Sampling is a technique for creating musical pieces by cutting and modifying existing songs. In its beginnings, top hip hop artists would sample up to 40 seconds of original musical material without any modification; something that today would be unthinkable and branded as uncreative. However, at the time, it was revolutionary.
But that’s how it worked, because hip hop originated in neighborhoods where the original artists had no money to hire live bands or rent out recording studios. In many cases, it was a miracle if the artist had enough money to buy a microphone, a mixer, drum machine and turntables to record music at all. In the golden era, samples were used non-stop, but as hip hop started to make “real money”, the publishing companies representing the sampled artists began demanding their cut.
Nowadays, and since the first lawsuit with De La Soul, the laws have been tightened and catching samples has become an easy task for big music publishing companies like BMI, ASCAP or Sony Music. Since the approval of Article 13 of the European Union, internet and/or streaming platforms in Europe are also responsible for detecting, and acting on content that features uncleared samples.
What happens if you are caught with uncleared samples? In the best case scenario, Youtube indicates the copyright in the description and allocates the benefits to the original author or censors you unless you provide the necessary documentation. In the worst case scenario, your content can be blocked (along with your ability to post new material) and you can be sued by the publishing company who owns the rights to the music you sampled.
Solutions? Clear your samples in advance. Unfortunately for independent artists, sample clearance is usually something that’s done by record labels. It involves reaching out to publishing companies in the USA and negotiating a royalty fee for the sample. Sadly, most independent artists simply don’t have those kinds of resources. The good news is that you can buy sample libraries already cleaned that you can use without any problem.
A good practice is to write down the samples used for each beat you make and, above all, inform your customers that your beats contain samples before the release the track.
If you don’t clear your samples in advance, you could end up losing all the money you made off your record in court when the publishing company for the original artists demands royalties.
The crackdown on sampling in the USA has been so severe that many producers have resorted to using beats without samples to maximize profits. However, you will find many current tracks with samples from the most renowned artists as the profit they make is still profitable.
We leave you with one of our favorite experts to find out more about it. Aisho will give you many keys and solve thousands of doubts in his channel.
G13 Club is a private social club for medical and recreational cannabis users based in Barcelona. It is also a space for musical and artistic development that promotes a multitude of activities focused on the expression and exhibition of urban, hip hop, reggae and skate culture.