I was recently talking about music with friends, listening to great new stuff like we do all the time, and one song became the center of attention.
I cannot remember the track, but I remember the conversation escalated quickly: « it’s a remix ! » « no, it’s a bootleg…» « you mean an edit ? » « no, a dubplate ! »…
Four words, four meanings; and there are many more. Have you heard about « WIP », « VIP », « Edit » ? I’m sure you have, so let’s get to a short recap of what these mean. Don’t panic; for those who haven’t, at the end of this article you will know everything you have to know about your favorite tracks, the simplest way.
Let’s start with the easiest:
Dubplate/ Unreleased: « the secret work »
Quick historical review needed. Traditionally, a dubplate was the name used for the first acetate disks where tunes where engraved. Back in that time, where physical distribution was the key process of diffusion, it was the mould of the future of commercial vinyl. The first plate, the key plate, the dubplate! The golden age of the dubplate was in 60-70s Jamaica, where sound system culture blew up. It became a real promotion tool for crews, and a way to make themselves known by other sound systems, by keeping exclusive content, like pre-release, not pressed yet.
Nowadays, the diffusion of music is mainly digital, especially in drum and bass, so the dubplate has kind of lost his original meaning, and has become the common word for a finished track which is not yet published. Let’s get practical, you know that awesome version of « Congo Natty – Junglist » from S.P.Y ? Well… that is the perfect example of the modern dubplate. It’s a kind of “secret work”. It is secret because it isn’t published yet, and eventually it will be…Or not. Secret for sure, but not out of reach. And these kind of tracks usually have a wide reach, especially because what’s rare is always sought after. Actually, dubplates live through the DJ set. Indeed, certain DJs receive dubplates from their close producer friend. Sometimes for testing it, sometimes for the hype. But it’s quite magical because it gives the possibility to keep some exclusive content to play. in this way, the original meaning of the dubplate lives on.
Tracks also get that dubplate status when they are published for a while, then disappear from legal platforms. And in this particular case, you are one of the lucky one who got the Holy Grail. And now, everybody will be jealous of you, like those who missed the “Makoto & MC Conrad – Golden Girl (Lenzman remix)”, when it was on free download.
Edit : “The unexpected work”
An edit is a minor change of a song. It can be created by the original producer, or by somebody else. Usually, the minor changes are the tempo or the length of the intro, for example to get a track smoother to mix. But it can be any minor element, as long as the track is identifiable. That’s why it’s called the “the unexpected work”: we will probably never know by who it is made, and it will definitely never be officially published. Entirely wild.
WIP / VIP : « The personal rework »
What you need to remember with these concepts is that they are both made by the same producer. It’s what we can call a « personal rework ».. A WIP, literally «Work In Progress » or « Work In Process », is an unfinished track which is still being designed by it’s creator. A VIP isn’t a « Very Important Production », as you might think, but a « Variation In Production ». At this point, the track is finished, published, and the producer wants to make another version, hopefully better than the first one (like this awesome VIP of Bacardi & Coke from Jayline & Dutty Dubz ! ).
Remix/ Bootleg : « The tribute rework »
The difference between those two words is subtle, that’s why they probably are the most complicated to assimilate. But not the most complicated to understand. Are you ready? Ok let’s go. A remix is a reinterpretation of a song, by a different producer, almost entirely different from the original. It can be written in a different style, like the famous Dirtyphonics drum & bass remix of the dubstep anthem « Skrillex – Scary Monsters and Nice sprites», but not every time. The key is that the inspiration from the original tune is evident. If it’s not, then, we talk about « sampling » and not « remixing » (let’s keep that distinction for later, upcoming in another article.). To make things simpler, we can say that a remix is a VIP made by another producer. And it’s always legal! That is the main difference with the bootleg.
A bootleg is basically an “illegal” remix. It is created without the explicit permission of the original artist and is often made from the MP3 file of the original song.
But be careful, sometimes, creations have more meanings than we thought, and multiple versions in one life. An edit one day, can be a remix or a VIP later. A bootleg can even become, with work, an original content, like what happened with “Urbandawn – Come together”.
The culture of what we called « the rework » is very present in electronic music. The consequences of that are that tracks can live trough years, and decades, by being consistently updated by their creators and peers. However, this raises questions in terms of creativity. And especially when people rework other work. We’re not talking about remixes since they are reinterpretations as requested by the artist. No, we’re talking about bootlegs. As mentioned, bootlegs are illegal. Even if it’s a common practice, people shouldn’t forget that while it’s tolerated it’s not always as appreciated as it seems to be.
Recently, a Facebook post by Serum reminded us that we need to be careful with this practice.
“Bootlegging is definitely in fashion at the moment and whenever that happens things get overdone. More often than not when a new artist approaches me with their track it’s a bootleg. I’ve always got time for one that’s well executed but I don’t want a set full of them and if you want to make it you need to be able to do so with your own tracks.”
We think the important message to draw from this is that you have to be able to make your own track from scratch, then you might want to branch out into bootlegging.. Even if, after that, you spend the rest of your life to perfect it. It’s a matter of respect for your artists too. Don’t be lazy. Rework is a thing, no doubt about it, but remember that new is (often) better.
So the next time you’re with your friends and hear one of your favorite tracks, with a variation in there, just ask yourself, is it an Edit? A VIP? A Bootleg? A remix? And just like that, let the game begin!