Clearing Samples…. NOT!
I’ve run across this “mysterious” topic so many times over the last 10+ years I’ve been making beats. Almost every music production forum contains 100+ posts on sample clearance. People still don’t understand sample clearance process, ramifications, or age old question… “to clear or not to clear”? In Feburary 2011, I interviewed sample clearance expert Deborah Mannis-Gardner from DMG Sample Clearance on the topic of sample clearance. You can read the interview here. I was actually really disappointed with the interview. Sure it was a great marketing pitch for DMG Sample Clearance and the Corporate fear mongering Music Industry (Big Boys). Deb takes a hardliner approach on IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) by stating if you don’t clear samples (any samples…) you are a pirate, thief, butt fucker, etc.
In my opinion, the DMG’s of the world and Global Publishers of music are completely justified in their stance… kind of. At some point in time someone (corporation, individual, investors, etc.) invested their hard earned time and money into producing a for profit recording. Fast forward to the future, another so called artist samples, borrows, steals, uses, incorporates, whatever you may call it an element from the original recording into their own work. Now if this artist is Kayne West and hes selling millions of records, downloads, and reaping publishing revenues from the performance of the sampled material… then yes the douche bag should and will clear the sample.
The confusion arises because so many “up and coming” artists already think they are Kayne West. Internet forums are riddled with ridiculous “what if” questions about clearing samples. What if I use a sample and want to sell my song on iTunes? What if I use a sample beat and I blow up? I don’t want to get sued for using this sample… etc. Listen up young ninjas, if you are an independent artist, label, or producer who resides in the Hip Hop/Electronic genre of music chances are you won’t ever get to enjoy publishing royalties. If you get a cease and desist letter for using a sample, consider that a sign that you have somewhat made it in the music business. You are 1 in 5 million chasing the same dream of getting big and there isn’t a damn thing wrong with that.
But lets be realistic… fuck a sample clearance. As an up and coming producer or artist, its good to get your sample chop game on, its part of progressing your sound and develops fundamental skills for beat makers. Put your material out there, throw it on iTunes, BandCamp, sell a few beats with samples, etc. because chances are that no one, at least the money grubbing publishers, is going to ever know or care about it.
Enjoy the “indie grey zone” that exists with sampling laws and enforcement while you can because I have a strange feeling its about to come to an end or get alot harder to create things with bills like SOPA & Protect IP being pushed through congress. Further, the technology used to detect sampling and monitor the internet and airwaves for uncleared samples is advancing by leaps and bounds.
Until Stasi Amerika is in full effect… Fuck a sample clearance.