When does a bootleg not have an "actual title"?

Based on discussion from this edit: the style guide for live bootlegs gives a standard title format for bootlegs which do not have “actual titles”. I have always interpreted this as applying when whatever is written on the packaging / webpage with the download is some variation on the date and venue (possibly with “Live at” added), in contrast to cases like this, where somebody came up with a more traditional kind of title (traditionally a terrible pun).

On the other hand, the style guide is a bit vague (necessarily, since there are bound to be edge cases), and maybe this is not what was intended. For example, occasionally official live releases are just named after the date and location, but as per style guide should not be standardised in this way, which feels a little odd – so perhaps I should be interpreting “actual title” more liberally.

Interested to see if there is some consensus here, and if there is, if it is possible to clarify the guidance to reflect it.


If someone is holding a physical release in their hand (bootleg or not) their best chance to find it is to search for it using the text on the cover. Requiring them to make an intermediate Google text search, scrape metadata found and fabricate an artificial MB-normalized title from it does not help them.


I appreciate that, but it sounds like an argument for what you think the style guideline should be, whereas I’m asking about what it means as it currently is, and whether that meaning can be made more precise.

Perhaps it means we should use the text on the cover, as you clearly prefer, but that is not how I have been interpreting what it says (and the fact that until today I did not receive votes against the resulting edits suggests that I am not alone).

I would agree that “actual title” implies something other than just date and location. Otherwise, what would constitute a bootleg without an “actual title”?


Hard to vote on that. I edit loads of bootlegs, and have seen both methods used. If standardised title is being used, add the “as written” version as an alias and the search will still find it.

As printed on the cover it says “Wembley 29 June 1991”. So neither version in that edit is “as on cover”.

The previous title is wrong, so the edit is an improvement getting rid of that “Live at” text. That is the main reason for my “yes” vote

If I had added it to the database, I’d have stuck to what I read on the cover. “Wembley 29 June 1991”. Then the disambig and relationship can handle the standardised texts.

Cover is not even complete enough to say which Wembley. I’d also be a little suspect if that is a real CD scan… colours look a bit bootleg\digital to me. It is why I find the whole release a little suspect.

I thought this guideline was made for titling release groups with several release with inconsistent titles.
Indeed if the RG only contains bootlegs, none of them is more official, so we cannot pick the official title.

But each release should keep its proper title, as printed, IMO.

But reading the guideline, it says it also applies on releases.
I’ve never seen a release without printed title, myself.
Maybe another pre-NGS guideline oditty?

So far it seems like there is a (quite slim) majority in agreeing with me about what the guideline says now – that’s consistent with the fact that in my experience a majority of bootlegs in the database use the standardised names (or the no-longer-official variant in which another title is also included, before the location), and that historically the guide used to refer to “well-known” titles as the alternative to the standardised version. (Even that old revision is post-NGS, btw.)

On the other hand, it also looks like a clearer majority is in favour of changing the guidance to clearly mean the other option, i.e. use what is printed on the cover / webpage, in the metadata of the file etc, so that should probably be considered. (My attempt to keep separate the questions of what the guidance does say versus what it should say was not very successful!) One issue with this might be how many times the same recording of a show has been “released” with slightly different titles though, especially if it’s hosted online in several places: I could imagine this getting out of hand and leading to huge numbers of releases in a single group, although maybe in practice it’s ok.

IvanDobsky’s suggestion of using aliases to deal with search issues seems like a great idea, whichever titling system ends up being used. In the meantime I’ll try to avoid making edits that switch from “on cover” to “standardised”, but will probably still clean up things that don’t match either of these, using my understanding of the current guidance.

Multiple bootleg releases in the same RG tend to have multiple variations of a title. This is pretty important to keep those names as printed so you know which variant you have.

Notice in this RG some of the titles are even the wrong gig! That “Dark Night in Atlanta” is just a repackage of the same thing yet again but with the wrong city on the cover.

This has been repackaged so many times even Sony now jump in and sell a copy.

Some of these releases are using the older standard of sticking the date on the front of the title, others use the pure title. All of these are generally “as per cover title”.

