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In the United States, the disco craze of the late 1970s led to the release of extended "disco" versions of songs, most of which were released on 12" vinyl singles. Many of these were not easily beatmixed, so DJs started to laboriously edit songs by splicing reel-to-reel tape copies, making their own, unique versions that were better structured for a dancefloor.
1977 saw the creation of the first remix service, Disconet. These companies gathered DJs and producers together to create monthly, promotional-only compilation albums containing re-edits, remixes, or medleys that were intended specifically for club DJs.
By 1994, there was a saturation of remix services, most of which typically remixed the same tracks as their competitor. At that point, the RIAA got involved and began notifying remix services that they needed to have clear permission from publishers or face litigation. Coincidentally, the services that survived the fallout (Ultimix, X-mix, Hot Tracks, Wicked Mix) all featured remixers that currently had radio mix-shows. In exchange for allowing remixing of certain tracks, remixers could be counted on by the labels to help "break" the new song they were trying to promote by featuring the track heavily in their mix-show.
While some services decided to ultimately cease operations, mixes began to pop up at most DJ record shops. It should be noted that an effort was made by one of the larger services to clear a way for all services to become legal. The idea was for every service to pay either a flat fee or a percentage of sales to a commission who would then allocate the money to the publishers whose tracks were used. This idea was rebuffed by the labels.
Over the years, the remixes featured on these compilations have varied from simple edits, adding a mixable intro and outro to a song, or full-fledged, digital, multi-track remixes that barely resemble the original track. Many remix services have focused on a specific style of music (such as hip-hop or rock) or type of remix (such as house mixes of pop hits).
As of 2006, there have been over 50 official remix services worldwide with at least as many spinoffs, although most of these companies (including Disconet) have long since folded due to financial or legal reasons. All remix services are required to get the original record label or artists' permission to edit and release a track, but many bootleg services exist that do not.
Most of these companies required a DJ subscription agreement to buy the records or CDs, and each issue was typically limited in quantity from 100 to several thousand. Many of these compilations have become sought after collectors items as a result. Once in a while a remix service version of a song is released commercially by the artist's record label, but 99% of remix service mixes are sold only to DJs on the compilations.
Some of these companies helped launch the careers of many well-known remixers/producers.
Chris Cox (formerly of Thunderpuss) worked for Hot Tracks (now Select Mix). Armand Van Helden created mixes for Mega-Mixx and X-Mix. Markus Schulz, C. L. McSpadden and Aaron "The Pimp" Scofield made mixes for Powerhouse - after the company folded Scofield and McSpadden offered remixes through Culture Shock, while Schulz releases remixes and original compositions through his own Coldharbour Recordings label. Ben Liebrand released numerous remixes with DMC. A few companies/artists besides Schulz have also developed their own commercial record labels to release new tracks.
The UK-based DMC remix service probably has the most members in the world, with offices in nearly every country, and that they sponsor the yearly World DJ Championships as well as releasing many commercial compilations.
Some of the better known remix services (all US-based unless stated):
- 9-Inch Remix and spinoffs (Str8 Cutz, Party Up, Blue Magic Digital) -- 2007 to present.
- Ace DJ—Australia, 1995 to 1998, closed.
- Art of Mix and spinoffs (Mix Of Art, Ultra Hot Razor, 911, Millennium) -- closed
- Blank and spinoffs (Throwbacks)--2004-current
- Culture Shock and spinoffs (Rock Shock, Retro Shock, 80's Vs. Y2K, 90's Shock, Mash-Ups) -- 1998 to 2011, closed. Catalog acquired by Select Mix in 2014.
- Direct Hit—1993 to 1999, closed.
- Disconet—1977 to 1990, closed.
- Discotech—1991 to 1998, closed.
- Disco Mix Club DMC—UK, 1983 to present
- Eurotracks—1995 to 1996, closed.
- Factor 3 and spinoffs (Bullet Proof, Evolution, Eurodisque Underground) -- closed.
- Future Heat - Present
- Future Mix—closed.
- Hit Mix—closed.
- Hot Tracks and spinoffs (Street Tracks, NRG for the 90's, Roadkill, Hot Classics, etc.) -- 1981 to present. Merged with Select Mix in 2006.
- Mixx-it and spinoffs (Old School Mix, BackTraxx, Classixx Mixx) -- 1985 to 1994
- Mix Factor and spinoffs—2000 to present
- Method Mix Records and spinoff (Country Rhythm, Prime Time Blends—2004 to 2009)
- Party Bangaz (2008 to current)
- Metro Mix—closed.
- Monster Mix—closed
- Music Factory Mastermix—UK, 1985 to present
- Pop Mix and spinoffs (Techno Pop, Klass-X, De Underground) -- closed.
- Prime cuts—closed.
- Pro Mix—closed.
- Pure kutz—closed
- Disc Drive (originally known as Prime Cuts) -- 1986 to 1991, closed.
- Razormaid and many spinoffs—1983 to present
- Remixed Records—Sweden, closed
- Rhythm Stick—1989 to 1993, closed.
- Select Mix and spinoffs—2003 to present
- Serato Traxx-2007-2008- closed
- Turbo Beat and spinoff (RockNBeat)—closed
- Twitch Remix Service and spinoffs (Loops, Grooves & Samples, Twitch Recordings) -- current
- Ultimix and spinoffs (Funkymix, Looking Back, Rampage) -- 1985 to present
- Wicked Mix, inc. and spinoffs became the top selling Remix company in the world! (N-10-CT, Wicked Classics, X-Wave, Raw Beats, Tha' Breaks-Miami Bass Classics, Freestyle Classics, Chicken Scratch, DJ Samples) --Started 1989 and closed 2007
- X-Mix (originally known as Mega-Mixx) and spinoffs (X-Mix Urban, Club Classics, etc.) -- early 90's to present
Many remix services issues also contain megamixes. A megamix contains multiple songs mixed together, sometimes in rapid succession. They can consist of a single artist (just Madonna songs, etc.) or multiple artists. Some may follow a theme as well (Christmas, only songs that have "queen" in the title, only David Morales mixes, etc.). Often megamixes are also called medleys.
Megamixes are also commonly found on commercial releases, sometimes using the same mix previously released to DJs on a remix service. The earlier Jive Bunny & The Mastermixers series of 50s and 60s megamixes were originally released on the Music Factory Mastermix service.
Among modern services, Ultimix is well known for producing several megamixes every year based on popular songs of the year ("flashback medleys") as well as some single artist megamixes. Culture Shock has the "Hit "AC" Megamixes" on their main series derived from their now defunct radio show, as well as a satellite series entitled "Use Alternative Routes" which contains Modern Rock megamixes. Similarly, the UK-based DMC and Music Factory Mastermix remix services frequently include megamixes on their issues.