Release type for "taper" releases

This follows on from an older thread on Live Bootlegs, but I’m creating a new thread because I wanted to address one specific issue. In between the world of “official” and “bootleg” there exists a category of recorded performances by “taper friendly” artists. The defining characteristics of these are:

  • They’re not distributed by the artist or their label
  • The artists either explicitly or tacitly allow the recording and distribution
  • The releases are not commercially available; they are traded among collectors

Because of the first point, they don’t qualify as “official”. The second point distinguishes them from “bootlegs” which are by definition unauthorized. The third point is useful information if I find a release that I’d like to have, so I know not to look for it in a store but rather to go to a trading hub like

As a new release type I would propose either “traded” or simply “noncommercial”.

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Our bootleg type already contains at least two different things: Pirate records (copies, compilations) and the live recorded bootlegs you refer to.
And then the new kind you now introduce, tapers, they seem to me very close to live bootlegs, not different enough that they require a new type, less different than pirates.


Pirate and bootleg both refer to unauthorized releases, which doesn’t fit well with, for example, the many Grateful Dead live recordings circulated by fans. (It seems like MB editors have largely dealt with this in the case of the Dead by leaving out the type entirely - see all the “Unspecified type” releases on their artist page.

To me it also sounds like these taper releases are a type of bootleg. I don’t know the exact definition of “authorizing”, but doesn’t that usually involve a contract? If an artist just generally permits everybody to distribute their live recordings I’d still call that unauthorized, but permitted.
Technically it’s probably still illegal, but not punishable (where there is no plaintiff there is no judge). At least I wouldn’t know how the artist could actually make it legal. If they release their lyrics and sheet music under a creative commons license then everybody would be allowed to distribute their own performances of that work, but to be able to legally distribute the artist’s recorded performance it would first have to be recorded by the artist and the recording then licensed under a CC license.

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I don’t understand the distinction you make between “authorized” and “permitted” since to me those are synonymous.

Some of the bigger “taper friendly” band have explicitly stated policies. Phish has an FAQ entry on their website. Umphrey’s McGee has a published policy also. There’s a Bands That Allow Taping database, maintained by tapers, although some of it may be out of date, that tracks more informal policies.

Most of the taping policies I’ve seen are fairly comparable to the creative commons “Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives” license. But CC is just a way to standardize certain categories of free use; you can make your own work shareable without using a CC license. (At least, that’s my understanding. IANAL, which may be a new entry for the acronym list - I Am Not A Lawyer.)


(Only) Now I understand what taper means because I am not English and am used to cassette more than tape word.
It means someone in the audience recording the concert (on a tape or any other medium).
Is that it?

In this case isn’t it the very definition of bootlegs, as far as I understood?
If something should be split from our Bootleg type, it would be pirate studio albums, pirate compilations, etc.


My view;
MB uses bootleg in ways that are confusing given the clear understanding of what bootleg means around recorded music.

The most obvious mismatch between MBbootleg and music-collector-bootleg is rips of official music out of copyright being classifued as bootleg on M B.

Thing is we discussed it on a thread on this forum and, from memory, there was no clean and easy way forward.
If the OP woul like to look at that thread and see if they can find some forward?

On a androidtab - finding other thread tempting fate.

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They can be I guess, but don’t have to be. E.g. an unauthorized biography is nothing illegal, just a biography about someone who had nothing to do with the production of the biography.

But if they really have official policies that put the taping practice on a legal footing, then I agree that it’s neither a bootleg nor an official release.

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Bootleg is defined quite broadly on musicbrainz

An unofficial/underground release that was not sanctioned by the artist and/or the record company. This includes unofficial live recordings and pirated releases.

There has been talk in the past of renaming the Bootleg status to Unofficial.


Wait, what? This is the first time I’ve heard that. By that standard the entire output of JSP Records would be bootlegs, but that’s not how they’re listed.

“Unofficial” is broad enough to cover all the cases discussed here (bootleg, pirate, and taper/traded). I think there’s value to distinguishing the specific statuses, though.

As well as all the types that already exist apart from “official”.

It seems a little ambiguous whether you’re proposing a new release status (like official, bootleg) or a new release type (like album, single, EP)? You’ve made reference to both in different places here.

Is your proposal to split recordings of taper friendly bands into a new status, but keep recordings of anti-taper bands in bootleg?

I think I wrote “type” where I should have written “status”. For argument’s sake, let me throw out some proposed language, addressing the pirate case as well. I propose we replace the current “bootleg” status with the following:

bootleg: An unofficial release that was not sanctioned by the artist and/or the record company, and consists of material that is not otherwise commercially available (such as live or demo recordings).
pirate: An unofficial release that was not sanctioned by the artist and/or label, and that directly competes with official releases. This includes unauthorized compilations consisting entirely of commercially available material.
traded: An unofficial release that is sanctioned by the artist and/or label and distributed purely on a non-commercial basis.

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It seems like something like this might fall under that: Release “Seven for Australia” by The Mountain Goats - MusicBrainz

The artist had to cancel a tour in Australia for medical reasons, and he posted some unreleased songs to his forums as an apology. Definitely sanctioned, and I’d argue that they’re noncommercial in nature. I’ve been waffling between official and promotional for this type of thing, where it’s released by the artist directly the their fan community as a free download.

What’s the border of “non-commerical” here?

I would call that an official release, but I guess it’s also a “give-away release” so that qualifies under MB’s definition of promotional.

Generally, it means “no money exchanged”, recordings are traded like for like (or given away) only. Phish’s policy also extends to “media by which audio trading is publicized”, so you couldn’t run a trading website and sell advertising on it.

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Here is the September 2017 thread

It is long.
Gets relevant to out of copyright as bootleg about half way down.


I think we already have what you call traded → promotional.
OK to split pirates but I don’t think it is that important and it will give much work to editors for all existing bootlegs.

Note that some bootlegs may later become official this making further bootlegs becoming pirates. But it’s already just a fun edge case that should not be taken into account for general rules. :wink:

Promotional is not at all the same as traded. A promotional release is distributed by the artist/label. A traded release is distributed by fans among themselves.

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Most of these look good to me. The language is consistent with existing usage in the field of recorded music. A naive user would know what is meant.
“traded” however appears to be “sanctioned bootleg” where the artist has indicated a preparedness to relax normal copyright restrictions.
My very brief exposure to the bootleg music scene has me thinking that many “bootlegs” had some degree of sanctioning by the artist. Is this not the case?

How would rips/copies of out-of-copyright recordings be dealt with?
Derobert in the Sept17 thread suggested,
" Could change it to be authorized by the artist, the label, or the law in the country it was released.
(Which I take to mean that we could alter the definition of Official to include all legal “non-copyright-violating releases”.)

Are there other categories which also need to be considered as part of a change?

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Good question. What e.g. about leaked content (by the artist) without the copyright holder’s (label’s) permission? Do these count as normal bootlegs/pirated releases?

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