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May 06, 2009



I think it depends on the use... In the case of Illegal Art by Girl Talk, he's essentially using the samples as instruments, rather than just using them as samples, and is definitely adding to the value of the original samples, which (as I understand it) puts them under the fair use category. In other cases, samples are used like garnish: the samples add value to the song, not the other way around - in these cases, they don't fall under fair use, so should be licensed.

Licensing has a kind of chicken-and-egg problem, at least for small uses. An artist (or manager) that is licensing a sample often doesn't want to even consider allowing a license if there isn't enough money to be made in royalties, which puts the licensee in a bit of a pickle - how do they know how much the song will make beforehand? If they choose to put it out without a license because they couldn't get one, they run the risk of legal recourse from the sampled artist. On the other hand, if they get a license for more than they'll actually make, they might never recoup the cost and might instead spend more on the sample than the song ever makes.

Is it artistically necessary to sample sometimes? Absolutely, yes. Is it safe to sample sometimes? Not necessarily, especially given the current copyright climate. As a musician, there are times when I would want to sample, but don't feel that I can, given the licensing and copyright issues involved.

Lee Fox

What a complete ripoff!!

Fortunately, this noxious effluvium is so vulgar and lacking in originality that it's audience will be marginal.


I do love sampling... I often used movies samples for my demos tracks (never released those)! It's another way to be creative and I don't think that "less music education" means that artists who use samples are not skilled... Though I know you didn't say that ;-)


Transformative? Ask THAT question first. Everything else is filler.

John Thomas

Sampling is no different than bluesmen playing other bluesmen's songs or the classical idea of "Variation on a Theme by Paganini" (or other composer).

Music is a listening art, and, while I value my music education, you can't tell me it wasn't the desire to reproduce Clapton's guitar riff on "Crossroad Blues" (or name your own artist and song) that drove you to pick up and play an instrument in the first place. Sampling does the same thing making use of newer technology.

Having said that, annoyingly blatant ripping off of someone else's song and calling it your own (can we say Vanilla Ice) is rude and disingenuous. At least bluesman and classical composers would acknowledge who influenced a particular piece.

Now, sample clearing is a whole different ball of wax with the consequences of the current changes in the music business when you consider the money is often in live performance and merchandise and the recording becomes the marketing piece for the live show (where the merch is sold)... IMO, people screaming for sample clearance miss where the opportunity really is in sampling, and they should be screaming to make sure the sample source is acknowledged (and maybe a link or web address) so people go looking there. It's a wonderful opportunity for joint venture marketing.

If only those stuck in old school music business would read some Dan Kennedy or Jay Abraham stuff and apply it to their music business...

- John

Vergel E

If you want to see another step further... look for the Thru-You youtube video mashups (http://thru-you.com/)

Although the GT album was a great success at mashing up copyright music. The ThruYou is more interesting because its with everyday people, and attributes to the original videos used.

Without a doubt, this is where pop music is going. It's less about making new music as much as it is about curating the "best" of what is available into a format for listeners to enjoy.

David Hooper

I see it as different in that sampling is taking
a recording of the moment in time, not just
the underlying composition.

I do see your point though...

Uncle Indie

I have often wondered what happened to the great talents from the past. It goes without saying that most of our greatest achievements in music have come from the African-American community and now it is hard to find one example of their music today that isn't all samples, vocoders, and basic beats on top of the same words repeated in the same monotone, lifeless vocal.

The thing is that their audience accepts this and it really isn't our area to debate. It is not our music style choice. Not mine anyway.

I have never really considered anyone who uses 100% samples, illegal or not, as a "musician". I prefer to call them sound manipulators or tech jock's. In that sense, I am not even on the same planet as these guys. I create my own, so that puts anyone else who does in a different league altogether.

Basically, there is not much to debate here. The blatant stealing of another persons music to make your own creation recognizable is not worth debating, the answer is obvious and beyond the scope of a blog. It is a matter that should be handled in a court of law. Independent musicians can write that off for the most part because it takes time and money to pursue, neither of which are in abundance.

If the focus of your thought is "What should be done about it?" I have one idea. It's not huge, but it would cause some controversy at least.

