Part 3: Tape Trading Information And Etiquette

Your List

Your list should include: Band, Date, Venue, Source, Generation, Grade and Time(length).


The source is how the master tape was made. A Soundboard (SBD) is a tape made from the direct outputs of the soundboard at a show. The sound is usually up front and very clear. Depending on how it is mixed there is usually little to no crowd/hall ambiance mixed in. These are generally the most desirable tapes. However, keep in mind that not all SBD master tapes are perfect and there are several examples of defects on them. In very small venues there can often be a very off balance mix if a tape is made from just the soundboard. A tape made with a mix of soundboard feed and mics used for ambiance can be very nice but done wrong can be really horrible. In the past couple years there have been some Dead tapes circulating labeled as SBDs but are actually tapes made from one of monitor mixes. These usually don't sound very good and will have an odd balance. They also might have the band talking to each other through their internal intercom system.

Audience (AUD) tapes are made with microphones in the venue. With Dead shows most of these come from the taper's section which is behind the soundboard. Front of Board (FOB) tapes are recordings that are made from somewhere between the stage and the soundboard, usually stealth. Most consider the front of the soundboard a better place to record from. Stealth recordings are recordings that are made at shows or in parts of a venue where taping is not allowed. AUD recordings are rarely as clean as SBDs, but some people prefer them because they give a better sense of "being there." As some tapers are getting into better and better equipment, AUD recording are getting better and some sound very fine. One way to identify AUD tapes is if you hear people in the audience that sound near and distinct. The crowd (if any) on SBD recordings will always sound more distant.

Recordings made off of the radio are usually designated FM. With a good tuner, FM recordings can sound quite good. Due to the limitations of radio the very highest frequencies are lacking and the dynamic range is compressed, however. Some people make finer distinctions regarding sources but that is beyond the scope of this article. If you are not sure of the source of your tape you can try to make an educated guess. It is a good idea to put a question mark on your list if you are guessing. Example: SBD?


The number of the generation is every copy in series made after the master. DAT(Digital Audio Tape) generations are generally not counted since a DAT copy of a DAT is a virtual clone. Some people call the first analogue(cassette) copy dubbed from DAT an "analogue master", but I strongly disagree with this. The master tape is the tape that was made at the source. Period. Subsequent DAT copies of a DAT should be called clones. DAT copies of the old tapes from the GD vault are usually not counted as a generation.


SBD master DAT>DAT>cass 1>cass 2
Cass 2 would be a 2nd generation copy of the soundboard. Many would indicate it like this SBD/2
Analogue reel from the vault(SBD master)>DAT>DAT>cass 1>cass 2
Since people do not count the DAT generations this would also be considered a SBD/2.

Some people will refer to DAT masters and DAT copies from the vault as DAT SBD, DSBD or DSB.

If you make an audience tape at a show yourself or tape something off of the radio that would be considered a master tape. Some people indicate this as FM/0 but I prefer FM/M.

If you do not know the generation do not guess. I will put the generation as "low" on my list if I am pretty certain it is less than about 5th or so but don't know the exact generation. I usually base this on who I got the tape from and the sound of the tape.

The important thing with generations is to be consistent. The lower the generation of the tape the more desirable it is. Higher generation tapes will have progressively more hiss, and a host of other problems that can include: lack of bass and high frequencies, dulled transients, congested or otherwise blurred and indistinct sound. The cassette decks can play a major factor as well. A fifth generation tape that has only been through Nakamichi decks will likely sound better than a third generation tape that has gone through cheap dubbers.


The main thing to remember is be honest and consistent. If you grade tapes high just to attract people, they won't ever trade with you again. Grading is very subjective and varies from person to person. It is a good idea to thoroughly explain your grading philosophy on your list. Most people use letter grades. Some try to grade all tapes on the same scale, some make allowances for older tapes and AUD tapes and grade them easier. I try to grade everything on the same scale. Either way, explain your approach on your list. To give you an idea, this is how I grade my tapes:

An exceptional tape, sound is on par with a commercial release of a live recording. Only low gen SBD or FM qualify.
A very good clear tape with no major problems. May have some hiss when the band is not loud. Generally only SBD or FM, but a rare few exceptional AUD tapes can make it.
Some problems, but nothing that really distracts from the music. May have some hiss, weak bass, or muffled sound, but not too badly. Usually higher gen. SBDs and decent AUDs. I will usually include 60s tapes with very slight amounts of distortion as A- as well- this is the one place I do slide a little.
Beginning to distract from the music. May have more extreme of the above and/or some distortion or balance problems. Also boomy AUD tapes.
Getting harder to listen to, but some music is still coming through. Usually old or rare, where better versions are not available.
Takes some effort to listen to.
Virtually unlistenable.
I would like to emphasis that there is more to grading tapes than just listening for tape hiss. There are many other things to listen for. Can you hear all the members of the band? Is the sound muffled, can you not hear the cymbals well or at all? Is the sound congested or boomy? Is there distortion? I consider these factors far more important than tape hiss


Basically how long the tape is. Some picky tapers want exact timings. Most people are happy with the length of tape the show is on to the nearest side. For example if you have a show that fits on a 100 min. tape and on one side of a 90 you would say 145 for the timing. It is also a good idea to give some sort of set indication. Most use roman numerals for the sets. Some will indicate acoustic sets with an a, encores with an e. There are various ways of indicating partial sets. I use a p as in Ip meaning a partial first set.

Examples of a listing:

Grateful Dead

70/02/13  Fillmore East  DSB/2  A+ 180  all   -or-  I, a, II

85/06/16  Greek Theatre  SBD/4  A  135  Ip, II 
The first one should be obvious. The second one indicates a show that fits on one and a half 90 minute tapes and has part of the 1st set and all of the 2nd.

It is sometimes a good idea to have a column for comments where you can mention guests, rare songs, first/last times, etc. I personally find this a little impractical with sending a large list through email but it can be worked out. It is not difficult to do with a hard copy of your list.

General Tape Trading Etiquette


Agree beforehand how the tapes are going to be sent. If you are sending one to three tapes first class mail is the standard way to go and costs around a dollar or so. For more tapes Priority Mail is generally the standard. Up to 2 lbs is $3 with Priority Mail and usually ships in 2-3 days. You can send about 8-10 cassettes with cases and 10-12 without cases at this rate. Various grades of tape weigh differently. If you want to save some money you can send tapes Special Fourth Class which is commonly referred to as Book Rate and ships in about 5-7 days. 6 or 8 tapes would work out to around $1.50. If you are sending a large number of tapes this can work out to save you quite a bit of money. Also UPS is a good alternative if you are sending a large number of tapes. UPS on heavier packages is much less than Priority, a little more than Special Fourth Class, and will ship in 2-5 days depending on the distance.

I prefer to ship tapes without their plastic cases. With larger numbers of tapes this can save you some money on shipping. Also the plastic cases can break real easy in the mail. Pull the cassette and J-card out of the plastic case leaving the J-card to cover the exposed tape. Make sure the tape is all the way wound. Rubber band two cassettes inverted flat against each other. They should fit tightly together making a package not much larger than one cassette in its plastic case. As an extra measure you can run the rubber bands through the tape hubs to prevent them from moving. Its a good idea to put the cassettes in a plastic bag to protect them from water or dirt. If you send tapes without the cases make sure your partner is doing the same!

The standard means of shipping is the padded envelope. It is best to use the smallest one possible so that the tapes fit in tightly and do not shift around. Pieces of cardboard, paper, bubble wrap, etc. can be useful in packing. Staple and then use packing tape on the open end of the envelope. Shake the envelope as a test. If the cassettes are banging around you need to pack it better. The post office can be fairly rough on packages. If you are sending a large number of tapes, more than 10-12, you should use a box. The padded envelopes with the plastic bubble pack are better since they are not dusty and dirty like the ones with that recycled filler stuff.

Reuse the padded envelopes to save money and space in the landfills. Also you can try to find places that will give you their old padded envelopes. Record stores, and I am sure many other like businesses, get tons of them every week. I have never paid for a padded envelope.

Other things

Don't label the J-card. Write the date, venue, (set) and songlist on the back of the sticker labels for the cassette. Also include source/generation, and any other pertinent information. Most people slide this between the J-card and the plastic case so that the songlist can be viewed through the plastic. If you are shipping without cases ship it into the rubber bands. You can also write the info on a scrap piece of paper.

If, when dubbing a tape, you realize that it does not sound as good as you thought it did, make sure you tell the person you are trading with. Don't worry if this happens, it is not too uncommon.

Don't use Dolby, EQ, or in any other way alter the tape unless the person you are sending the tapes wants you to. If your copy of the tape has Dolby and you did not indicate it on your list you should tell your trading partner and see how he wants to deal with it.

Unless other arrangements have been made, you should ship a typical trade of tapes(4-8) within 2 or 3 weeks. If there is a problem, contact your trading partner, don't leave him/her in the dark and hanging.

If you are sending blanks to be dubbed onto DO NOT send more than agreed to. (more on trading for blanks(groveling) below)

The general rule with Maxpoints is whoever buys the tapes keeps the points. If you are sending blanks for someone to tape on it is a nice gesture to let the taper keep the maxpoints

Don't post your whole list to the Internet (this is bad netiquette as well). Just have a simple post stating how many hours you have and/or a few juicy tidbits from your list or some sort of basic description of what you have. You can then email your list to people that respond to your post.

Continued in Part 4