This is an interesting topic to me. I must admit these things didn’t seem to matter a few years back. Listening to copious amounts of music, I didn’t really bother too much about the correct name-tagging or labeling of edits, bootlegs – or what have you. If the ‘remix’ in question was OK – I was cool with anything.
But I’ve noticed DJs would only go and name their unofficial remixes essentially anything due to it sounding cool, not fully understanding what it means. Personally, I would call them a remix whether they were official or not. Some people have done unofficial remixes that have later become official. So naturally many young bedroom producers resort to these same tactics when they upload their ‘remixes’ to their favorite music platforms. I feel music is such a creative output where you shouldn’t be too restrained and be able to call it what you want.
However, I can see why people (myself included) might get a bit salty when the market becomes flooded with shitty remixes that are basically just a fat kick drum over a cheesy vocal with a sampled loop. It goes without saying the music industry is one of the toughest there is. The music business will screw you over whenever and wherever it can so it is up to you about playing by the rules. There are two sides to any coin.
But after spending some time in this industry, you want things to make sense. You ask yourself: what does it even mean? You cannot keep looking the other way. It bothers you, it’s like a little bug pestering. If you know these facts, then you will understand how I look at unsolicited bits of music nowadays. I now get it how some terms in this industry are there for a reason not just because they roll of a tongue really nice and swanky.
So if we want to understand each other, it’s best to use the terms presented below. Or just do whatever you want to, who am I to judge you? Let’s get some things straight here…
What we know now as a remix is actually not what a remix was a couple decades ago. A ‘re-mix’ was originally done by the engineer when pressing up vinyl in the late 80s. It was essentially a touch up where the original recording needed work. Nowadays we would call it mastering, but back then they would say “this piece needs re-mixing before we can press it”. They used to take the stems (tape tracks) and change the levels and mix it again. It was only at a later point in time where the term ‘remix’ was used for a variation or alternative of the original.
Nowadays a remix is where elements – usually but not always recognizable hooks – of an original production are taken, normally by a third party, and used to produce a new song. Most commonly the vocal will be used at least. Often the new song will be in a different genre to the original. Remixes vary in subtle differences, where you can still easily tell the original tune being remixed, to very dramatic where it’s basically impossible to tell where the elements being remixed came from. Remixes are usually performed by an artist/producer other than the original.
TLDR: You are asked by the label or artist to do a remix. You sign the contract with the label of the original to remix it and then your production can be sold and you get paid for it. Your unofficial bootleg is not what we call a remix.
Is also called a VIP (Variation In Production) remix, is where an artist decided to do a new version of an existing song, often in a different style/genre to the original. Perhaps to produce a more club-orientated mix of a track for example. Usually your own original song. Rework means a drastic change to the said original. It can be official as well as unofficial.
You made your own unique version of a song without the artist’s or label’s approval. It’s unauthorized remix either with actual stems or audio from the original song, usually given away (for free) or used in DJ sets. A bootleg in this context really is the same as a remix but released unofficially/illegally without the consent of the original artist(s). It’s basically a remix of a song that isn’t officially commissioned by the original artist. This means you cannot sell it for money due to copyright law, of which if it would be sold for monetary purposes, you can get sued by the record label/artist for infringing his right.
The original bootlegs used to be where people literally took a release, made a copy and made their own plates – started manufacturing and selling it. But now a bootleg is considered as a mashup and a remix can be a whole new composition with just an ad-lib of a track. I guess it depends if you have taken inspiration and totally re-done something to the point where it’s a totally different song. Bootlegs were normally based on either full mixes of the original tune with EQ or filtering used to somewhat remove undesirable elements or illegally obtained stems. Often these days they are based on stems obtained from official remix competitions but still released without consent and usually contrary to the terms and conditions of the remix contest.
TLDR: Bedroom producers do this to showcase themselves / get attention. This is not a remix (yet). It does happen sometimes that bootlegs get an official release. Before that don’t call it a remix. And don’t promote it as such.
You threw 2 (or more… What a shock!) songs together or used a song and layered a different acapella over it. So you want the tracks to play perfectly with your set so you don’t mess it up when playing live. It’s essentially your tool, which is fine. Unless it’s super cheesy, out of tune or it wrecks the groove due to extensive warping. Is best to keep it to yourself, no need to hand out for free.
An edit is a new version of the original song, normally produced by the artist, to suit a particular target use. Sound, style or genre etc. would stay the same in an edit. It is normally only the arrangement or layout/length of the track which changes. For example a radio edit, which would normally be quite short and maybe make heavier use of a hook-laden chorus to attract the attention of the listener and ear-worm the damn song into their brains. Edits are normally not as drastic as Reworks.
TLDR: Ok. So you did some edits on your song or one to your liking. Added a loop here and there, made the break longer, fattened up the bass, and so on. A fun way to spice up you DJ-sets. Not a remix, so it’s not coming out.
Music which is intended to promote itself (hence the name promo) before it gets an official release. It’s sent to radio stations, tastemakers and influencers to test and support prior the release. A demo is not a promo.
A song that hasn’t seen an official release yet, and you might send to a label for consideration. Read more on this topic in one of our previous HOW TO‘s.
*TLDR means a short summary.