I someone steals your song and samples it in a recognizable way, then take them to the Small Claims Court in your local jurisdiction. If they do not show, and they most likely will not, you will win by default. Collecting the damages is not the point, the point is putting a thorn in their side.

The problem is that so many musicians today are willing to get ANY kind of exposure to the point of desperation. And they believe that ANY exposure is better than none at all, so this will go on and on until the public burns out on it and the market dries up.

Doctor Oakroot

Someone has to make the original sounds that get sampled. I would hate to see the world of 2060 where all music consists of remixes of stuff that was recorded 50 years ago... because nothing original has been recorded since 2010.

OTOH, I'd hate to see musical collage art (which is what it is) completely suppressed.

Existing copyright law does not handle this well. It mostly dates back to player pianos when sampling wasn't even conceivable.

Maybe the right answer is a compulsory license - like a mechanical license but incorporating recording as well as the underlying composition.


Anyone interested in this topic may want to check out this essay by Chris Cutler on plunderphonics. http://kaganof.com/kagablog/2008/11/22/plunderphonia-by-chris-cutler/

drew Roberts

We also now have a body of works being created and licensed that are legal to sample.

James Manasseh

I would like to add on another issue along with sampling issue.
I mean yeah sampling is a big issue but what about the softwares that people use for free, i mean crack and use it for free.
I feel the solution lies with the Applications that run these samples. The big names in the Audio applications might be counted on figures, they can have a governing mechanism to stop piracy, like if any one wants to publish or even make sample he needs these softwares. If the softwares were capable of checking the validity of the sample OR had a completely alien format that it used than WAV or MP3 or MIDI for their processing then everything that is produced or published will be legal for sure.
Audio Hardware vendors also can have authorizing system to run only with a licensed software.
But the companies are not getting strict about their code protection and reduce the cracking of these softwares.
I have a licensed copy of Cubase but people around me dont even understand that i have a LEGAL copy and i cannot share with them.They infact boast that they have a latest version than mine.
And i am not saying these tools shud not be given to every one, but they shud have versions that are easy to crack but can work at lower sampling frequency than even 44khz. they can get their creativity working but at a lower quality.
I don't know if i am getting my point passed on, but i feel the software and hardware makers are responsible for the whole mess.

David Hooper


This album was #4 on Time Magazine's Top 10 Albums of 2008.

Rolling Stone magazine published a very positive review and gave the album four stars. It was also ranked #24 on their Top 50 albums of 2008.

Blender magazine rated it as the second-best recording/album of 2008.

Lee Fox


Brian Jackson

I've only been the samplee (in 21st century musicspeak?), so I've given a lot of thought to what is fair. I don't know if I've come up with the answer, but this is what I've arrived at so far:

The two most common scenarios seem to be:

1) where the artist desiring to use the sample is out on his or her own, not supported by a major label, without any visible means of backing, and;

2) where the artist is well-established, with the kind of backing and resources that make a substantial amount of sales - and therefore royalties - probable.

In the first scenario, I probably wouldn't sweat the artist. I'd find out who they are, who's backing them, if anyone, and what their plans are with regard to the release. But I'm also thinking that an agreement should at least be drawn up, putting everything that was discussed in writing, as well as providing for a fee to be paid should some threshold be reached, or that the agreement should be re-negotiated before the material can be sold or licensed to a third-party. But DEFINITELY credit the original work. In lieu of a fee, at least let me benefit from the possibility of exposing a few more listeners to my work.

In the second scenario, whoever is putting up the bread should be ready to fork over a fee. After all, isn't it a recording expense?

Why should I bust an artist's ass if they're just trying to create something and at the same time maybe make rent money by selling a few CDs at the show? God bless them, I know how hard it is; chalk it up to my support of the arts. But if they end up selling to a major or a publishing company, or licensing for advertising either partly, or wholly because of a track that included my work, I want to be fairly compensated; hence the threshold agreement.

With the major situation, I just want to talk numbers. They've got it, they're expecting it; we just have to come up with a figure that we can both live with. And I can even see thresholds being built into that agreement.


Bottom line, they should credit the artists they sampled and pay them royalties from their profits. I dig the songs I've heard so far. There is nothing wrong with sampling as long as the artists who's songs are sampled are credited and paid if it is a commercial work.

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