Beginner's Guide to Trading Tapes

Originally written by Kevin Maynard
2nd revision by Andrew Bowie

The purpose of this document is to help newcommers (newbies) to tape trading get started with their collections as easily and painlessly as possible. Trading has its risks but the rewards greatly outweight them.


Before trading, you must ensure you have the equipment necessary. Quality is of major importance in the trading community and ensuring the quality of a recording lasts, even through many generations of tapes is important. Trading has traditionaly been for cassette tapes or videos but has more recently moved toward computer written CDrs. All formats and recomendations for equipment for each are explained below.
Tape Decks
Ensure you use a double-tape deck such as that which comes with a quality stereo system and never use the double cassette on a "boom-box" or walkman style recorders. The average tape decks in the family stereo should be fine, just ensure the heads are clean by using a cassette-deck head cleaner tape every now and again.
The "standards" for this area of trading differ greatly. The best way to ensure both sides of a trade are happy is to let the trader know what you will be recording with. Some traders demand that videos be taped using Hi-Fi stereo while others don't care. 4-Head videos ensure great quality videos, but of course you will need two. From experience "double-video" decks are of inferier quality to a two-video-recorder setup and they should be avoided.
Computer written CDs (CDr) have recently become cheap enough to produce to be a viable trading option. Explaining how to create CDrs goes beyond the scope of this document but the following can be said. Ensure the CD-writer you purchace does Disc-At-Once recording. This allows you to create CDs with no spaces between the tracks. Also, ensure you have a high quality sound card (Sound Blaster Live) to minimise the amount of noise inserted into the recording by the electronic interference of the computer (usually a high pitched hiss).
Digital Audio
Minidisc is also becoming a popular trading option. Recording MiniDiscs can be purchaced fairly cheaply and the price of blank MDs has dropped. It is possible to record minidisc's digitally, therefore removing the problem of "generation" quality loss. Unfortunately recorders with digital out tend to be expensive (to prevent pirating). It is also possible with recent soundcards to record minidiscs to computers digitally, but the expensive problem still exists. Minidiscs are best for recording shows, then transfering to CDr. All the above can be said of DAT (Digital Audio Tape) however minidisc is much more popular.


The type of tapes used is very important to many traders.

There are many brands of tapes, from TDK to Maxell to Sony to BASF. TDK and Maxell are "standard" and to be safe, use those brands.
Cassettes are rated Type I, Type II and Type IV. Type I is of lower quality than Type II and so forth. Type II tapes generally have a thicker "metal" coating on the tape, are made in sturdier casing and quite simply last longer. This is the reason nearly every taper will only accept Type II tapes. Type IV are very expensive and are not generally used.
Tapes come in all lengths from 10mins to 120mins. Most traders use 90min tapes and some go up to 100min. The way manufacturers make tapes longer is to stretch them and make the tape thinner and of lower quality. You should never use tapes longer than 100mins because tapes above this length become unstable and tend to break or "chew up" easily.

Starting a Collection

Before you start trading tapes you need to have something to trade! There are many ways to go about this and all of them will cost you money. Its a harsh world in newbie land I'm afraid.

Bootleg Sales : You can purchace bootleg CDs from record fairs or from webpages on the net. I'd put this as your last option however as the whole point of trading to to prevent the sale of such bootlegs. Also, most traders you want tapes from will already have the bootleg you are thinking of buying.

Concert Broadcasts : The best way to start a collection is to record concert broadcasts from the radio. These are highly tradeable as they are usually of great quality and unavailable in other countries.

Self recording concerts : Recording concerts with a recording walkman or minidisc is another good way to start a collection. Depending on the quality of the recording it could be very tradable. Just think, you may be recording the last show of that band ever! Or the only show where they play a particular song for the only time ever. It is well worth purchasing a Minidisc and good quality microphone if you plan to record a lot of shows.

2 for 1 : The "2 for 1" trade is specifically aimed at newbies. You send two blank tapes for each tape you want, the 2nd tape is compensation for the trader taping shows for you and recieving nothing. It is common for traders to ask for postage in a 2 for 1 trade. Also you may find that traders will not 2 for 1 unless you are in the same country as them due to postage costs. 2 for 1 can be very expensive for the newbie and once you can begin trading properly you should stop.

