Derivative works (mainly VG): Cover recording, or arrangement?

There are two very common styles that I see implemented all over MusicBrainz for arrangements of video game music, for linking tracks to their source tunes. One approach is to mark a Recording as a “cover” recording of the original video game’s Work entity for that track; the other is to have a Work entity for the remixed/arranged track itself, and to then link the Work from the base video game to the Work for the arrangement, with an “arrangement of” or “based on” relationship.

I’ve seen editors walk through massive sets of Releases, converting the tracks back and forth from one style to the other, merging Works for arrangements into their base game Works and setting recordings as covers… As far as I know, Work-Work and Work-Recording relationships are both able to describe a lot of relevant relationships for crediting involved artists, such as Arranger (although Work-Work does have a few relationship credit types that Work-Recording doesn’t, like Lyricist)…

I’ve personally used both styles, though I tend to use Work-Work more often as I feel that it offers a way to more thoroughly describe certain credits, and also to recycle editor effort when tracks are re-released or re-arranged later down the line. I most often use the Work-Work method when working on Touhou doujin music circles (ex. Silver Forest, Sally, etc.), and then I frequently see use of the Work-Recording / Cover method for a lot of more mainstream VG Remix albums (ex. Harmony of a Hunter Returns, Balance and Ruin, etc.)

In fact, looking at Balance and Ruin, when they do need to credit a lyricist, they use the Work-Work method…! :laughing:

EDIT: It’s also worth noting that, for a lot of Japanese-language doujin music, the artists themselves use the term “arrangement” for their releases. This is coming from Japanese speakers, not English speakers splitting hairs over what exactly, in technical terms, it means for something to be an “arrangement,” but still.

So, bottom line: Is there a community consensus on this? In my mind, as it stands, I think both approaches are acceptable, and do the job, based on the needs of the editor to add certain levels of detail in crediting/relationships, but it has always struck me as a very strange schism in style. I’m also a little bit biased since I’ve put a ton of effort into prettying up a lot of Releases using the Work-Work method, but I wouldn’t be asking if I wasn’t willing to follow the consensus and standards of the community. :stuck_out_tongue:

New works are supposed to require one of,
A) “Significant” changes to the music.
B) The addition of new writers that did not participate in the previous version of the work
C) If Classical… (which VGM is not)

I merge VGM works if I do not believe they pass the threshold described in Other version.

Example of duplicate works:

  1. Edit #70681138 - MusicBrainz
  2. Edit #70680477 - MusicBrainz

Example of works kept separate because of “significant” changes to the music:

  1. Prelude (FF1-3) Song “プレリュード” - MusicBrainz vs. Prelude (FF4-7) Song “プレリュード” - MusicBrainz

Should a new work need to pass all (where applicable) of those, or just one or the other? Edit: Sorry, didn’t read closely enough:

One can certainly get into the weeds of what constitutes a “significant” change (guessing this is left vague on purpose), but aside from that…

Depending on how “writer” is being used here, this would basically always be the case any time anyone but the original artist(s) for a track releases any kind of derivative work, right? (Just wanting to make sure I’m clear on what you mean)

These make a lot of sense, and I can definitely agree with the results of those edits.

Whether or not a Work is distinctive from another Work isn’t usually the hill I’m fighting on (I’ve seen some ridiculous merges, but as of yet, nobody has come along trying to merge stuff I’m personally invested in); a more productive question might be to ask, what are the rules and conditions for when a recording should be described as a “cover”? I’ve researched that before, but I don’t remember being able to come to any conclusive, solid answer or rule-set.

Edited to say one of.

Writer in this context really means lyricists and composers.

Sometimes I ask that myself. I think “Cover” and “Medley” are supposed to offer leeway to link significantly musically different performances to the original work in order to get the composer linked to the recording. Even with significant changes to the music, pop song covers are rarely “allowed” to have their own distinct work, unless the covering artist wrote new/additional lyrics or new passages of music that result in an expanded list of writers.


We can also look at Shiryu as a case study. Here’s his Age of JRPG release.

Now, I’m not the biggest fan of Shiryu. I don’t mean to offend anyone if they’re a fan, but, his releases barely feature any musical changes to the source works, and I’d struggle to say that what he does even counts as arrangement… It’s like if someone took the raw MIDI / tracker info for a source tune, swapped out all the instruments for more semi-modern, flat-sounding samples, and then put it out there. (If people dig his sound, more power to them, but that’s beside the point right now.)

