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A Case for How Sampling Can Be Legalized in the Music Industry

  1. Fade

    Fade

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    Introduction

    Sampling.

    It's what Hip Hop was founded on.

    From deejays spinning breaks from famous records, to producers piecing together sounds from various songs and creating masterpieces.

    Hip Hop is sampling. Sampling is Hip Hop.

    However, today sampling is scarce and frowned upon in the music industry, which in turn has greatly changed the face of Rap music.

    Why? Money and laws.

    I have recently been wondering what Hip Hop music would be like if sampling was allowed, at least to some degree.

    I think it's worth exploring.

    The Current State of Sampling in Music Production

    The way it works now is - put simply - a broken system. If I were to sample someone else's original recording and used it in a beat that I created, and I didn't ask for permission, then it's considered illegal. I would have to either get permission from the original artist and/or music label, and have to pay some sort of fee to use that sample.

    The problem is that it's not a fair system to the person that is doing the sampling.

    "But sampling and not clearing is stealing!", one might say. True, but it's still a broken system.

    What makes it broken is that it only benefits the original artist.

    Allow me to explain.

    A beat maker that samples a recording without legally clearing that sample is essentially setting themselves up for failure. That beat maker cannot legally upload their recording to any websites such as YouTube, SoundCloud, or even sell that beat. They COULD but it's not legal.

    So, how does that make sense? If you are a beat maker that is completely unknown and are just making beats in your bedroom, you do not have the financial means to be able to clear that sample.

    What ends up happening? We end up with nothing but computer-based beats, which, as I've mentioned in the beginning - changed the face of Rap music.

    Computer Beats

    I have nothing against beats that are made with Ableton, FL Studio, Reason, Logic, etc., however, those types of beats sound nothing like the beats I grew up listening to.

    I understand that times have changed and this is normal now, but a lot of this is due simply because of sampling laws. If beat makers today were able to sample whatever they want, it's obvious that Rap music would sound drastically different.

    What's great about computer-based beats is that it's a great way to blend samples in with sounds from software, which creates a new sound.

    The issue I have with these types of beats though is that it's made Hip Hop music sway too much in a completely different direction than it should be. As a result, the music has changed a lot and it has enabled anyone with a phone/tablet/laptop to make a "hot beat".

    My Solution to Legalizing Sampling

    Imagine if you could sample whatever you want and not have to worry about clearing it. What would that do to your work flow? How would your beats sound? I bet it would make your beats sound a lot different!

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    I suggest that a law be implemented where a person can sample any song for 5-10 seconds (I'm not sure what's best), and not have to have the sample cleared.

    Here's where the * is added to that law.

    There would be a special clause that states you DO have to clear the sample (and pay to use it), IF you are making money from your beat, AND have made at least X amount of money, OR have sold X amount of copies. And if you are profiting or not from the sample, you must always give full credit to the original artist.

    Doesn't that make more sense? Here's my thinking:

    Let's say I sample Bob James (who has been sampled countless times), and I make a beat. If I use that beat to simply promote myself, or to just play it for other people publicly, I never have to clear it.

    If I sell that beat online as a non-exclusive beat (meaning that I can sell it over and over again to as many people as I want), or if my beat is part of an album that I'm selling - then the clause kicks in.

    The law could state that if I sell more than 20,000 copies, I have to pay for the sample. Or the law could state that I have to make at least $50,000 from that beat. Then I would have to pay.

    What's great about this scenario is that it's always going to benefit both parties. The beat maker only pays if they sell or make X amount, and the original artist will get paid if the beat maker is profiting nicely from it.

    With the current system, one has to pay regardless of what they intend to do with the sample. We all know that for years the sampling laws have always had a grey area to it, so this is a perfect way to govern sampling the right way.

    The Argument

    Of course, not everyone will agree with this idea regardless of how it's intended. To sample means one has to pay.

    Fine, I get it.

    However, it's always been tough to really decide if something is a sample that should be cleared or not.

    If I were to sample a snare from a Roots song and I add another snare on top (or not) and make a beat with that snare - will the Roots ever figure out that I took their snare? Probably not.

    But how come if I were to sample a guitar riff from the Roots, they would probably catch it right away? Because it's easily identifiable.

    That drum snare is just a snare. It could be from anywhere. A guitar riff could still be hidden, but it could also catch the Roots' attention.

    But technically I sampled their snare and should pay, right?

    This is where sampling should be allowed. Music should be out there, shared with everyone to use as they see fit, so as long as they're not greatly profiting from it. Sort of like "open source" music.

    There are even some artists in the past that stated they're fine with people sampling their songs.

    It's the record labels that get in the way and pursue those that have not cleared samples.

    In Closing

    You may think that I'm just saying all of this because I'm a beat maker and not someone that is creating original recordings by playing instruments. But that is false - I would not be happy if someone sampled one of my beats without permission and is profiting from it.

    If they wish to use my productions for something non-profit, then I would be completely fine with it, as long as I receive full credit.

    But if a law was in place to take care of all this, it would not only save a lot of people from headaches, it would also make sure artists are financially compensated or given full credit.

    And Hip Hop music would sound a whole lot better.

    Further Reading About Sampling
     
    JodyKurtis and 216 Sound like this.
  2. Fury Beats

    Fury Beats

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    Check out Tracklib at www.tracklib.com. They are poised to legalize sampling in the music industry. I've got early access and they have some gems on there so far with room to grow.

    I currently have three invites to give to producers/beat makers interested in trying out the Tracklib platform. If any are interested in checking them out, the next three producers who list their email in a reply to this thread will get an invite from me for instant access.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2018
  3. Fade

    Fade

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    That site is what inspired me to write this article. Even though it looks good what they're offering, it's still a service and I'm just thinking as a whole about how sampling can be legalized. Because if you look at some court cases from years back, it was pretty much ruled as a black/white situation even though it's clearly a gray area.

    The first one I remember was Biz Markie for sampling "Alone Again".

    Lord Finesse vs. Mac Miller about his mixtape use.
     
  4. Fury Beats

    Fury Beats

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    I agree that sampling should be easier and democratized across the board. True, that site is only a service; however, it is the only one out there like it (that I know of) that has the song masters and legal sample licenses available much cheaper than the prices listed in your article depending on the sample length. As far as getting samples cleared, It seems both legal and legit and has industry buy-in from what I've seen. Even to get the ball rolling in your our own productions is only $1.99 per track then when you want to release or sell your production, you get a license depending on the sample length.
     
  5. Fade

    Fade

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    It's a good service but the issue I have is you're stuck with their catalog, rather than just being able to sample from whatever source you want. It's kind of like everyone using the same VST plug-in, meaning everyone will have similar beats, if you know what I mean.

    I'd like to hear what ideas everyone has about the legality of sampling and how it has changed the sound of Hip Hop solely based on the fact it's been monetized many times over.