If you’re looking to clear a sample for a song or beat, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. Using a sample can be a quick and easy way to get the sounds you need, but it’s important to take the necessary precautions.
In this post, we’ll explain how to clear a sample for a song or beat through this step-by-step guide. This will ensure that your sample is cleared and can be used without any issues. So if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to do it, this post is for you!
What is a sample in music?
In music, a sample refers to a portion or segment of a sound recording that is reused in another recording. This can include various elements of a song, such as rhythm, melody, speech, sound effects, or longer portions of the music.
Samples can be manipulated in different ways, such as layering, equalizing, speeding up, slowing down, repitching, looping, or other techniques. They are commonly used in electronic and hip-hop music, but they can be found in various genres of music.
In the beat-making process, sampling can involve reusing portions of an existing song in a new production. The use of samples can add a unique and creative element to music production, allowing for the creation of new sounds and styles while paying homage to previous works.
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Who should you ask permission when using a sample in music?
When using a sample in music, you should ask permission from both the owner of the recording’s copyright, usually a record label, and the owner of the song’s copyright, usually the songwriter or the publisher. This means you need two permissions, not one.
It is important to determine whether you need to ask for permission or not, depending on the situation. For instance, in order to use a Johnny Cash recording, you would have to obtain permission from the record company, the music publisher (the owner of the song), and, in some cases, the artist who created it, especially when the ad or production could create the impression that the artist is endorsing the product or service.
How to find the music publisher
The music publisher is the first place to look because of how commonplace they are. It’s easy to check whether you need permission to sample a song by looking up the title in the databases of performance rights organizations like:
- Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI)
- American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP)
- Society of Composers, Authors, and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN)
- Harry Fox Agency (HFA)
If you can’t find what you’re looking for online, try calling one of these companies and requesting the music indexing division.
How to find the master owner
After getting sample approval from the publisher, you should seek permission from the song’s master owner. You can try the following:
- Ask the music publisher if they have contact information about the master owner.
- If you need the song’s original release information, contact the label that put out the album.
- Try looking it up online. Try searching for an online record shop or consulting the Phonolog music database.
The difficulty in identifying the master owner stems from the fact that record labels often transfer their rights to other parties. It’s possible that even after you locate the owner, the rights will go back to the original creator, throwing you back into the hunt.
How much does it cost to clear a sample?
It’s been said before, but this is mostly a matter of negotiating the price with the copyright owners. Some record companies and publishers may not understand how sampling works or why you would want to do it. Furthermore, there will be some who have gone through this process several times and may provide invaluable insight.
They will want either a flat fee upfront or recurring royalties. This is at least somewhat dependent on whether or not they anticipate making a profit from you. Understand that there is space for bargaining regardless of your strategy for approaching the transaction.
The cost of clearing a sample might vary widely. It’s also possible that publishers and record companies won’t allow you to listen to any of the artist’s work. A lawyer specializing in entertainment law may be of assistance in resolving the legal issues involved in clearing the sample. It won’t help you save money, but it could help you save time.
These are the most important factors for record companies and publishing houses:
- Which song is being sampled, if any
- If the master recording was listened to, or the sample was played again
- The size of the sample in question
They often ask for a master rights advance of $2,000 to $5,000, plus a publication advance of the same amount. But you need to inquire to find out. In addition, it is feasible to get a better outcome. These expenses may not seem so high if you know you have a winner on your hands. However, if you are unsure, sampling may seem to be more costly.
How do you clear a sample for your song or beat?
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to clear a sample for a song or beat:
1. Prepare info about the sample
Gather information about the music segment you wish to utilize and how you intend to deal with it before contacting copyright owners to seek approval. You need to know how much of the composer’s work you wish to sample, the duration in seconds, and the desired number of times the sample will be used in the song.
Don’t forget that you still need clearance if you modify the sample so much that it no longer resembles the original. The sample is someone else’s intellectual property regardless of what you do to it.
2. Find the copyright owners
Two forms of authorization are required before you may utilize a sample from an existing song legally: permission from the song’s copyright owner (often the music publisher or composer) and written permission from the owner of the master recording’s copyright (usually the recording company or label).
3. Contact the copyright owners
Get in touch with the proprietors. You should provide the publisher and composer with a copy of the original song with your sampled recording so that they may hear how their work will be used. If the master owner’s website lacks a submission option, you may contact them via their business or licensing divisions.
What if you are unable to contact the owners of the copyright?
There is little you can do if you get no answer or are turned down. Working up a mutually beneficial arrangement is typically in everyone’s best interest when sampling is involved since it opens up a new money stream for the original artists. However, many publishing companies are hesitant to provide sample authorization to unsigned musicians they are unfamiliar with.
Finding copyright holders that are willing to approve samples beforehand would save independent artists a lot of time and ensure that they can use these samples legally. Services like Tracklib and Splice provide royalty-free music and samples that have already been approved for use.
The sample clearance scenario is straightforward: if the original music is copyrighted, you must clear it to use the sample, no matter how short or how heavily altered it is.
The procedure of getting authorization to use samples takes time and effort, but getting into legal trouble for not asking permission will be even more expensive. If you’re trying to save money without sacrificing quality, exploring other options for obtaining musical samples is a better idea.
If you want even more tips and insights, watch this video called “Legally Sample Music (The Easy Way) | Don’t Release Your Music Without Clearing Your Samples” from the JamMob YouTube channel.
Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
Do you still have questions about clearing a sample for a song or beat? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions.
Do I have to clear every sample?
Copying and distributing your music to the general public is the only time you’ll need sample approval. If you are performing for a small group of friends, you probably don’t have to fret about a copyright lawsuit from a major record label.
Can I release a song with an uncleared sample?
If you fail to obtain clearance but still decide to sample, you could be sued for monetary damages and have your song blocked from distribution. Additionally, the law around sampling is more complex than just using a certain length of a work without permission. It is recommended to ask permission from the copyright holder before sampling any piece of music.
Can I get sued for sampling a song?
Samples from existing songs may need explicit permission from the original artists before they may be used in your compositions for public consumption. Avoid copyright infringement lawsuits at all costs if you want to keep releasing music.
So now that you know how to clear a sample, it’s time to get started. Just remember to follow all the steps above, and you should be good.
So, are you planning to use a sample for your new song? And did I cover everything you wanted to know? Let me know in the comments section below (I read and reply to every comment). If you found this article helpful, share it with a friend, and check out my full blog for more tips and tricks on music production. Thanks for reading, and never stop making music.
This article covered how to clear a sample for a song or beat. Here are some key takeaways:
- A sample is any part of a previously recorded song or performance that is used in a new composition.
- You should ask permission from both the owner of the recording’s copyright, usually a record label, and the owner of the song’s copyright, usually the songwriter or the publisher.
- There’s a step-by-step guide on how to clear a sample for a song or beat.
- The cost of clearing a sample might vary widely.
- An advance, or clearance fee, is often requested by publishing houses.
- Alternative sources, such as royalty-free music, can be used if obtaining permission is difficult or too costly.