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Introduction

With the advance in storage technologies, 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.

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, one can end up with excellent shows on CD. It is important to note that shows are NEVER sold, and the practice of sending more blanks than the show requires is frowned upon in many trading circles (including etree.org).

How Does It Work?

An individual who has a show to offer will post an announcement. You apply and are selected. Or you could post an appeal and garner a response. You are then given instructions, and a mailing 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 music onto those discs, and then mails them back to you. The trader receives nothing in return for this service, except the warm fuzzy of helping to spread the music.

How to Participate

The first step in participating in a B&P deal is to locate a B&P offer. 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. If a deadline has passed, please don't reply or grovel. Honor the trader's request and keep looking. 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. Below is a typical B&P offer:

Subject: [etree] Umphrey's B&P

B&P of Umphrey's McGee 2000-01-28 (DSBD, 3 discs audio, Sony and TDK are preferred) to the first three people who reply. If you haven't heard them yet, all I can say is you're missing out on some crazy stuff. Please put "UM" as your subject if you reply.

There are several things in this offer that are important. The first is the show being offered, 1/28/00. 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 send out your discs 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 three people that email him. This means that you must get your message off as quickly as pollible. Some traders pick random requests, and stop accepting requests at a certain time. Please make sure you send your request directly to the person that made the B&P offer, and not to the entire mailing list!

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.

You should hear back about the B&P request 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 patience.

When you do hear back, you'll receive an email that will probably include instructions and a mailing address. This message may look something like this:

Congratulations, you made my 1/28/2000 Umphrey's 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&P-ing...

Any Etreeer
American Production Services
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. 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. You will be able able to get everything you need at an Office Max or Mailboxes, Etc. to do your first B&P. you'll need 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.

Please bear in mind that these items may be available through other sources at better prices, but many people like the one stop shop approach of an office supply store. Blank CD-R's can be bought in bulk, often in spindles of 50 or 100 for far less than you'll pay for branded TDKs at an 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. 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 some prefer the strength of the Tyvek envelopes.

Padded Mailer

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 kind of mailers can contaminate the CD-R's with small particles, especially since the packages seem to easily get statically charged and can rip when opening.

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

CD-R's go into sleeve or clamshell

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. You can get some from American-Digital. Clamshells provide better protection, but are heavier than the sleeves, and thus increase the postage cost. Most people find that sleeves work fine.

Bubble Mailer gets addressed

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).

CD-R's go into Bubble Mailer

3. Put the discs into the Bubble Mailer.

Write a note to trader

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!

Note goes into Bubble Mailer

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

Tyvek envelope gets addressed

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.

Bubble Mailer goes into Tyvek envelope

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. Some people send their stuff from work, where they have a postal scale in shipping. You can also take the materials to a local commercial shipping center, like Mailboxes Etc., 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

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 CD-R's 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. This is a headache you can easily help them avoid.

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!

Postage Stamp

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. Some traders welcome additional blanks instead of postage. Just be sure to ask the trader how they prefer to handle international postage.

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 most traders live normal, full lives like everyone else, and burning a show for you can tie up their computer. Please be patient and keep checking your mailbox. If you don't hear anything within a month, 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-R's, 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 other problems, and include that log in my future dealings with that show. I then email 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 CD-R's 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.

You can also use software to track your CD-R collection and trades. We suggest db.etree.org.

We hope the information we've compiled here helps you get started with B&P's. Remember, B&P's are aimed at getting new collectors started. Once you've got some good shows and the ability to burn copies, you can graduate to trading shows, and further expanding your collection. Don't forget to offer up a B&P occasionally to the new guys!

Special Thanks... to EDceteraTM for the amazing instructions and pictures this page was based upon. Thanks also to the community of etree.org. Please forward any corrections or updates to the etree.org Server Team.


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