I'm vaguely aware of the concept of "bootleg" recordings of concerts, where some sketchy person has somehow sneaked in and plugged in their own tape recorder (or something like that) into one of the audio jacks which are apparently available in the equipment and not guarded in any way (itself strange to me), then snuck back there, removed it and disappeared before anyone caught them. And then sold this to people as a "bootleg recording".

But who would buy such a thing? Wouldn't you much rather want a studio-recorded album rather than the always inferior live performance of the same songs? Isn't the only benefit of a concert that you are there physically? It doesn't appeal whatsoever to me personally, but I can at some level understand why that's attractive to a lot of people, since you get to watch the artist perform it live, in front of your eyes, even if it's much sloppier than the "perfected" recording on the disc you buy in a store.

But if you are just listening to a recording of that concert... what's the point? Who would want, let alone buy, such a thing? Every time I've listened to live recordings of bands I like, they are always complete garbage, and I don't just mean the sound quality. It's like it's somebody else performing their song, but it's the actual artist. Nothing at all like the album. Why would I want to listen to that at home, by myself, "after the fact"?

  • 1
    It's a fact that bootleg recorsings were made and sold. Read Clinton Heylin's book "Bootleg - The Secret History of the Other Recording Industry" for the history (downloadable via Google). Why anyone bought them is a matter of opinion.
    – PiedPiper
    Oct 25, 2020 at 19:54
  • 2
    Your argument is equivalent to "*Why would anyone want to listen to a professionally produced live concert album when the studio album is so much better?". Whether it happens to be bootlegged is irrelevant. Oct 26, 2020 at 0:43
  • You have too much questions in one, and mixed with opinions... that makes it impossible to answer.
    – Bebs
    Oct 26, 2020 at 7:43
  • If the bands you like can't play live, maybe you need to consider listening to other bands… who can.
    – Tetsujin
    Oct 26, 2020 at 10:44
  • "Who would buy one?" Me for example (I have two Led Zeppelin bootlegs.) For one thing, it's a collector's item, something not just anybody has. "Why?" For real fans, hearing different versions and arrangements of your favorite songs. Sometimes they'll play prototypes of songs that later appear in their final form. Also there may be different solos, sometimes songs that don't appear on any studio albums, etc. "Why not just go to a concert?" That assumes that's a possibility.
    – Duston
    Oct 27, 2020 at 13:10

1 Answer 1


You are used to highly produced music which is created primarily for studio recording, and then reproduced live on stage for fans who demand an exact copy of the recording. But there are bands, and genres, where the primary experience is the live concerts. Often, these performances include a lot of improvisation, so they are different each time. These are also typically bands which thrive off the energy coming from the audience, so the music takes on a different quality with the right audience. In turn, the live audience gains a different kind of connection with this type of music, one that can't easily be recaptured in the controlled studio setting.

Genres which are typically superior live include blues, jazz, folk, punk and "jam." The archetypal bootlegged band is the jam rock band "Grateful Dead," whose studio albums are generally dismissed as pale, inferior imitations of the live experience. This experience was a literal way of life --a quasi-religious, spiritual event --for many fans, who used to travel from town-to-town with the band in order to experience them live, over and over. These superfans' homebrewed recordings, often produced without any access at all to the official sound system, were bought, sold, and passed hand-to-hand as a proxy for actually being there. The audio quality was secondary, for such fans, to the memories of the live experience. Other well known jam bands are the Dave Matthews Band, Parliament Funkadelic, Widespread Panic and Phish.

Current music is very production-focused, which is probably why this makes little sense to you. Nearly all modern recordings are produced with a wide array of digital effects that don't translate well to the live arena. In addition, many artists either create their backing tracks solo, or have a producer who provides the background, so that the "band" that accompanies them live on stage is strictly hired to recreate the recording. It's mainly older music and genres that have the deep, unbreakable connection with live performance. (For instance, I don't care much for the blues when recorded. But good live blues is an amazing, not to be missed experience.)

  • I'd add to your list Leslie West's 'Mountain' - early 70's, their live [official] recordings made their studio efforts seem very pale by comparison. If you want to check them out, I'd go for 'Mountain Live' [later also tagged The Road Goes Ever On] & 'Flowers of Evil' [one side studio, the other side live]
    – Tetsujin
    Nov 4, 2020 at 16:52

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