So, given that Shiryu has had no participation in the original creation of the tracks that he’s arranging, the recordings would pass your condition B) easily. Ok, Shiryu hasn’t done any new composition or lyric-writing, so maybe not. But I certainly don’t think they’d pass condition A), and even I don’t feel that adding works for Shiryu’s tracks is necessary (not that’d I’d personally be opposed, per se), and these strike me as the exact sort of case where saying that something is a “cover” is most appropriate, because the tracks are just so similar to the sources.

So, as the most extreme “similar to the original” case I can think of, I can definitely see a good argument for the use of cover recordings. But at the same time, Shiryu hasn’t really done anything different than a lot of doujin circles that release instrumental albums arranging (as my go-to example) Touhou music, for which I almost always am either adding Works, or seeing Works added by other editors.

EDIT: As an example, see dBu music, whose arrangements are similarly very faithful to their sources (but IMO, much more pleasant to listen to). It looks like nobody has taken the time to go through that group and link the recordings to their sources, but by default, I’d have added Works for them. Given what I’ve said above, though, I’m almost entirely ambivalent and could see it going either way, in terms of which editing style to use.

So yeah, I’m kind of at a loss, still. The current situation seems to just boil down to a difference in editing ethos based on what the tracks are arrangements of. (Or people are making gut-feel calls based on condition A, “significant difference”)

One more bite of food for thought: OCRemix makes an express point of requiring that the remixes they host are sufficiently transformative, for which purpose their panel of judges exists-- but all of their entries on MB are marked as “cover” recordings… And MB has very specific and specialized style guidelines for how to handle OCRemixes, so this style choice is pretty solidly codified at this point.

I have read everything, and it does seem tricky. I know that you know this but it might be good to get back to basics:

  • A ‘Work’ represents the creation of a new piece of music (even if it’s a small change*).
    e.g. In the situations you are describing, could another artist ‘cover’ the new work? Or would they just be ‘covering’ the original?

  • A ‘Cover’ is a performance of a work. If another artist is following the arrangement and has swapped out instruments (assuming no music has been significantly re-arranged for these instruments) and/or is changing ‘how’ they are playing it stylistically, it is a cover.

I don’t add many works, so I’m not sure, but some cases you are describing may have works added for convenience and convention with some styles and artists. Potentially to make use of specific work relationships. I don’t have a problem with this. If you need to add a work to store something then go for it.

On the flip side, if the new work is duplicating all the original work relationships, e.g. lyricist, writer, arranger, with just different recordings attached, it seems pointless to me.

*doesn’t really apply to popular music, where I would rarely add a new work instead of a cover


This is actually a very useful logic test. Reminds me of certain styles of mathematical proofs. :stuck_out_tongue:

And that’s basically where I’m at, too; there are a few cases where a group will re-release a song that is a bit different, like a revised version, but when all the credits remain completely unchanged, I’ll usually just say that it’s that group covering themselves. I used to go to the “based on” Work-Work link for this, but I’ve drifted away from that strategy, and the style guideline for “based on” specifically says not to use it for that, anyway.

Edit: In fact, there’s a good number of “based on” relationships I’ll probably be revising to “arrangement of” in the near future… the Touhou music section of MB is rife with these.


I keep work-work arrange relationships for classical.
For all other arrange versions, I use recording-artist arrange relationship.

Yeeeah, that special-casing of “things are only supposed to be used in certain ways in the context of classical music” has been kind of a boogie man in the back of my mind.

Trouble is, there are some credits that artist-recording relationships can’t describe (Lyricist and Writer are good examples), so I’m not too worried about that one-- I think Work-Work relationships for (at least sufficiently transformative) fan works are a thing that’s here to stay… unless the dev team really beefs up the available credit types for artist-recording.

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same here! I’ve been thinking about creating arrangement works for popular versions of popular music (specifically The Drifters version of White Christmas and Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You), where the particular arrangements have been performed by multiple artists (I hear 2 or 3 versions of the latter at my work alone, none of them by Mariah!)

with film and video game soundtracks being slightly closer to classical music in my opinion, I’m all for arrangement works following the Classical Style Guidelines.


Of course, when there are new melodies, new I, new lyrics, it’s a new work.

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I love it when they add new I! Music that makes you reinvent yourself; that’s how you know you’re listening to the good shit :joy: