If your head has stopped spinning from part one of my sampling blog, it’s time for part two! You missed it? Then you can catch up here.
Now you know that getting clearance to sample a song is far from easy. A much better alternative would be to just write all your own music. After investigating what it takes to use a portion of someone Else’s music, you should be inspired to write your own. OR…you could sample up and coming music from independent artists who would probably be thrilled that you chose them. There is so much great music from all over the world to choose from, why not find something a bit obscure; which would be far more interesting?
So, what do you do if you can’t get sample clearance? Even if you contact the publisher and songwriter, get permission and pay the fees, some song owners still say, NO. There are many alternatives…some from Rich Stim:
Recreate the Sample
Some artists avoid paying part of the sample clearance fee by re-recording the sampled section. You still need permission from the music publisher, but not from the owner of the master recording.
How does this work? Let’s say you want to use a six-second sample from “Green Onions.” Instead of sampling the original recording, you play the parts yourself and re-record the music to sound exactly like the original. In that case you have not infringed the master recording. (Due to a quirk in copyright law, you can only infringe a master recording if you actually copy it — not if you imitate it). You don’t need permission from the master owner.
Find Sample-friendly Copyright Owners
Some copyright owners are happy to clear samples — so much so that they encourage the process. Seek these out.
For example, copyright owners of songs by the Average White Band and the Gap Band pro-actively seek to promote their music for sampling. Tommy Boy Records also makes it easy to acquire clearances.
Contact the Artist or Songwriter Directly
If you run into problems with a music publisher or owner of a master, you may have better luck contacting the artist directly. This works if the artist still has some say or control in what gets cleared.
For example, Shirley Manson of Garbage wanted to use the line, “You’re the talk of the town,” at the end of a song. Lawyers for the band ordered her to drop it, but Shirley called up Chrissie Hynde, who sent the following letter to Garbage’s attorneys: “I, Chrissie Hynde, hereby allow the rock band Garbage to sample my songs, my words, and indeed my very ass.”
What about the sheer number of samples out there in music today and the fact that original music isn’t valued as much as it use to be? Virtuoso and brilliant artist, Nicholas Payton, wrote a brilliant blog about Sampling killing music.
It’s gotten to the point when I hear a new record that I dig — which is rare — my first thought is, “I wonder where they stole this from?” It’s really a shame that it has to be a point of consideration, but given the growing climate of musical plagiarism these days, it’s a valid concern.
What’s Really Going On Here?
As usual, I pissed some folks off with my last two posts about the Robin Thicke sues Marvin Gaye thing. See? Just to see that in print doesn’t feel right in my body. How the hell you gon’ sue an ancestor that you straight-up swaggerjacked? Though T.I. and Pharrell are involved in the claim, I directed most of my criticism towards Thicke because it’s his record and he stands to benefit the most from all of the publicity. It’s already the most listened to song on the radio, ever. Ain’t that somethin’?
A lot of Hiphop heads and DJs found my thoughts on the subject highly offensive. Me using terminology like “sampling” and “interpolation” immediately set them off. But as I’ve found since I’ve been writing heavily the last several years, most people can’t read — and if they can read — they can’t comprehend. As I said, I hate repeating myself, but I find myself having to do so because some people just don’t get it. Rather than throw my hands up in the air or tell them to go fuck themselves, I’ve had to develop the art of learning how to make these virtual encounters a teaching moment. You never know when you can help someone turn the corner of their own understanding.
— Nicholas Payton