Buying Radio Shows
This was written by someone who prefers to remain nameless!
Hello, I'm writing this FAQ due to the receipt of a number of requests regarding radio show CDs, what you get and don't get, and where to find them. This is relevant to SRV because a few of the most often-traded shows were sourced from radio shows such as the King Biscuit Flower Hour and the Superstar Concert Series broadcasts.
The two most popular sources of live radio broadcast material are King Biscuit Flower Hour shows and Superstar Concert Series shows. King Biscuit (KBFH) shows come on a single CD for the most part, and feature about 45-50 minutes of music, some intro and outro music for the DJ to use while announcing the shows, and a series of commercials. You should also get a cue sheet that details the contents of the CD (though a cue sheet isn't always available). The shows date back as far as the 70's, right through today, and for the most part, they are not entire shows. Instead, they represent a piece of a show(s) which may have been broadcast in its entirety at some point. The shows may also present material from a number of venues. The show dates and venues are sometimes listed in catalogs or magazines, but many times, all that's listed is the show's ID number(s) and the featured artist. Certain radio show dealers are more helpful and will track down more detailed info if it's available, but I find it's more typical that the dealer knows very little about radio show CD content.
It's important to remember that due to changing commercials over time and the fact that the same KBFH concert gets rebroadcast from time to time, the same KBFH concert may be listed under a lot of different ID numbers. Be sure not to buy three identical shows simply because 3 ID numbers were listed in the catalog. Also keep in mind that if an artist is popular, there may be different KBFH concerts available. I think there are 2 different KBFH shows for SRV (one of them is Ripley's Music Hall and Montreal), offering different material/venues. KBFH shows offer excellent sound quality, but there's no guarantee that the concert material is particularly special. Note that the more comprehensive KBFH concerts issued commercially on CD (Greg Lake, Deep Purple, etc.) have not received incredibly glowing reviews regarding performance quality.
As is the case with bootlegs, you have to know what you're buying into from the outset when buying radio shows. Usually, two artists are featured on a KBFH CD - the second artist might be listed as an "encore." In fact, the "encore" artist is typically a new artist being promoted via KBFH and that artist's concert material (2 or 3 songs, usually) comes from a separate concert. So if you were to see an SRV KBFH CD with Barry Manilow listed as the encore artist, it should not be taken to mean that they played together as part of the encore of a single concert (although that would be a real listening experience!). KBFH shows can also be purchased on vinyl, although its doubtful that the album will be in mint condition. The older CDs have a blue face, while the newer ones have a more updated looking red/orange face -- all of them are on silver discs, i.e., no CDRs. The CDs come in envelopes or jewel cases, depending on who sells them to you, and no artwork for the jewel case is provided.
Superstar Concert Series shows are offered to radio stations by a company named Westwood One. These shows come on one or two CDs (or on two vinyl albums for older shows) and may feature two different artists - usually one artist per CD. Like KBFH, the CD features intro/outro, commercials, and an associated cue sheet. Sometimes, the CDs are sold separately by artist instead of as a complete double-CD show. The ID number situation is the same as with KBFH, so be sure you're not buying identical shows. Again, sound quality is generally excellent but performance quality varies. The CDs are all silver discs -- no CDR -- and come in white envelopes or jewel cases with no artwork. The cue sheet is usually a 1-3 page photocopy.
If I remember correctly, Westwood One also distributes the BBC Rock Hour show, so it's possible that the live material in a Superstar Concert might show up in a BBC Rock Hour show. The BBC shows are single CDs with live material and some commentary. Another good radio show is the Live From The House Of Blues show, which should not be confused with the syndicated House Of Blues radio show hosted which is a 1-hour show with commentary and tracks from released blues CDs. The live show came out about the time a TV show with the same name came out. The show featured 2 CDs with live blues concert material from a wide range of artists (blues and otherwise), including Clarence Gatemouth Brown, Dave Matthews and Little Feat, among others. I thought some of these shows were quite good, although they can be expensive now since they're no longer produced ($40+). Today, there's a Live from HOB radio show that's syndicated and includes a compilation of live blues performances, many of them culled from the original Live from HOB double-CD shows.
Pricing varies for all of the radio shows. The range can go from $5 up to $1,200 or more depending on how rare the show is, the popularity of the performer, and who you buy from. Some people collect just radio shows, so prices are based on what they are willing to pay. The more expensive shows tend to be specially produced, limited distribution concerts, like The Who's entire Quadrophenia show from Madison Square Garden, NY. These expensive shows typically end up in very good to excellent sound quality on much cheaper bootlegs. If you wait long enough and if enough source CDs were produced, the radio show prices eventually drop into a more affordable range, but this isn't always the case - KBFH shows featuring SRV were produced in enough volume to allow a price drop but his popularity keeps the price steady between $35 and $50. The SRV Superstar show (Colorado and New Mexico) can be found in the $45 to $75 range, depending on who's selling it.
Always remember that the CD was sent to radio stations as part of a subscription service, so no real price has been established for consumer buying - pricing is based on what consumers are willing to pay, like an auction. This means that you should always inquire about discounts or sales if you're dealing with an established radio show dealer. Discounts can be as high as 20%-50% off of list price, which means that during discount periods, you have to decide what you want right away and then hope that it's in stock when they fulfill your order - to avoid disappointment, don't assume that your order will be in stock. If the artist is hot, then the CDs go fast. If you order from Goldmine Magazine or Discoveries Magazine, make your order as soon as you receive the magazine or you might be too late.
You should try Goldmine or Discoveries. Both cater to music collectors and both can be found at Barnes and Noble or equivalent book and magazine vendors. You'll find a few listings for bootlegs in them buried in among listings of legitimate recordings, though not many due to the magazines' desires to avoid legal trouble. Both publications discourage the selling of boots through them. The radio show dealers that I have dealt with in the past who offered very reliable and knowledgeable service were The Finest and The Old Hippie - but they're not the only dealers out there. Both do regular listings in Goldmine. The Finest has a wide range of radio shows to choose from with competitive pricing and periodic sales. The Old Hippie tends to charge much higher prices for their stuff, but they also have many shows that you just can't find anywhere else. It's best to shop around and remember to look for the Goldmine seal of approval (an approval sticker awarded to dealers who have proven to be dependable, and trustworthy) when buying through the magazine as a double-check.
When is a boot better? A boot or a tape trade is better when you're looking for an entire show and also if you're willing to give up a little in terms of potential sound quality. If the artist you like is obscure or less popular currently, it's also possible that bootleggers don't want to bother with the artist and the radio show ends up being the only source for concert material. Some radio shows are really cheap - like $5 to $10 for certain artists (if the artist releases a few hit songs, the prices shoot up). Sometimes the radio show just isn't worth it. You have to be aware of what boots and tapes are out there and what isn't. If you want interviews, the In The Studio and Off The Record radio shows can be pretty cheap (caution - SRV is hot, so his stuff is more expensive), and bootlegs generally don't include interview material. Also, when a radio show is first broadcast, the CDs will be very expensive. In these cases, you want to wait a bit before buying, or check up on currently or soon-to-be available tapes and bootlegs in ICE Magazine or Live Music Review magazine.