Music Biz Monday: Southern Gospel Bootlegs

by | Jun 17, 2019 | Commentary & Observations, Music Business, Shopping

Exodus 20:15 specifically states that stealing is a no-no (I won’t quote it directly, because I don’t want a debate of Bible translations going on in the comments). Why, then, are bootlegs such a common occurrence in gospel music?

Last month, my family and I took a trip to Gatlinburg, TN, to celebrate my mother’s 75th birthday. On this trip, I stopped in a small Christian-based store called God’s Corner that appeared to include a large selection of southern gospel music. I always enjoy visiting these types of stores because I can usually find something that’s otherwise difficult to find.

Sure enough, I found quite a few titles that I hadn’t seen available in some years, primarily a large selection of Cathedrals music. CD’s for Climbing Higher and Higher, Radio Days (the original Homeland release), I’ve Just Started Living, and more were all sealed and on the shelf for about $15 each.

And I didn’t purchase a single one because every single copy looked like exactly that – a COPY, and a poor one at that.

All of these CD’s had what appeared to be inkjet-printed inserts and second-hand plastic wrap (the kind used in retailers to re-seal a product). While I didn’t open any of the seals, I suspect the CD’s inside were actually CD-R’s (recordable CD’s), not professionally-replicated CD’s.

Another indicator that these were bootlegs was the fact that every single one of these CD’s has been out of print for a decade or more (yes, Radio Days was re-released by StowTown Records, but it had new packaging). Seeing multiple still-sealed copies for only $15 each seemed like a bit of a stretch, considering some of these CD’s go for twice that amount online.

So, if these are such blatant bootlegs, how is this store still in operation? Hasn’t anybody ever reported them? I’ll admit, a part of me wanted to spend the money on at least one of these CD’s so I could get a decent copy of the music, but I just couldn’t in good conscious buy a bootleg and support this venture.

And that might be part of the reason why these bootlegs remain. Those who want these recordings may know how hard it is to obtain legitimate copies, and are willing to fork out for an illegal version just to get that music.

But it’s still stealing, even if you’re not directly the one making the copies. If you purchase a bootleg, you’re obtaining something that was sourced illegally. That’s theft.

Now, whether the shop owner is making these copies themselves or if they’re obtaining them from a third-party distributor is not known, so I will not directly call out God’s Corner for bootlegging music (although I WILL question whether or not they are aware that they have bootleg product on their shelves). I actually suspect they’re coming from a third-party distributor, as I’ve actually seen similar bootleg SG CD’s at other locations from mom-and-pop Christian stores to flea markets and once picked up a copy of Gold City’s Renewed CD that turned out to be a bootleg from a similar store in Ohio.

In any case, I would caution those of you who might come across a “great deal” for an out-of-print product to be aware of these bootlegs floating around. They’re not all that hard to spot, and it’s almost certain that the artist and/or label are not seeing a penny from these releases.

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Kyle Boreing

Kyle Boreing

Kyle has been writing for MusicScribe since 2008. He is a musician, producer, arranger, and occasional quartet singer, who pays way too much attention to recordings. He is an alumni of Stamps-Baxter School of Music and has shared the stage with many different artists. He also really likes movies that are "so bad they're good." Visit his website at, or follow him on Twitter @kyleboreing.


  1. NBer

    I purchased The Crabb Family Live From Kentucky a few years ago from I was very surpised when I received it that it looked like a bootleg inside and outside. The audio quality was good. But the tray card looked like a cheap reproduction and the CD looks like a CD-R.

  2. Steve

    Its been many years ago, but I bought an old kingsmen album on CD from ebay. It sounded great and I was suprised to find it on CD (I thought it was a reissue). When I received it, I found that it was obviously a home printed insert and, even better, the actual cd label had a misprint….the Kinsmen. I’m not sure if I ever bought another ebay cd again.

  3. David Bruce Murray

    Yeah, there used to be a Christian bookstore in a mall in Hendersonville, NC that had a lot of out of print items that appeared to be bootlegged based on the shrink-wrap and poor image quality of the inserts. I never bought any of those to see how poorly the items were duplicated inside. I did notice several with stick-on labels on the back that identified a common distributor, so it probably wouldn’t have been terribly difficult to track down the crooks responsible.

    I did buy a CD of the Brown’s Ferry Four there one time, but it at least appeared to be legit…standard shrink-wrap, and glossy insert, plus it was not a CD-R.

    Of course, another wrinkle is that sometimes legit products ARE burned on CD-R. Any CD you buy from will be burned to CD-R, because they’ve made a business by licensing out-of-print performance tracks.

    I ordered a $90 choral accompaniment CD one time direct from Lillenas, the original publisher, and got a CD-R. When I called to ask about it, they said they did that with any product that was a few years old after the initial run of replicated CDs ran out. I had to agree it was a better option that putting it permanently out of print.


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