Introduction

Some bands now permit taping of their live concerts, a practice started with the Grateful Dead. Special Tapers sections are normally found at these shows behind the soundboard. Using professional level recording equipment, these shows then follow a variety of paths to end up on CD media. With the ease of copying and quality provided by CD's, many concert recordings of various bands are now available from experienced traders.  This page details how to start your own CD collection, and is geared to help those who wish to collect shows by the Grateful Dead, although these instructions can also pertain to other "jam" bands, such as Dave Matthews and Phish.
    The agreement of a band to allow taping at its concerts is not without conditions. The most important and generally included condition is that music may only be traded, never sold. This means that you may trade a show only for an equivalent amount of media. In other words, three blank CD's may be traded for three recorded CD's of a concert. In no case should you ever participate in a trade that requires more media from either party. If someone asks for more blanks than they are providing back to you - this is a music sale and is not permitted. Please do not patronize anyone performing this practice (sometimes referred to by ratio, i.e. "five for three", etc.).

What is a B&P?

B&P basically stands for Blanks and Postage. This arrangement allows a new trader who has a small or non-existent collection to acquire shows. In return for sending blank discs with return postage, you can end up with excellent shows on CD. The person distributing the music only gets the satisfaction of spreading some incredible music and joy, and assisting someone else in sharing something they love.

How Does It Work?

An individual who has a show to offer will post an announcement, usually to an internet newsgroup.  You apply and are selected.  Or you could post an appeal and garner a response.  You are then given instructions, and an address.  You send off the required number of blank CD-R discs, along with a return mailer with sufficient postage.  The trader takes your blank discs and records the concert onto those discs, and then mails them back to you.  The trader receives nothing in return for this service.

How to Participate

The first step in participating in a B&P deal is to locate a B&P offer.  I've found the best place to locate these deals is the Usenet newsgroup rec.music.gdead.    This newsgroup has B&P notices from individuals frequently, and has established the 9th day of each month as "B&P Day".  On this day, many people post B&P offers and your chances are good of being accepted. (If you do not have access to newsgroups with a news reader, you can access them through Google Groups.)
    One thing to check before you reply to an offer, is whether the original message has any replies.  When a trader has filled his offer, he will usually reply to his original message and append the word "CLOSED" to the end of the subject.  Check to make sure that the offer is still open before you reply.  And if a deadline has passed, don't reply or grovel.  Honor the trader's request and keep looking.
    When you see a B&P offer that interests you, make sure it is what you really want.  If the offer contains the word "analog", it generally refers to a cassette tape offer.  Usually, an offer will only refer to a show date.  For Grateful Dead shows, you can find set lists online in one of these locations;
• Deadlists
• Grateful Dead Live
    There may well be other sites on the net with set lists, but these are the primary ones that I'm aware of.  And despite the immediacy of the net, I urge anyone who's seriously into trading to latch onto a copy of DeadBase - it is the mother lode of Dead information.
    Once you've determined that a B&P offer is something you would like to have, you need to quickly respond to the offer.  It is important that you do so in the manner indicated in the message.  Here's a typical B&P posting;

>>For B&P Day this month, I'll offer up my first CD-R, 4/6/82 @ The Spectrum in Philadelphia.  This show fits on 3 CDs, and my burner works best with TDK and Sony discs.  I'll be leaving on a business trip in two weeks, so you must be able to get blanks in the mail in the next three days.  I'll take the first five people who respond via e-mail."<<

There are several things in this offer that are important.  The first is the show being offered, April 6, 1982.  Also note that you'll need 3 blank discs, and Sony and TDK are preferred.  If you send other discs, such as cheap generic bulk discs, they may fail in the traders CD burner, and he will have made three handy coasters for you and you don't get the show.
    Also, the time period is important.  If a deadline was given and you can't make it in time, the trader will end up sending back your blank discs, and you will have prevented somebody who could have met the deadline from getting the show.  Most traders keep shows on their hard drive to make copies, and don't want to keep the same shows on their hard drive forever.  This is why they like to conclude the B&P as quickly as possible.
    A very important part of the above offer is that the trader will accept the first 5 people who e-mail him.  This means that you must get your message off quickly.  Some traders pick random requests, and stop accepting requests at a certain time.  And make sure you send your request in e-mail (which is usually the preferred method) and not post it to the newsgroup. 
    When you do reply, it helps to add some of your personality to the request.  Even though some traders accept the first x number of people, it helps if you don't treat them as robots.  Messages like "Sign me up for the B&P" don't help your cause at all.  Here's how I would respond to the above fictitious offer;

>>Hi There!  And thanks for posting such a generous offer.  I used to trade tapes, but stopped after getting many lousy quality tapes.  I'm just starting to get into shows on CD, and don't have anything yet.  My first show was 5/9/87, so I'm gonna try and trade for that show if I can get in on your B&P.  Thanks again for the time you're taking to make the show available.  I look forward to hearing from you.  Have a Grate Day!"<<

You usually will hear back about the B&P in a day or so.  If you don't hear back, that generally means that you didn't get in.  Don't fret over it, just keep looking around until you get in somewhere - sometimes it takes a little bit. 
    When you do hear back, you'll receive an e-mail that includes instructions and an address.  This message may look something like this;

>>"Congratulations, you made my 4/6/82 B&P.  Please send 3 blank CD-R discs to me (most branded discs work fine, but generics have been known not to work).  Please use my work address below, since I can't accept larger envelopes at my apartment.  Be sure to include a SASE (bubble) mailer as well as proper return postage (attached) and a note telling me which show I am burning for you. Thanks and happy B&Ping...Traders Name This is a fucking fake address you morons 123 Any Street Seattle, WA 98119"<<

Before you do anything else, reply to the message and tell the trader that you acknowledge your acceptance and are preparing the materials for immediate shipment.  Let them know what your estimated timeframe is, and how you can be contacted.  And be sure to WRITE DOWN and save the name and details of the B&P somewhere. Trust me on this one!

What You'll Need

To participate in a B&P, you'll need several things. I was able to get everything I needed at Office Max to do my first B&P. I purchased the following;

1. 50 9x12 Tyvek Envelopes (#10 1/2) by Columbian (CO851)
     [Tyvek is the material FedEx envelopes are made from]
2. A box of 25 Manco Care Mail Self-Sealing Bubble Mailers, Size 0 (6x9).
3. One package (25?) of Manco Care Mail address labels. These are optional.
4. Ten TDK CD-R blanks discs, about $15. They say "Certified Plus" and "All-Speed" on them.
5. CD Sleeves (Tyvek) or Clamshells (Plastic)
6. Standard index cards.  These are optional.
    Bear in mind that these items may be available through other sources at better prices, but I like the one stop shop approach of an office supply store. Blank CD-Rs can be bought in bulk, often in spindles of 50, for far less than you'll pay for branded TDKs at Office Max. However, you need to remember that the discs you buy need to work in other people's burners. The people doing the B&P will let you know what discs work for them, and everybody I've worked with so far has accepted TDK. They seem to be the Maxell of CD-Rs.  It is not necessary to buy "Audio" discs, as these are the same as "Data" or "Computer" discs with licensing fees included in the price!
    Also, if you can find a smaller envelope than the 9x12 Tyvek for shipping there, that the bubble mailer will fit into, use it. Some traders have a hard time getting the large envelope delivered to their residence.  And many people find that manila envelopes will work just fine, but I prefer the strength of the Tyvek envelopes.
Some feel that Paper Fibers can contaminate CDs.
    Try to avoid buying the mailers that are padded with paper fiber. They're usually brown and say "To Open, Pull Tab".  The Care Mail KPE-2, which says "Jiffy Padded" and "Contains over 60% Recycled Fibers" is an example of a mailer to avoid.
    Some traders feel that these can contaminate the CDs with small particles, especially since the packages seem to easily get statically charged and can rip when opening.

Doing the Deed


Now, here's what to do with the assembled materials:

1. Jewel Cases will usually not survive the shipping, and add significantly to the postage costs.  So take the required number of discs and place them into either clamshells or Tyvek sleeves. I got mine from American-Digital.  Clamshells provide better protection, but increase the postage cost.  Most people find that sleeves work fine.



2. Put an address label on the bubble mailer, to reflect that it will be coming FROM the trader TO you. Be sure to use a return address where this mailer can be delivered to you.  You can write directly on the envelope if you prefer, especially if it will keep the weight under 3 ounces ($0.77).



3. Put the discs into the Bubble Mailer.



4. Write a short note explaining the B&P deal you've arranged, including the show you are getting and your e-mail address.  Be sure to mention how happy you are that this kind person is willing to do this for you.



5. Put this note into the bubble mailer with the CDs.  Do NOT seal the Bubble Mailer.



6. Take a large Tyvek envelope and put an address label on it FROM you TO the trader.  If possible, put the show date on the envelope somewhere, or next to/under the trader's name.  You can also write the information directly on the envelope, if you prefer.
 