Finding Traders

Before trading, you need to find someone to trade with! This is really quite simple, especially with the help of the web.

Friends : The first place to try is your friends, especially those within real-life visiting distance. See if they have anything you want and they'll most likely be nice enough to let you tape shows without the need to trade.

Webpages : Many traders have their trading lists on the internet. Try searching for the band you want and "trading list" in a search engine. You could also try webpages for the band you like (such as and look for pages with lists of traders of that band. Some webpages exists with searchable list of traders of all types. A list of FNM traders exists on the Caca Volante FleaMarket website.

Newsgroups : A lot of traders use newsgroups such as the inappropriately named, or the newsgroup of the band they wish to trade for. Requests for trades are usually posted and preferably a list or the address to one.

You should always be careful no matter who you trade with to prevent being ripped off. It is very easy for someone to not send your side of a trade, change their email address and disappear forever. I've found that if someone has a webpage, a professional looking list, promptly replies to email and has a large list of "good traders" or "references" they are unlikely to rip you off. You should also note however that people DO go on holiday, and sadly some people do actually become to sick or busy to trade and forget, but they will usually email about such times.

Taping Your Tapes

When taping you should follow a few general rules. Do not use High-Speed dubbing as this reduces the quality of the recording. Also, avoid using Dolby or any other kind of noise reduction as this removes part of the recording in its attempt to remove noise and most traders would rather not lose any of the music. Remember, the standard tape is 90 mins, Type II and ensure you PAY ATTENTION to what you are taping incase you miss a song, forget to change sides or something else silly. It happens all the time!

Taping videos is another thing altogether. The most important thing to remember is the different formats of videos around the would. Although the stand SIZE of videos is VHS, the standard of what is actually recorded onto those videos is different. US format is NTSC, Australian and UK format is PAL, Brazil has a different format Brazilian-PAL and France and some other countries have SECAM. It is best to simply avoid trading videos with people outside of your format zone, or buy a video recorder that plays all formats. Complete converters are VERY expensive ($1000s) and so although you can cheaply get a player that will play many formats, you'll probably not find one which will record in all format, so make sure you let your traders know what format your videos will be in.

Sending Your Tapes

Now that you've set up your trade, its time to send your tapes. All prices quoted are in Australian dollars and for Australia Post but they give a general idea.

Packaging : You should always use padded envelopes to send your tapes to prevent them being damaged during postage. Bubble wrap are usually the cheapest but other padded packaging exists which used shreaded paper for its padding. Both work equally well. A padded envelope that sends 4 tapes is available for 70c at Australia Post.

Shipping : Shipping costs vary greatly depending where you send tapes to and how much you are sending. Many people don't send tape cases and only send the tape and the "j-card" and stickers. This greatly saves postage. Cases are cheap to buy in music shops. When sending overseas you should definitely send Air-Mail. It costs me about $7 to send 5 tapes (without cases, in a padded envelope) to the USA from Australia.

Your own List / Webpage

The best way to trade is via the web and the best way to show your list is on a webpage. Having your list on the web allows you to show as much information you want on a show, including setlists and extensive quality descriptions.

Try to keep your page simple for easy browsing, including links to setlists if you want to include them, rather than listing the setlist of each show after each listing. Include tape length, quality and generation (the number of copies since the "master" tape) if known.

Quality can be very subjective so just use your judgement and be harder rather than easier on quality. Most people don't care what the quality is, they just want the show, if they do care they usually ask.

Be sure to include your "rules" for trading at the top of your list. Try not to have to many rules of people won't bother reading them. Some people have weird rules so you should make sure you read them. For example, some people have a "you send first" policy where if you have not traded with them before, you must send your tapes first and they will send theirs after yours have arrived.

Be sure to look at other people's lists on the internet for examples of how a list should be set out.

Where should you put it? Try one of the many free webpage hosting page on the internet such as Geocities and Tripod.

Setting Goals

Lastly, set some goals on how you want your collection to eventually look. Start short term. "By next month I want to have 6 Mr. Bungle tapes in my collection." Then look to the future, "Eventually I will have every Faith No More live show known to man!!!" You get the idea. Collecting can get costly so try to keep it down to a dull roar. And most important, have fun!

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