Music artist have widely varying policies regarding taping live performances. Some prohibit it completely; others assist it by letting tapers patch in to the soundboard. Many are somewhere in between and are to open to fan-created recordings as long as the tapes are for personal use and trading. (View a large list of bands that allow some form of recording.)
Similarly, taping rules can vary by venue and by country. In Europe, for example, laxer copyright laws have allowed companies to sell unauthorized concert records for profit. In the US, lawful bootleg exchange is confined to trading, and there are numerous websites that facilitate this. Examples are band-specific sites like The Counting Crows and more general ones like DAT-Heads. If you are just starting out, though, trading can hard as newbies have little to offer. Fortunately, there are some other alternatives.
As I mentioned when I wrote about Death Cab for Cutie, the Internet Archive hosts lossless files from concerts. They have recordings from 2,200 bands and 35,000 shows. (Search the Internet Archive. Read more about the history and legality of bootlegging.)
For those searching for artists not on archive.org, my friend James writes in with two other suggestions. James is a serious music lover with catholic taste. While shopping in Berkeley, he discovered Riff Raff Recording on Haste at Telegraph in front of the old Cody’s. Riff Raff was formed by music lovers to ease the friction in trading, and they have more than 1,000 live blues, R&B, funk, indie, alternative and rock shows from the 1960s forward available for trade or supplies (or the monetary equivalent of supplies).
James picked up 6 shows by very famous artists whose live bootlegs are quite hard to come by and he reports back that the sound quality is excellent. These guys love live music. Check them out Wednesday – Sunday, 1-6p.
In his “notes from the field,” James also reports on a developing legal dispute over the concerts in Wolfgang’s Vault. William Sagan bought memorabilia and live recordings from “Wolfgang” Bill Graham’s estate. He is selling the memorabilia and giving 320 concerts for free download.
On Monday, artists from bands including Santana, Led Zeppelin and Grateful Dead filed suit to shut down Wolfgang’s Vault. In the case of the bootlegs, it will be interesting to see this unfold as Sagan owns what BGP had permission to record and Sagan is not distributing them for profit. James didn’t offer a legal opinion on the case. (See the full list of concerts; fans top 100. Free registration required for download.)
Finally, James is a very avid concert attendee. It was his decision to see Wolfmother that allowed me to see Damien Rice, and one day I hope he will submit a regular post listing his top picks for the coming month. Today, we have the James-endorsed concert calendar for the rest of the 2006:
Tomorrow 12/21: Popscene’s Holiday Party with Silversun Pickups. 9:30p ($10)
Fri12/22 and Sat 12/23: Vienna Teng at The Independent. 9p ($20)
Sunday 12/24: Yoshi’s 5th Annual Christmas Show with Clairdeee. 7p ($16) 9p ($10)
Saturday 12/30: The Flaming Lips and Gnarls Barkley at the Civic. 8p ($55)
Saturday 12/30: Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven at The Independent. 9p ($23)
Perhaps James will also share his concert-finding secrets. For now you’ll have to be content with the sites I use: SonicLiving, Flavorpill, and the SF Weekly.
Bonus link: shaky video of The Flaming Lips covering Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy