Approaching the live from a distance: Unofficial recordings, the study of performance and the texts of popular music.
In comparison with concert events and official live albums, unofficial concert recordings fulfil a marginal, yet not insignificant, role in the consumption of live music. While remaining veiled to many casual fans, bootlegged or traded tapes of concert performances are valued by dedicated fans who seek out these otherwise elusive recordings. The opportunity they afford for the aural experience of a performance otherwise lost to the past makes these recordings invaluable to those wising to immerse themselves in the work of a particular group or artist, and gain a more developed understanding of the musical contributions of their performances. While not without problems of practicality (sound quality, completeness, attribution of date/venue) and hermeneutics (the limitations of recordings in capturing elements of a performance, and questions of the recording as either document or representation), these recordings are shared and scrutinised by fans in online communities who become the custodians of an unofficial recorded archive.
This presentation explores the potential for unofficial live recordings to provide means for the analysis of popular music in performance. In doing so, attendant questions of the appropriateness of analysing performance via recordings will be confronted. Yet despite the challenges posed by the medium, it will be argued that these recordings, and the conduit they provide to otherwise evanescent performance events, has the potential to facilitate a broadening of scope for analysis within popular music studies.