7. Put the UNSEALED Bubble Mailer into the Tyvek envelope.
    Take both of these envelopes to your local post office, or proceed as listed below if you already know postage rates (I don't). Actually, I send my stuff from work, where we have a postal scale in shipping. You can also take the materials to a local commercial shipping center, like Mailboxes USA, but you'll need to actually watch them to ensure that they do everything correctly.  Often, the person doing the work will not be the person you talk to.  Ask if they can take care of it while you're there, or go elsewhere.  If you find that your packages always cost the same to mail, just use stamps in that amount.
Metered Postage BAD

Mailing the Package

Please be sure to follow these special instructions for the Bubble Mailer carefully, or you may not get it back.  The larger Tyvek envelope that you'll send out can use any manner of postage.
At the post office, have them weigh the bubble mailer, with the CDs and note inside, and tell you what first class postage would be for it.
Do NOT get metered postage for this package, as it may not work for the return trip.  Postal regulations require that metered postage be used on the date issued, and only for traffic from the originating city.  In other words, they are only valid from that post office, on that date.
Metered Postage is the strip of white adhesive paper that has the post office name, date and amount of postage on it. (See Picture)
Should the post office decline to accept the metered postage, the package will be returned to the SHIPPER, and in this case that would be the Trader.  He would then have to either pay postage himself or contact you to resolve the problem.  And this is a headache you can easily help them avoid.
Just tell the clerk that you need to put return postage stamps on the package.  Put the needed postage on the Bubble Mailer IN STAMPS.
Then put the bubble mailer UNSEALED into the larger Tyvek envelope and SEAL the Tyvek. Put the required first class postage on it (metered postage is OK here) and off it goes.
Stamps GOOD
   Going International? Be aware that your local postage can not be used to return the package to you from another country.  There are several solutions to this dilemma, the key being to work out the situation with the trader in advance.  You can always convert small amounts of currency and send that along.  And some traders welcome additional blanks instead of postage.  Just be sure to ask the trader how they prefer to handle international postage. A good idea for international trades is International Reply Coupons (IRCs). These are coupons you buy in Post Offices in your own country. The trader can then exchange these in his own Post Office for stamps. The exchange rates in US Post Offices is 60c or 80c per coupon. Another good resource is the U.S. Postal Service International Postage Calculator.
    If it took you longer than 3-5 days to get the package out, you should send a notice off to the trader that you've got the package in the mail, and remind him of the deal. Then all you have to do is sit back and wait for the bubble mailer to come home to roost!

Reaping the Rewards

It will normally take 2-3 weeks for your show to arrive, sometimes longer, sometimes faster.  Understand that traders live normal, full lives like the rest of us.  And dubbing a show for you can tie up their entire computer.  So, be patient and keep checking that mailbox.  If you don't hear anything and a month goes by, feel free to inquire about the status of your B&P.  Use your own judgment here.
    When your show arrives, inside you will find your original CD-Rs, only now they contain the show you requested. (Note that some traders will send you back the show on different blanks.)  Also, the show may come back with no notation on what show it is.  You'll need your note from when you sent the package out (you DID write it down, didn't you?) to figure out what show it is.  Most traders will write small numbers on the inside ring of the CD to indicate the disc number (1,2,3).
    I listen to the show several times for enjoyment and to get an overall feel for it.  Then I do one pass of critical listening, to make sure that the show is trade-worthy.  I log any errors, anomalies or problems, and include that log in my future dealings with that show.  I then e-mail the trader, letting him know what I thought of the show, and thanking him again for taking the time to enhance my personal collection.  I may also ask the trader any questions I have about the show, such as lineage and sources, etc.
    If I have any problems with the show at all, I contact the trader immediately to see if my CDs reflect his masters, or if I got a bad copy.  I let them know specifically what I'm hearing and where, and what I think it might be.  If you treat the trader as a friend who is helping you out, you'll get a much better response than treating him unkindly.
    I also use software to track my collection and trades.  Personally, I choose Tape Tracker, but WinTaper is another alternative.  I like the ability to enter a trade into Tape Tracker and have it keep track for me, instead of having to remember it all myself.  It allows me to take on more trades and B&P's than I normally would be able to.

On To Trading!

I hope the information I've included here helps you get started with B&Ps.  Remember, B&Ps are aimed at getting you started.  Once you've got some shows and the ability to burn copies, you can graduate to trading shows.  And don't forget to offer up a B&P occasionally to the new guys!
    Thanks and kudos to the amazing community at rec.music.gdead for helping me to get started.  Thanks to Drew Barry, Craig Cockerille, Chris Jones and Art Cohen for the great feedback.  And special thanks to Bear for giving me my first show, and guiding me through the process!

IMPORTANT NOTE!

This website is a resource for all traders. However, the person who sent you here is NOT connected to this site. They are only using it as it represents the generally accepted practices of the trading community.

Please do not contact Ed McNichol, the site owner regarding your trade - I do not actively trade and I don't post messages about trades.

Check the message that sent you here and contact that person regarding your trade. Thank you for not sending me packages or e-mails about your trade!

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