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General Information About Bootlegs

Where’s Eric! does not encourage or condone the manufacture of bootleg recordings. They are illegal and artists do not receive royalties from their sale. However, we realize that there are fans who collect these illicit recordings. In that spirit, information about them is provided for fans’ historical research purposes.

Bootlegs are unauthorized recordings of a of a live concert or a musical broadcast on radio or television or of unreleased studio material (alternate mixes / outtakes) or demos. (A “pirate” is a copy of an existing official release).

By and large, the great majority of music fans are satisfied with official record company releases. However, there are a good number of more dedicated individuals who want everything their favorite musician has ever done. These individuals own every official release issued along with foreign official releases (known as “imports”). By collecting bootlegs, these fans may be documenting every show they’ve attended; they may be collecting all alternate takes and outtakes from recording sessions; or they may be seeking out the best shows from each tour. There are even some who try to track down a recording of every performance by an artist!

Many bootleg collectors consider themselves archivists or music historians. They believe that the live recordings they collect are preserving an important part of the world’s musical heritage for without these recordings, the music would be lost. They argue that although classical artists like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart gave live performances, his music only comes down to us as dots on paper.

Undoubtedly, Eric Clapton is one of the most important musicians of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. By maintaining collections of this material, fans are helping to preserve his musical legacy for posterity beyond what has been officially released by record companies.

In the 1960s, the first bootleg recordings became available on vinyl and they continued to be issued in this format throughout the 70s and into the early 80s. This material was sold in underground shops around the world. With advances in technology in the 70s and early 80s, trading concerts and unreleased studio sessions on cassette tape became the norm. With the advent of the CD in the 80s, bootlegs reached their golden age in the middle of the decade. Pressed silver discs were occasionally issued in elaborate packages with extensive liner notes although most bootlegs came in a standard jewel case with simple packaging.

Initially, Europe and the U.S. lead the way for the manufacture and distribution of booteg recordings but as tougher anti-bootlegging laws were passed in the 1990s, the torch passed to Japan. Japanese bootleg releases became highly sought after by collectors for both their sound quality and elaborate packaging. Today, the industry is non-existent in America and Europe and has all but folded in Japan.

In the late 90s, standalone CDR burners and home computers with CDR burners made trading bootlegs easier and more popular than ever before. Then, DVD burners became popular amongst home computer users. In the early part of the 21st century, the MP3 and other digital methods (SHN, FLAC, APE) opened the door for even more collectors through file sharing, the newest form of trading. Fans who embraced these technologies could store several shows on a DVD or hundreds on an external hard drive. By 2006, these new formats, in addition to more stringent laws worldwide, all but sounded the death knell for “commerical” bootleg releases and the shops that sold them. 

This creates a major dilemma for lists of recordings that should make up a fan’s “core collection.” Today, it is extraordinarily difficult to keep track of all this disparate material. Individuals now “remaster” popular bootleg titles from years past and share them online. “Upgrades” of older materially continually appear. Finally, many recent concerts are never “issued” on a bootleg, but simply “traded” or “shared” online amongst fans. This last has made it virtually impossible to keep the list hosted within this section of Where's Eric! accurate beyond 2005.

This section of The Vault will continue to host historical information about “commercially available” bootleg recordings on CD covering EC’s career from 1963 to 2005 and issued through early 2006. This list does not include material that was exclusively the province of the trading community. You can discover more about vintage Eric Clapton bootlegs by clicking on the desired year or category in the main page of this section.

Where’s Eric! does not encourage or condone the manufacture of bootleg recordings. They are illegal and artists do not receive royalties from their sale. However, Where’s ERIC! realizes that there are fans who collect these recordings. In that spirit, information about them is provided for fans’ research and guidance purposes. Where’s ERIC! does not sell, trade or provide free copies of bootleg recordings nor can we tell you how to obtain them.