WHAT IS A BOOTLEG?
For our purposes a bootleg is a recording, on any format, that is not authorized by the persons owning the rights to the artist's music (For NIRVANA: David Geffen Company, The Kurt Cobain Estate, the remaining members of NIRVANA). Live recordings, and unreleased studio sessions are most commonly filed under the heading "bootlegs". Generally speaking, bootlegs have acquired a negative connotation due to the greedy and selfish individual's affinity to turn profit by selling the artist's recording. Which leads into the next question ...
There are many reasons why people collect unreleased recordings. Most collectors are first attracted by the opportunity to hear 'new' NIRVANA songs. For example, unreleased songs (Anorexorcist, You Know You're Right), and live cover versions (My Sharona and My Best Friend's Girl) do exist - and are available through tape/CDR trading or as MP3s on the internet. Other collectors wish to obtain a recording of a show they themselves attended, as a memento of the occasion. Finally, some aficionados like or even prefer the sound of the songs played live, since they are usually played faster, sometimes with different arrangements, and feature banter from the band in between the songs.
The readers of this site have collaborated to produce a list of the best NIRVANA concerts, under a variety of criteria, which you can view here.
ARE BOOTLEGS LEGAL?
Since this guide is intended to be used by NIRVANA traders, we shall put to one side for a moment the legal issues associated with the actual process of recording. Although for bootleg laws are pretty universal, they do somewhat vary from country to country. If you live outside of the US, please consult the law applicable to your jurisdiction for more information on the legality of bootlegs in your area. You can find some of these specific points in US Code 17, Section 1101.
[For further reading please consult Legality of Boots (1998), Boot Buyers Beware (1997) and Felons or Fans? (1996)]
FORMATS OF BOOTLEGS
Bootlegs can come in many forms: Vinyl, Compact Disc, Analog Cassette, DAT (Digital Audio Tape), Minidisc, CD-R (recordable CDs), VHS Video Cassette, DVD-R and mp3. The most popular of these in the NIRVANA trading community are CD-R, Analog Cassette, VHS Video Cassette, DAT, and mp3.
THE THREE MAJOR TYPES OF NIRVANA AUDIO BOOTLEGS
The term "original" refers to an orignal bootleg CD,as opposed to a CD-R or cassette copy of it, hence the terminology. Originals are pressed discs that are actually released by a bootleg company. Most originals have catchy titles (ie. Roma, Play that Fuckin Guitar Man, Beautiful Demise). These originals ARE NOT authorized by NIRVANA's record company, the Kurt Cobain Estate, or any remaining member of NIRVANA. These always have artwork, mirrored bottoms, and come in cases. Not all originals are taken from master recordings (eg. "Trick or Treat" is sourced from a 2nd gen analog cassette of 10/31/91), so although the quality of originals are USUALLY higher than analog cassettes in circulation, it is not ALWAYS better. Originals can be a great investment because they can be easily traded for Cassettes, CDR-S, and Videos.
CD-Rs have blue or green bottoms and are recorded most commonly by individuals for the ease of trading. CDRs are not produced by record companies (as originals often are), and since they are easily duplicated, are traded and sold for significantly less. Although some people may produce amateur artwork for CD-Rs, this is entirely a matter of taste (but be sure to agree on whether or not to send artwork before the trade). People trading CD-Rs should make every effort to keep track of the generation of their recordings.
3. Commercially Released CD-Rs
Commercially Released CD-Rs are a new addition to the NIRVANA bootleg trading community, and according to sources inside of the bootleg business, are the "way of the future." Commercially released CD-Rs are blue or green bottomed recordable CDs that usually come with full artwork and are released by a record company. Many small record stores attempt to sell commercially released CD-Rs for the same price as originals, even though they are worth significantly less. This is because any person with a burner can make hundreds of copies of a CDR, a fact that prices accurately reflect. For example, an original CD may sell on eBAY for 25-50$, but a CD-R of that show is never worth more than 10$.