Even though I like to pretend I’m a music aficionado, let’s face it: I seriously have no idea what’s going on when it comes to titling remixes. Sure, I have every song in my iTunes library labeled to a tee. I take care to list who’s featured on a track, who produced it, what label it’s on (if any), and most importantly, what the artist labeled the track. As a result of this OCD tendency combined with my love for all things electronica, my music catalog is brimming with words like “refix,” “original mix,” and “flip.” Despite this need for classifying these songs with various descriptors, I have no clue what most of these words actually mean. I’m sure many of you guys are in the same boat. So, after a few days of digging on Reddit and a few Google searches, let’s see if it’s possible to clear up some of this jargon.
One of the primary differences between tracks is length. Each different length has a different name. In a sense, every song in its purest form is an original mix, but some songs come in multiple versions. Although it seems intuitive, it’s still helpful to clarify that original mix denotes the first complete mix by the original artist. Simply put, it’s a song by an artist with no other changes; it can be of any length. If an artist prefers the track to be longer, he or she will produce an extended mix. In the extended mix, the track usually includes a longer intro and outro and is longer than the original mix. This type of mix is how the original artist imagines a song without time constraints — usually too long for radio. The last type of mix in this temporal category is the radio edit. In the radio edit, expletives are taken out and the length of the track is cut between 3 and 5 minutes in length (but usually closest to the three minute mark). Intros and outros that may bore radio listeners and take up valuable advertisement time are cut down.
There are other types of mixes that can describe songs by the original artist: instrumental mixes, club mixes and dub mixes. Instrumental mixes are simply original mixes that are stripped of vocals. These are usually good for DJs and layering purposes. A dub mix, by contrast, is stripped of other elements while leaving the melody recognizable. These are also good for remixes, allowing other DJs and artists to embellish the dub mix in a more original way. In other words, dub mixes are just altered original mixes typically meant for remixers. Club mixes are meant to be played in clubs, obviously. These tend to have a more bass-heavy dance element to them. Lastly, a VIP remix is a remix of the original mix done by the original artist. Although it seems kinda meta (which it is), this is frequently done. It’s not the same as a club mix because it’s not necessarily intended for a partying audience. Fun fact: VIP doesn’t mean very important person here; instead, it means variation in production. You live and you learn, huh?
In the examples above, the original artist is responsible for the changes to the track. When other artists are involved, more technical terms arise (surprise). These technical terms begin to get a bit fuzzier. Instead of describing time or a change for a specific purpose, these titles tend to describe the content of the song. Any track edited by another artist is called a remix. Remixes typically change the style of the song in some fashion, whether it is a shift in genre or a complete change in sound through sampling. Although official remixes involve permission from the original artist and are released on remix albums, the term “remix” is often conflated with the term “bootleg.” Much like the dictionary definition of bootleg, a bootlegged track is an unofficial remix — done without permission from the artist and released unofficially. Edits are pretty much the same as remixes but often involve deconstructing the existing song, which is not necessarily done in a remix. Lastly, the term flip is basically just a remix with a more aesthetically pleasing name. Tl;dr: remixes, bootlegs, edits and flips are all the same to the listener but are essentially changes made by artists other than the original.
In your quest for new music, you may also find yourself stumbing across some completely foreign terms. One I encountered a while back was the term “night version.” Night versions of songs often strip away embellishments, creating slowed-down and darker-sounding renditions. These versions are usually done by the original artist. Since you may not have heard any night versions, here are some quality examples: We Left (Night Version) by RÜFÜS and Never Wanna Know (Night Version) by MÖ. Apparently having umlauts and an entirely capitalized band name means you have to release night versions of your songs. Who knew?
Other useful terms include covers, mash-ups, and refixes. Covers are songs with vocals or instruments reinterpreted by someone other than the original performer. See: Ellie Goulding’s cover of Alt-J’s “Tessellate.” Mash-ups are just what they sound like: two or more songs or samples mashed into one track through layering. Everyone pretty much knows what this is, but tbh I wanted an excuse to post this mash-up titled “No Diggity 2013.” At last we have reached the end of our journey, ending with refixes. A refix is usually a remix of a remix. See: Friend Within’s refix of “Renegade Master.”
So, next time you’re checking out new music, hopefully you’ll be a little more educated than I was before writing this article.