Another example where renaming these to a “standardised” form would make a mess. Another bootleg with a bad name (Live in London 1971) which should not be standardised. These are actual CDs which had these titles when on the shelf.

I’d only consider renaming a digital file that has come from a dubious source with no real history behind it.


Those Floyd examples suggest there won’t be too many different physical editions, but I was thinking mainly of digital – if a recording is available on a bunch of different bootleg sites, always with the date and location in lieu of a title, but each site has its own formatting convention for that information, we’d either have to add all of them as separate releases, or pick one title for all of them. (I’m not a bootleg collector, so I don’t know how many sites is realistic: if it’s 2–3 that’s not too bad, if it can sometimes be 50+ then this is a problem.)

As an aside, from the Floyd examples you give, the only one I would definitely have standardised using my initial understanding of the current guideline is “Live in London 1970”. (The 1971 version would have been close, but the fact that the year is wrong might have stopped me.) Everything else in that release group, and every DSOTM’74 release, has what I would understand as an “actual” title, beyond just date / location.

Worth noting that Release Groups like those Floyd ones are full of CDs that are now exchanged as FLAC rips. If I dug around I could probably find you longer lists of just digital media.

Usually a downloaded bootleg includes a text file and some artwork. Often cut up like a CD ready to press to CD-R. So a title stays with the bootleg versions. Or, like seen in some of those Floyd examples, the bootleggers rip off the bootleg and rename it. Identically track splits, but a new name.

“Live in London 1970” is a title. Stripping out that title and making it generic looses it link back to the original tapers. This title will also be how it is referred to on other sites. Fan sites, etc. Bootleg sites like to keep things as they find them, or make a big point of repackaging something with a new name.

The current guideline says when there is NO title to standardise it. “Live in London 1970” is a clear title on a printed CD cover. It is a real pressed Italian CD as can be seen by the artwork.

Only if I downloaded something without artwork, without text files, would I consider cleaning up the name.

Your edit changes a wrong title to a less wrong title. It is an improvement, but still wrong as it is not what is on the cover. If you had that CD in your hand it is not the title you read.


I want to stress that I don’t have a strong opinion on what the titling convention actually is, but only that the style guide expresses it clearly, so that editors know what to do in as many cases as possible.

With that in mind, here are some test questions: does this randomly chosen Grateful Dead bootleg from the Internet Archive have an actual title, or not? The page heading says “Grateful Dead Live at Winterland Arena on 1973-11-11”, so some might say that’s a title. If somebody burns these files to a CD and prints that text on the front, does that change the answer? This is a pretty generic case, so I think the style guide is going to have to be updated to clearly answer these questions, whatever those answers end up being.

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It looks fairly clear - if no title, then use something standardised. If a title available, then use it.

For bootlegs with actual titles, just follow the standard titles guideline.
For untitled bootlegs, use its date and location information, in the form “YYYY-MM-DD: Venue, City, State/Province, Country”.

That looks like a title to me. Confusingly it is a streaming only page, so a bit more outside my comfort zone as I would also want to look at what the tags hold.

As I mentioned before, I have see occasions where digital tracks like that with no solid title get cleaned up. Funnily you picked a date that reads the same in US and normal layout. If I read 1973-13-11 then I am more likely to standardise that. I’d never change a CD or any time I saw it printed.

For me (and apparently others), the lack of clarity comes from the use of the word “actual” in the first line, suggesting that it means something stronger than just any title-like text. On the specific types of releases page the language is “proper title”, which is arguably even stronger. So I think we either need some guidance to clarify what makes a title “proper” or “actual”, or switch so that the distinction is more clearly between just titled (in any way) or untitled (in which case I think the “untitled” situation will almost never occur, as highstrung pointed out earlier).

Whether you agree with them or not, MB already has plenty of guidelines that require deviating from what is printed on a physical release, so it is not unreasonable to assume that this could be one too. If it is not, I think that needs to be made more explicit.


Better guidance is always better, I suppose, to those that bother to read it.
Most MB editors don’t and most people in the real world don’t even know what MB is.


