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22 August, 2006

Notice to Porcupine Tree CD-R traders

It's fairly well known that the forthcoming European and US tours of Europe and the USA by Porcupine Tree will feature significant amounts of material from the next album, several months ahead of the release date.  That's nothing new for the band; songs such as 'Dark Matter' and 'Even Less' entered the live repertoire up to a year before appearing on studio albums.  Thanks to private individuals covertly recording concerts, fans have had previews of shifts in creative direction and there's an interesting archive of working versions.

Porcupine Tree have always been extremely tolerant of tapers and non-commercial CD-R traders. They aren't a hippie jam band (thank ****) who openly encourage recording, but they've always turned a blind eye to discreet taping and are on good terms with ethical traders* and communities such as 'PT-Weeds', a self-policing Yahoo! Group where both experienced traders and fans new to trading meet to share recordings.

However, circumstances have changed slightly. Porcupine Tree are signed to major record labels nowadays and, partly because of their (past?) policy of releasing limited-editions, have become very collectible. This has been irresistible to commercial bootleggers and pirates. Understandably, the band are concerned about widespread distribution of pre-release recordings.

The fundamentally good relationship with CD-R traders isn't changing, but the more copies of the new material that exist, the greater the likelihood that they'll spread beyond the trading community and on to eBay, etc. Obviously, band and venue representatives can't interview everyone spotted recording so, regrettably, they're imposing a temporary blanket ban (leave your blankets at home).

Over the weekend, the band's management contacted the PT-Weeds administrators to explain that Porcupine Tree need to make an especial effort to prevent recording at the forthcoming concerts, adopting a 'zero-tolerance' policy. Additional staff will be present to monitor this, and anyone caught taping will be removed from the venues.

It's important to remember that this isn't a permanent shift in policy and is no criticism of established tapers & traders. It's addressing a specific issue, for a specific time period. Once the material has been released officially in Spring 2007, discreet concert recording will be permitted (well, tolerated) again.

To quote the notification sent to the 500+ members of PT-Weeds:

I hope everyone will understand and respect the band's position on this, for a number of reasons:
  • We all want to support P-Tree, right?

  • The band's management went to the trouble of contacting the PT-Weeds 'management' to explain the situation. They didn't have to. That alone deserves some respect.

  • Self-interest! The continued existence of a P-Tree taping/trading community relies on the band's goodwill and tacit, if not publicised, approval. Let's not jeopardise that.
    It has to be acknowledged that whatever official action is taken, one or two people are going to succeed in recording concerts. I hope no-one would be childish enough to regard that as a challenge – 'beating' the band merely to boast about the achievement isn't heroic.

    I'm kind of torn. I fully agree with the requirement to keep unofficial recordings out of circulation for a while, but if I'm honest I still hope the concerts get recorded, for distribution after the new studio album is released and the trading ban is lifted. Essentially, that's the policy at PT-Weeds:

    ... trading of recordings from the imminent tours will be banned at PT-Weeds, but only until the album release next Spring. If anyone defies the band and makes recordings, they'll be tradeable after the album release, but not before.

    *: Concert recordings are shared on a strictly non-commercial basis amongst fans who have already bought pretty much everything a band has released officially. Unofficial recordings are no substitute for the official releases, and official releases aren't traded. If a band decide to release a recording of a particular concert, unofficial sources are withdrawn from circulation immediately.
    The self-policing aspect often extends to actively combatting bootleggers: if an illicit recording appears for sale at eBay, a band might contact the auction company to have the sale withdrawn, but fans contact the bidders to inform them that the same recording is available for free via CD-R trading, denying the bootlegger an income next time, too.

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