Hi! If you don’t mind me asking, what’s an NFT?

I’m going to try my best to explain lol

Ok so NFT stands for Not For Trade. Not For Trade is a date a master (person who filmed a boot) of a boot sets on a bootleg of theirs. These bootlegs aren’t supposed to be acquired by anyone other than the master, some masters trade for their boots, and other masters sell them. In my experience, usually NFT dates are set 6 months – 1 year after the boot was filmed, but some boots can be less time, more, or NFT Forever.

This can beg the question: Why do they even have the NFT dates? Isn’t the point of bootlegs to expand theatre to everyone?

Masters set NFT dates for two main reasons: They want to make the money from the tickets back, but more importantly, they can’t afford to get caught. If, let’s say a Beetlejuice bootleg, is leaked immediately after it was filmed, the chances of the master getting caught increase by a lot. We can’t afford to lose masters since there aren’t very many left in New York (the most notable master in NY is StarCuffedJeans, and the most notable from West End is Queenofthedead, the quality of both their videos are absolutely amazing [especially StarCuffedJeans’], but people have recently been posting their boots onto YouTube and disrespecting their NFT dates, this is an issue because now their both on hiatus because of and they’re practically the only ones keeping the bootleg community alive). 

Leaking NFT videos (or videos in general) also causes masters to quit, which sucks because they’re the ones we rely on to get boots (a master that has been inactive and has really hit the bootleg community is SunsetBlvd79, some of the most notable boots they filmed were Nic and Ben’s Book of Mormon Chicago, the Falsettos Orchestra boot, a bunch of Dear Evan Hansen and Wicked ones, the Kinky Boots OBC boot, and a bunch of others).

Nowadays, a big part of bootlegs is, in fact, to share theatre with everyone; but they were originally filmed as a “time capsule” for the shows. Ken Mandelbaum was a theatre critic and writer around the eighties, but he’s better known as the og bootleg master, he’d buy out entire rows and squares of seats in the Mez and sit in the middle and have his friends fill out the other seats; and he’d film as a way of preserving what he saw as a valuable piece of history. Even though he filmed boots, he still stood by the fact that filming in theatre should remain illegal, because people would probably go insane and film with no discretion (I agree with him on this, especially now that we all have phones). I don’t remember if he lost his column because he got caught or because he retired, but it was one of those. Bootlegs are still a time capsule for shows and casts since we can’t have a Pro-Shot of every Elphaba ever, but we do have bootlegs.

This brings me to my next and final question:

Why do people trade bootlegs? Can’t we all just share and chill tf out?

Back during Ken’s days of bootlegs, when you wanted a bootleg, you needed a physical VHS copy of it; this resulted in people with the VHSs wanting something in return for the physical copy, usually in the form of another VHS copy of another show or performance. Things began to go digital as technology improved. VHS tapes that got mailed from trader to trader got replaced by, DVDs, which have gotten replaced with Google Drive and Mega links.

Trading is still around to protect masters from getting caught, and it’s also around so that traders can expand their collections while helping other traders expand theirs. Usually, if you want a bootleg that shouldn’t be posted onto YouTube, Vimeo, etc.. and aren’t a trader yourself, traders won’t have any issue gifting you the video you want as long as it isn’t NFT, though some traders are becoming warier of who they trade and gift to because of leaks.

NFT means don’t distribute this bootleg if it’s not yours. NFT dates protect masters and the community. We need to respect NFT dates and master’s rules if we want more bootlegs of our favorite shows in the future.

Hopefully this answers your question lol, if you have any more questions on bootlegs feel free to tell me!