WEB SITES OF CD SHOPS
What to look for when finding a suitable web site:
Find a web site that sells music, via Yahoo or any other search engine. Try "music shop" or "CD sales" or variations. Smaller, independent record shops are most likely to have bootlegs; commercial chain stores will not.
Once at a promising site, type in Nirvana in the search function (if there is one) and look for any unusual titles. The site may specifically mention Live CDs.
If the site does appear to sell bootlegs, then bear in mind the following:
What to ask when emailing web sites:
Japanese web sites are generally efficient, reliable and honest. If you ask whether a disc is an original or a CDR, you can expect a truthful answer.
However, the yen is quite strong at the moment so the prices are high--current prices are 2500-4500 yen ($25 - 45) per disc. A good example is CD-Shop Gold [link to come].
American sites are more variable. Some people have had great experiences shopping with Tunnel Records, however they ripped me off severely. Prices: US$20 -$30
Others: the legendary Kiss The Stone site is now defunct, because of court rulings.
Many internet auction sites are not discriminating about the authenticity of the items the public can list for sale, so in recent times sites such as eBAY has become a Mecca for buying and selling bootlegs. This is where the casual collector, who has picked up a bootleg five years ago out of curiosity, will dispose of it. These people number many more than most traders realise - the hardcore Nirvana tape/CDR traders are a very small section of the overall bootleg market.
eBAY used to be a real bargain for bootlegs, but its ever increasing popularity has driven prices sky-high, so that rare Japanese bootlegs frequently fetch well over $100. Type in "Nirvana" into its search engine to see what's on offer. With the advent of PayPal, enabling payment for items by credit card, the whole process is much easier and safter than it used to be, but scams are still possible, so do check out seller's feedback. Indeed, eBay seems to set "market values" for bootlegs, which are often quoted by traders - see section III.
For those of you wishing to sell bootlegs on eBAY, the trick to avoid detection is not to mention the word "bootleg" in your listing - people who will make serious bids will know their stuff well enough to recognise the title alone.
Those in search of a bargain had better look elsewhere, and eBAY does have many lesser known competitors, such as UK's www.qxl.com, although you may find yourself obliged to deal in pounds of Deutschmarks or other more obscure currencies.
Rasmus Holmen's Internet NIRVANA Fan Club used to have an auction facility, but this has been discontinued owing to lack of interest, owing to people using methods described in III below.
Serious Nirvana fans, most of whom are "tape-traders" (people who copy CDRs and videos and tapes of live concerts for each other in exchange for more of the same), tend to hang out at LiveNIRVANA.com, Digital NIRVANA, and The Internet NIRVANA Fan Club, where there are numerous web-boards for postings. People advertise here in the Traders' forums that they have items for trade. It should be noted that Digital NIRVANA does not tolerate sales. Registration is essential (but free) to make a posting, although anyone can read the messages. alt.music.nirvana is generally too overrun with "newbies" (amateurs new to such forms of communication) to be of any practical use.
The people most interested in any bootleg CDs you want to trade are generally either "completists", who are people that have every other Nirvana item it is possible to own, in some cases including every live recording; and peolpe who specialise in collecting Nirvana bootlegs.
Selling is generally frowned upon by most older traders, as it is considered unethical by these fans to profit off Nirvana, and the author is inclined to agree that money should not change hands. However, bootlegs do have a very real value, which as noted above seems to be determined by eBAY.
SHOPS AND STALLS AROUND THE WORLD
These vary greatly around the world. Again, small independent record stalls are much more likely to stock bootlegs. Stalls in markets are even better prospects, and if you come across a CD fair then there is likely to be at least one stall which sells bootlegs. If abroad, try asking a local - teenagers are most likely to know.
What to look for:
A note on pricing:
The price of bootlegs depends on several factors, and not just the economic supply and demand: the price will often be fairly close to that of a full-priced officialCD album in that country (which varies more than most people assume - full price albums are 50% - 100% more expensive in Europe compared with USA), but will increase dramatically if there are frequent arrests and crackdowns, and decrease as the apparent risk of being caught drops. Hence bootlegs are cheaper in Italy than USA, despite official CDs being more expensive in Italy.
ASIA AND AUSTRALIA
In these countries, you are better off trying record shops, perhaps even more than market stalls. Piracy prevention is much less of an issue, and any such efforts are made against software. Since most of the losses are borne by American companies, you could consider it in racial terms.
Bootlegs are generally sold by respectable shops; indeed you will find yourself having to pay 5% consumption tax on them. The amount of English spoken is highly variable - those who are competant generally land better jobs than assistants in record stores. Prices are high, but you will find discs that are not available elsewhere in the world, and if you are lucky, some may have stock left of the rarest bootlegs of all, such as the Small Clone series or the Cracker series. Videos are very often available too, even Video CDs.
Do try to strike up a converstaion with the assistant, and ask to speak to the manager too if you are in a smaller store. The Japanese store owner is likely to be a real fanatic, and will be delighted to talk about how great the Sex Pistols are etc.
Tokyo: Shinjuku West Side is the place to go, although there are bootleg shops right across the city. Once you have located one, you can purchase a Japanese bootleg magazine, which will list hundreds of the shops. In Shinjuku West Side, you will find PopBeat and CD Shop Gold (near T-Zone), and carry on walking around the area to find a third one, the name of which I forget, which is very cheap [average priceY2000 ($18ish)].
Osaka: no information
Kyoto: There are two bootleg shops in the Fish Market in the centre of town. One has an enormous selction, but sadly all are on CDR. Their video selection is also impressive. If you're looking for a bootleg by an obscure band and can't get hold of the recording by trading, this may be your only option. There is another shop a few doors down which now mainly sells computer games, but they still have some extremely rare bootlegs upstairs [Small Clones as of 7/2000], if rather pricey.
Kanazawa: Import Yamachiku records (centre of town) is the place to go. Downstairs in the basement. Pricey, but very friendly staff. No problems about listening to as many discs as you want.
There is one shop that I know of, called Works Records in Hankow Road in TsimShaTsui. The manager is a great guy, although is financially struggling and may fold soon. CDRs are prevalent, although not ubiquitous. There is an impressive array of VCDs of recent concerts, some of which are better quality than videos.
Bootlegs by labels such as KTS, Octopus etc are available in several shops in Taipei, just go and look in the Nirvana section. If you see any signs of bootlegs, ask at the desk, they may offer to order some for you. However, some shop assistants won't even know what a bootleg is, and there won't be much point trying to explain. Prices are exceptionally good. Try the smaller shops; anywhere but Tower Records.
On the Khao San Road, Bangkok, you will find many great bootlegged items, from student cards to Calvin Kline fuCKoff T-shirts, and a good line in copied cassettes at 40 Baht ($1) each. One store had all the Nirvana albums and what turned out to be a tape of the MTV concert. However the quality of these tapes is awful. The shallholders are more interested in selling you women (about the same price, I believe).
Piracy is surpisingly prevalent what what purports to be such a law abiding society. However, being the intellectual snobs that they are, you are more likely to find copies of "Let's Learn Chinese" and "Paintings by the Great Masters" than bootleg concerts. The Sim Lim center (off Orchard Road) is a great starting point, often better than record shops, and you can begin your enquiries there. In 1997, they were just beginning a line in Beatles bootleg videos on VCD, and I imagine this has expanded a lot.
Many shops will have deals like five original CDs for S$15 (US$7) - some of which even claim to have Live Nirvana, and they look great - but turn out to be cover versions.
KTS moved its operations here, and so you may be able to find some of their discs.
Last summer, straight pirates of Nevermind an In Utero were ubiquitous in Shenzhen. No luck on bootlegs.
Along the main road in Sydney, linking the harbor bridge to the central station, there are several interesting rock shops that have signed Nirvana items etc. These shops were on the right hand side as you approach the bridge, amongst the tax free tourist shops. This would be the best place to start your enquiries.
The Joker / Banana / Grapefruit etc record labels were based here, and were legal for a while [many have expressed skepticism at this, but it is true]. You may be able to find some of these in second hand shops.
I found a few boot shops in Auckland, one near the main HI youth hostel in the city, and was quite reasonably priced too from what I remember.
Europe, and Italy in particular, used to be the major center for bootleg activity. Following a crackdown by Police, many of the bootleg labels are now defunct. However, production may have ceased, but procurement is still relatively easy. Indeed, that is why Dave Grohl is known to shop for them in Europe.
The point of interest is that the selection of bootlegs commonly on sale in Europe is different from that in Japan, which differs from that available in North America.
Camden in north London is a legendary place for bootlegging. Despite frequent Police operations, bootleggers are once again proliferating in the area. Along with Shinjuku in Tokyo, this is one of the few places in the world worth visiting for bootlegs alone.
Most people will arrive on the London Underground (London's metro system); go to Camden Town on the Northern Line. On exiting the station, turn right, pass the Electric Ballroom and Camden Market is 50 meters down the road on your right. It is now open 7 days a week, about 11am to 6pm, although the stalls of interest are generally only open on weekends.
There are two stalls selling bootlegs in this market: the first one is nearer the road and is rather pricey, unhelpful, and has a lot of CDRs. Average price: £15($22) per disc.
The second is a stall perpendicular to all the other rows of stalls, and is probably the best place to obtain bootlegs in the world. There seem to be continual changes of management and the real Nirvana fan who used to run it has defected to a legitimate CD shop across the road. Anyway, do bring along all your unwanted bootlegs and even commercial albums, for they are very willing to do 2:1s (when no other customers are around). By its very nature, this means that their selection will be very varied. Otherwise expect to pay £12 ($18) per disc, but if you buy more than one, a little light haggling will drop the price to £10 ($15).
There are still many more excellent stalls to mention, especially at weekends: go back out of the market to the main road, and carry on going away from the station. Cross another road, and on the left, just past the bridge, is another market area, perhaps called Camden Lock. There are a couple of stalls dealing exclusively in CDRs, but both have extremely varied colections.
Opposite this market, on the right hand side of the road, is another alleyway [yellow, I recall] which serves as a market on Saturdays. Down here resides one of the biggest video tapers in the world; he seems to record shows personally several times a year, and sells 1st generation copies on his stall. Prices: £20 ($30) per video, but the quality is excellent. He may even have something rare. He also has a decent selection of audio casettes, again 1st gen copies, at £5 ($7) a throw.
If you are unable to travel to Camden, all is not lost. Many independent record shops will have bootlegs under the counter if you ask for them.
Record fairs are also excellent sources: there is one at the Electric Ballroom in Camden (vide supra) every other weekend, and these travel all over the country. Most of these dealers are sometimes helpful enough to attempt to order bootlegs for you, and also have excellent prices.
Again, market stalls and small independent record stores will be most obliging.
An extremely weird selection of bootlegs was on sale in Athens in a shop in the town center, I forget the precise location. Well worth tracking down.
The "imtrat" bootleg label was legal for a while here, so there are still many of their releases (such as Nirvana - Live in Belgium) around in second hand stores and the like.
Bootleg CDs are available everywhere, although these will often turn out to be pirates or homemade compilations. All will be very reasonably priced, if you haggle. Piracy is a lot more blatant in Italy than elsewhere.
Pirates of official releases at about $10 a throw are easy to come by; there are aslo some rare, but not very interesting bootlegs on sale, like the Rome show but disordered. Try all the record shops in Prague; even the serious looking ones are likely to have pirates.
Similar advice applies. A little perseverence will deliver rewards.
It is becoming harder and harder to track down bootlegs in North America. Back in 1996, there was an arrangement by which a wholesaler would go round all the shops (record or otherwise) in an area and supply any that expressed any interest with bootlegs, which were then sold at $28-$30 a throw.
New York - there are several street markets which sell CDs, but enquiries after "Live Imports" are not welcomed. I was told that the frequent crackdowns made selling bootleg CDs impossible, but tapes were available after a bit of hunting near Canal Street. Since bootlegs tend to be more expensive than albums because of these crackdowns, the market for such CDs seems to be very much smaller, or at least very underground.
Boston - there are some cool independent record stores in the east of boston, near the guitar school, but I do not recall any particular success.
Chicago - There was a bootleg stall in front of the McDonald's wheel - is that Navy Pier? - which sold exclusively Nirvana and Pearl Jam bootlegs at $25 a throw. not sure if it is still there, but well worth a look.
San Francisco - head off to Haight-Ashbury and look around. It's a lot further than it looks on the map so don't walk it!
Seattle - well you can have a snack in the Crocodile cafe and visit the Sub Pop shop (which usually has some great freebies), but for bootlegs you'll have to head off to the University part of town. A lot of record stores will have some Nirvana memorabilia, but most hardcore collectors will be slightly disappointed.
Again the general advice is to try CD fairs, these are often the best bet.
Montreal - Mars Collectables, on Ste-Catherine Street near McGill metro station, is apparently a dear but well-stocked store.
Buenos Aires - The first place to look is in the gallerias (Spanish for "little malls") on Cabildo Avenue, especially from La Pampa Street up to Blanco Encalada. Places like "Recamier" or "Las Vegas" have a lot of little CD stores full of bootlegs and Videos. Another good place to search for bootlegs is "La Bond Street", where there is another little mall, where you can find lots of bootlegs CDs.
Bootlegs are quite openly on display in these stores because crackdowns are unknown.
Brazil - No success or information. Good luck! Do try the markets in Sao Paulo though, you never know what you might turn up ;)
Nirvana were not terribly popular outside USA and Europe; the reason for Japanese bootlegs being so rare is that most Japanese don't care for Nirvana either, hence the very small pressings. Nevertheless, it's always worth a try.
SOURCES OF INFORMATION FOR BOOTLEGS
The best website concerned with Nirvana bootleg CDs is undoubtedly the Digital NIRVANA Bootography, run by Mitch Vassar and Cory Brookshire, the latter owning over 300 different bootlegs. It has fabulous scans of all artwork, although the ratings are suitable more for modest collectors rather than hardcore ones (whose tastes in live recordings tend to be different).
For information about the concerts themselves, Kris Sproul's Nirvana Live Guide is the definitive source. LiveNIRVANA.com and The Happening both pick up where the Live Guide leaves off.
There are several books which may be of some interest - The Alternative CD & Vinyl Collectors' Guide is, on the whole accurate, and has much sharper reviews of the discs than digitalnirvana, and is well worth obtaining. The going rate for this book is $9.95, although where from I cannot recall.