The Numero Group Turns the Tables on a Bootlegger | Bleader

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Numero Group Turns the Tables on a Bootlegger

Posted By on 03.08.10 at 05:43 PM

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I recently read an interesting book called Bootleg: The Secret History of the Other Recording Industry. It was written in 1993, when upgrading to CDs was the latest technological advancement in the gray-to-black-market music business. (Coincidentally, 1993 was also the year the first popular graphical Web browser was released, accelerating the mass adoption of the Internet—one of the only enemies bootleggers and legit labels would ever share.) But the bulk of the book's action is set in the 1970s, the golden age of bootlegging. At that time bootleggers actually drove innovation in the straight record business for a while. They created and sustained the massive popularity of live albums in the 70s, and legit labels tried and often failed to match the speed, quality, and popularity of the best bootleg releases. Bootleggers basically invented the B-sides and rarities compilation—along with its even more profitable bigger brother, the rarities box set—and the straight biz later adopted both formats.

A bootleg that became seriously popular would often be bootlegged in turn by another underground label. If it became seriously, seriously popular it would be bootlegged by a legit label. This is how Dylan's Basement Tapes and the entirety of his incredible Bootleg Series on Columbia happened. It's also how the Numero Group's upcoming Eccentric Breaks and Beats came to be.

This morning the label posted a blog entry announcing that they're pulling a Basement Tapes on a 40-minute mix of Numero-sourced samples and breaks first released anonymously as a 12-inch.

With our cease and desist letter ready to be dropped in the mail, an interesting thing happened: We kinda got hooked on the flawlessly arranged pastiche. Taking cue from the Bob Dylan Bootleg series, we turned the tables on the pirate. Seizing the plates from the pressing plant, we repurposed this underground release (preserving the contraband "Numbero" label) as the ultimate showcase for our seven years in business.

It's difficult enough for labels to get people to pay for legitimate releases, whose profits help sustain the artists who make the music. For bootleggers—whose material is often of unknown provenance and dicier audio quality—the sales situation is almost totally hopeless. The fact that someone went to the trouble and expense of pressing up vinyl on the sly—as opposed to, say, just sampling Numero's material sans license, which the label says Madlib and Mayer Hawthorne have done—is kind of a huge compliment. It's nice to see the Numero folks taking it as such.

From the sample included in the post, I'd have to say Eccentric Breaks and Beats is one of the strongest Numero releases of the year so far. From the image provided, I'd also be willing to give it odds on having one of the best/worst album covers of 2010.

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