To Sample Or Not To Sample? That Is The Question

To Sample Or Not To Sample? That Is The Question

Wanna sample a hot track for your new song? It's gonna cost you. One of the earlier articles we published asks the question "Do you really need a record deal?". If your on the fence, read the article and make an informed decision.

But there's a lot that happens before you decide on trying to attract a label or pushing your own music. The most obvious and important part is the music itself. You have to do the work and make the music.

Some people who are great at writing lyrics may not be great producers, or know how to produce music at all, much less being any good at it. The good news is, for the past twenty years or so, the need to be able to create something completely original, are long gone. Music in general, particularly Rap and Hip/Hop, have made sampling music a viable source with which to create NEW music.

EACM Sampling article pic 2However, sampling still takes talent. A producer’s ability to create a song from a combination of other songs is not an easy task. It’s not easy if it ends up sounding good anyway.

The best example I can think of is "A Roller Skating Jam Saturdays" by De La Soul. This track is everything good about using samples! It's got 5 or 6 different tracks (If I remember correctly) all blended perfectly into one! If you listen to music like I do, you can hear each and every one of those songs that were used, but when the blending is good, you don't care.

Then there are other songs which can use just one sample and add a beat and some horns and it sounds freakin' awesome! The first time I heard "It All Comes Down To The Money" by Terminator X, I LOVED it!! I want to say that my immediate love for the track was because I’m a die- hard Whodini fan. I do like Whodini, but that's not what made this song an instant hit with me. It was the sample from "Shining Star" by Earth, Wind and Fire that did it. At some later point, I listened to the words and saw the video and wasn't disappointed so I loved it even more!

EACM sample article pic 5Now here's the thing, is it really ok to sample someone else's song? Well, yes it is, but there are a few things you should know. The key is either licensing or being talented enough to blend it or use it in a way where it's pretty much unidentifiable.

If you choose the first option, you need some cash! How much cash depends on a few things.  It mostly depends on who the song belongs to and how much they want for it. That's basically all licensing is, you paying someone for the right to use their original works on your track.

I'm gonna save you the trouble and tell you who you're most likely not going to be able to sample (legally) because either the cost is, well, A LOT, or they have very strict limitations on how/where you can use their music. Sting, Barry White and the Beatles, come to mind first. But honestly, you don't really need a list. If they are well known and was ever backed by a larger label, i.e. Motown or the like, expect to pay quite a bit.

EACM sample article pic 4The cost of legally sampling tracks is why some people make the latter choice to use a sample without clearance and hope that nobody recognizes it, or that the owners don't see fit to attempt to sue someone who most likely can't pay an amount worth the trouble of going after them for. I would caution you in doing that though, because you never know who's listening. And, no matter how short the sample may be, there are some people who can identify a song in 3 notes or less. There are songs that I myself can identify with only one note! I bet you have a few of those too!

So, if you decide to use a sample and you want to do it the right way, you can basically apply for it. Once you find out who owns it, you know who to contact. You can even do it online. There are a few sites that make it very easy to apply for music licensing. If you have more questions or are in need of some info on how to get licensing, here are a few helpful links....

Wikipedia on Music Licensing



GreenLight Music

And, if you want to know who sampled who, check out the Who Sampled website.

EACM sampling article pic 1In the end, I would still say, if you can make your own original music, that would be great! You never know who might want to sample your music someday!


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