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Promos / Bootlegs

In the past couple of years, a mountain of film scores have been released only as "promotional CDs." These are compact discs produced with varying degrees of professionalism by a composer, agency, film company, or other official party. They are used as "demo tapes"—to give away, to promote interest in a composer or film, to drum up support for awards voting, etc. Because these are not produced to be sold, the producers are able to avoid all sorts of legal costs—specifically the re-use fee—that would have to be paid for an official album.

Naturally, these things are sold anyway. A number of copies invariably make their way to the secondary market—sometimes they are provided outright to dealers, to pay for manufacturing expenses—and are sold at escalating, obscene prices. It's truly ridiculous, because a lot of promo CDs aren't very good, done by lower-level composers who can't get an official release of their score—notice that John Williams doesn't need to "promote" himself in this manner. So, simultaneous with a composer desperately mailing out copies of his CD, barely able to give them away, you've got collectors paying hundreds of dollars for a single copy. Many of these are "completist" collectors who keep up with new releases just for the sake of filling in the slots on their CD racks. (Tip from Lukas: if large portions of your collection are still in the shrink wrap, slow down and rethink your hobby.)

It is true that there are a handful of quality, desirable scores only available on promotional CDs. However, I strongly urge collectors, before going mad over getting the latest promo CD, to stop and ask yourself if this is something you really want. Some of my all-time favorite albums are still available at Tower for $12.99 each.

Bootlegs are another story. In recent years, a variety of assholes have taken it upon themselves to "release" unavailable scores on their own home-made labels. Some of these are from overseas; many more are domestic. Film Score Monthly maintains an information black-out on these titles: they are not mentioned in the news column, reviews, or ads. Maybe you thought it was cool that somebody pressed an illegal CD (sometimes disguised as a "promo") of a score you want, and charged you $40 for it, but keep in mind it costs around $2-$3 actually to manufacture each disc with artwork and jewel box. These are profit-making enterprises; they are ripping-off the composer and copyright holder as well as the gullible purchaser, and screwing up the market. When fans have $100 each month to spend on soundtrack CDs, and they buy two bootlegs instead of six legitimate releases, it hurts the companies who are working to get these scores out in quality, professional editions. And when big copyright holders see their material getting pirated, they react by clamping down on that music and refusing to license it.

The reality is, bootlegs aren't going to be valuable collectibles, either. We are rapidly approaching an age where digital storage and duplication is so easy, everybody can have access to everything. Already, recordable CDs are becoming widespread (these are those one-time-write "gold" discs with green bottoms), and the number of CD-R duplicates of released and unreleased scores out there is impossible to estimate. Bootlegs usually have such delinquent packaging and substandard sound, they are hardly nice items to own—and if it's the music you want, pretty soon it will be cheaper to get a CD-R copy from somebody who did buy the bootleg, than to buy a copy yourself. So just say no!

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Please note: We discontinued updating this "Handbook" several years ago, and various information may have changed. For more up-to-date listings, see the applicable sections on this site (links, books, etc.). Thank you!

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