have felt many emotions including shock and anger. Yet the feeling that consumes my soul is sadness for the millions of fans who took great joy from watching footage of shows they never had a chance to make. I get that YouTube has a three strikes rule and my account received that third strike. What I don’t get is why labels like Sumerian bow down to the mighty dollar bill while angering their fans. But we will discuss that soon when we post The Bootleg Doctrine Part II.