MB should not foster definitions of things (titles, here) that go counter to what the common man on the street thinks.
Show that man a real physical cover of a CD with bold text splashed across it and they will tell you that is the title - even if they can’t decipher the script or the language.
MB should be a resource for this common man.
MB should be indexed for this text.

Since MB’s inception, it has been slowly (rightly) migrating away encoding metadata in titles and credits. There are now plenty of places where such metadata has a proper home and, where this is the case (it is here), there is no reason not to use that home.
We should not mangle the title to encode it in a way that makes no sense to the common man when we can do better otherwise.

Please use MB relationships to encode dates, places, credits, etc. as they are designed to do.
Please use aliases to give hints for those searching using expected text.
Please title things as the plain text on the cover suggests.

When bootlegs do not have a discernable (actual, real, tangible) title, MB offers guidance to construct one from metadata.
That is the only time we should do so as the common man will never do this.


Even if the convention was to usually standardise, there would be ways of phrasing the guidance that didn’t involve creating weird definitions of the word title, e.g. “if the title contains only information about the recording date and location, then…” (and my discussion here is supposed to be about the definition of “actual” or “proper”, not “title” – I have probably made this more confusing than it needed to be by not always expressing myself clearly.)

Since MB’s inception, it has been slowly (rightly) migrating away encoding metadata in titles and credits. There are now plenty of places where such metadata has a proper home and, where this is the case (it is here), there is no reason not to use that home.

This I definitely agree with, and you have generally made a well-argued case for avoiding these standardised titles for bootlegs. It would be interesting to know if the current guidance is written how it is because some of these metadata fields were not available at the time, or for some other reason: for example, I can imagine someone with a large bootleg collection that they are tagging using Picard wanting a bit more standardisation for organisational purposes, and maybe some argument like that ultimately won out back then.

As I have said, I have no strong opinion on what the “right” answer is, as long as somebody picks one and writes it down as clearly as possible in the guidance. As things stand, I find the guidance ambiguous, even after this discussion, and so have opened a ticket.

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These are GUIDElines, not rules. The harder and harsher you try and make a RULE then the easier it is to find an exception to it. And instead end up with pages and pages of examples trying to nail down something exact. It is why legal documents are so impossible to understand.

As @rossetyler says, we are documenting what the common man owns. We all want to know if we have the same items in our possession. So renaming that item makes little sense as that just leads to the next person making their own duplicate.

I don’t see many people in this thread saying to change the way we do things. Your ticket is misleading.
Just your edit that started this thread is on a confusing tangent as it is against the guideline, but then so was the title already on it. At least your change of title made less of a mess than was there now…

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Your questions are valid.

The best standard is one that does not have to be written.
Guidance, if any, should always steer in the direction that most people would take naturally.
Without guidance to confuse people otherwise, I think 99.9% of the population would agree on what the title of a book is given its cover.

Perhaps the word “actual” should just be removed.

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The ticket just asks for the guidance to be written more clearly. In what way do you find it misleading? I am happy to clarify it if necessary.

Obviously it can’t cover every case, but we have discovered from this thread that the two of us disagree about what it means even in common situations, so it would be better if this were fixed. As much as you might be surprised or disagree, my original edit was a genuine attempt to follow the guideline. If the word “actual” (and “proper” on the other special releases page) were removed as rossetyler suggests, my edit would have been different.


The question is further confused since one of the examples on the “live bootlegs” style page has something that looks very much like a title (“Rotterdam 2002”) on the spine.

I suspect the live recording style is referenced a lot more than the bootleg title itself these days. Maybe that page should be the “source of truth” for the live format, and the bootleg guideline reference it, instead of the other way around - especially if the bootleg page is rewritten to deemphasize usage of that format.

The other two examples given on the live bootlegs style page were both sourced from “dime” meaning dimeadozen.org, a torrent tracker. Everything there has some sort of title:

I’m still at a loss for how a bootleg would not have any title at all, unless it was on physical media with completely blank packaging. (The earliest pressings of Great White Wonder would qualify, but vanishingly few others.) So maybe we should get rid of the guidance for bootleg release titles entirely.

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