Bootleg Yourself?

Pollstar ran this article on releasing recordings of your shows. The piece tries to make the point that, because of copyright and contractual issues, smaller independent bands and artists are more likely to benefit from selling CDS after the show than the larger acts with major label deals.

Benefit, yes. Capable of? Well….

It is true that if you are signed your record company will be extremely upset if you start to sell competing products, especially if the reason for you being on tour in the first place is to persuade your audience to rush into a record store and buy a copy of your latest CD. (As I explained in Chapter 9 – ‘Getting Paid’ of The Tour Book)

However, in my experience, the ‘barriers to entry’ for releasing live CDs/DVDs/downloads for smaller or independent artists are pretty huge and may not be worth overcoming.

It is not just the cost of buying/renting the recording equipment and perhaps hiring extra crew to oversee the recordings that creates problems. The actual environments that you, as a lesser known artist, will find yourself really do not lend themselves to capturing audio. At least not audio you would feel comfortable charging good money for.

A couple of years ago I toured with a band who wanted to record every night of the tour for use as material for a CD. This was not going to be a release of every show on the tour, just the best version of each song from a 12 date European tour for a double CD pack.

The band had their own studio and so had more than enough recording equipment already. Even so, before the tour, I sat down with the band and worked out exactly what they wanted to achieve for the recordings and how we were going to achieve it.

We utilised what we could from the studio, rented, borrowed and blagged equipment until we had an appropriate recording package. Before we set off, I added the fact we were recording the show to the band’s contract rider and again mentioned the recording to the promoter’s when advancing the shows, explaining that we would require a bit of extra time in the afternoon to rig the recording gear. We even hired a sound recording student to act as my assistant.

Despite all our combined experience, the technical knowledge and extraordinary planning involved, we had problems with making the recordings every day on the tour. It seemed trying to get all this technology to fit into these small venues was really pouring ’10 pounds of manure into a 5 pound bag’. We were unfortunately not touring with a PA as the venues ranged anywhere between 350 and 2000 capacities. I am convinced we would have had no problems with the recordings if we had been carrying production. As was the case we had to interface with the house/bought in systems everyday, which of course varied immensely in complexity and quality.

Every day saw some new challenge; we had input and output problems from the house desks, intermittent power problems, earthing anomalies, out-of phase systems and, in a couple of venues, insufficient mike cables and stands!

So it seems a bit glib of the article to infer that today’s DIY artists might be able to make a bit extra by punting out live CDs. It’s a LOT harder than it looks!

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