Based Upon, Musical Quotation or Sampled

OK so this is something that I find kind of complicated and want to see what the general opinions are.

A lot of popular music in the chart at the moment are building upon another existing song, for example using the original backing track with new lyrics, using elements of an existing song for the chrous or re-inventing an old song but altering the lyrical structure.

We have ways of linking these in MBz, but which one should be used when?

Sampled By is a recording > recording relationship, and I have been using it in the instances when a song uses a small element (say a drum beat, or synth stab) of an original song within it. Samples are popular of course in things like hip-hop production.

Musical quotation is a work > work relationship, and I have been using it in the instances when a song “interpolates” an existing work, the idea here being that as Wikipedia says the material being used has been re-performed instead of lifted directly from the source material.

Based upon is a work > work relationship, and is in my opinion the most vague. I use this in instances when:

  • A song features the backing track of another (but doesn’t sound to be being replayed)
  • A song is a logical continuation of another (for example Part 1 and Part 2 linking together, a reply to a diss track)

There is also the even more vague “revision of” which is a work > work relationship and I will use when I can’t figure out which of the above to use.


Your use of those relationships sounds fine to me. I have used “based on” to link works where one work extensively recycles elements of a previous work. For example, “Pump Up the Jam” by Technotronic is using elements from an older track called tadaaa Technotronic. The latter had some Eddie Murphy samples instead of a rap but will otherwise sound very familiar to people only exposed to the global dance hit.

I haven’t been using the “musical quotation” relationship yet but imagine it might be used for re-performances, like you said. For example the track Sunshine has a segment where some artist sings the famous “I Need Your Loving” lines from the Korgis’ original Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime. Not a direct sample, but clearly warrants a relationship.

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I agree with you on Samples, Quotations, and Based On. I’d add that Based On can also include stuff like basing the structure of a song off a poem, like That’s How the Story Ends, or something like that.

however, I feel like a revision is more specific, like an artist adding lyrics to a work, usually their own. if I’m not sure what kind of relationship to use, I’d use “Version of”, and perhaps write an annotation to explain.

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I wouldn’t use based on for a series of diss tracks, FWIW. But in general, your view seems sensible.

Revision is meant mostly for the same artist changing a work - it should barely ever apply if a song is connected to a different one. It’s most useful for classical music, but I guess you could have “Song” and “Song (20 Anniversary Version)” where the second adds some new lyrics or changes the song significantly, and I could see that being a revision for popular music.