Smuggled sound: Bootleg recording and the pursuit of popular memory

Mark Neumann, Timothy A. Simpson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


This paper explores the meanings that bootleg recording holds in peoples' lives. "Bootlegging" refers to the practice of making unauthorized recordings of live performances. Our paper is an interpretive analysis of interviews with bootleg producers and collectors. In their accounts, they suggest how their activities offer an extraordinary example of what it means to participate in contemporary popular culture. As bootleggers smuggle tape recorders into concerts, or trade tapes in underground networks, they pursue rare artifacts of popular culture. Their stories of bootleg taping, collecting and trading suggest an alternative to depictions of popular culture as merely a process of production and consumption. Instead, these accounts demonstrate how some people document their participation in mass cultural events on their own terms and for their own uses. Here, bootlegging is seen as an attempt by people to capture live performances, to collect them as a source of memory and authenticity, and to mediate the events of their lives through means of technological reproduction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)319-341
Number of pages23
JournalSymbolic Interaction
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Nursing
  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


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