Thanks for Concert Bootlegs

Words by Matthew Spence

By a show of hands, how many people have missed out on a concert they really wanted to go to? A shit ton for sure. If i had a dollar or every concert I missed, I could buy 3 packs of gum but still be $2 short of self-esteem. It’s called Reality y’all, it happens, other things may get in the way of our plans. You can’t get a ride, emergency with your family or job, you get sick…maybe a pandemic starts running a muck <shutters>. It’s a bummer, a drag, and other synonyms, missing out on your favorite artist, however, with the perks of the internet we get to see it anyways.

Concert Bootlegs are blessings among music fans.

Context Time: Concert Bootlegs are basically unofficially released footage and/or audio of an artist’s concert/live performance. Now, sure is it as monumental as being at the show (or ethical to do so without permission)? well… no but still it’s fun and convenient to know it’s still ready to go after a few days or weeks. Thanks Youtube. Now, we can see Conan Grey sweat on our SmartTVS. Bootlegs have been birth from albums and soundboards to evolving in the age of YouTube now with more videos since everyone has a camera in their pocket.

The first bootleg being, the poet of a generation and the meme’d vocalist Bob Dylan with the project: “The Great White Wonder” but it’s not a live album, and plus Pitchfork probably wrote a piece on it already so I don’t need to go too in-depth with it (Fun Fact: They Did). The cherry on top is what it leaked into: recording live concerts….. without permission. One of the first was from the Rolling Stones:  “Liver Than You’ll Ever Be” from a concert in Oakland, in 1969. No matter how dirt quality it could be compared to today’s standards, at least Mick Jaggers charisma breaks through. Decades would continue and so would concert bootlegs. Some of quality and some of <clears throat> shit. Some sound professional enough and others sound so bad that’ll you hear people screaming from another country before you’ll hear a note from the music. Good and bad, you get the gist.

Now what’s a live bootleg without visuals? … I don’t know, I’m asking. Youtube, we can watch many concerts of many artists that we hold near and dear. Some are professionally recorded or streamed, such as festivals like Coachella or Lollapalooza and so on. Often for in-house shows and tours, they’re many recorded Bootleg style. DIY yo. Whether recorded partial moments with a phone or snuck in a decent camera, but I mean come on in a building with an abundance of cameras, would security really bust a vessel over the one Panasonic? Well, depends. Ticketmaster explains many venues have restrictions on cameras and recording devices. Mainly to prevent bootlegs (go-figure), they are convenient to us but still illegal, I guess (Remember, Follow the law folks!). Ironically we have recording devices in our pockets, but 5 or 10 minutes is peanuts compared to 2 hours of copyrighted material so we could understand and that’s where the morals conflict.


With that being said, it still serves as a moment of relief that we could still enjoy a show. Being able to see moments we may have not known about as concert spontaneity is rapid. Maybe they performed a new or rare song of theirs, bring a special guest, or tell an audience member to “Shut the fuck up”. It’s like you’re peaking into a “private” event, being able to witness something spectacular that you may have never got to see. Even better with for old concert footage from the 80s, 90s, and 00s of shows we weren’t even able to experience….because we weren’t alive then, some of us at least.

In concert bootlegs, we get to see artists in different eras of their careers, how they interact with different crowds and cities, and see what’s a good night for them or a bad night for them. Ameuter and unethical in some cases, however a great window into watching moments we may have never gotten to see, sure we would prefer to be there in that moment but hey can’t have everything. Sometimes, it’s best to experience from a different POV. (Or maybe I’m fucking weird).

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