How to legally clear samples for your music?

Whether you’re an electronic or urban music producer, you’re more than likely to be using samples in your tracks.

Whether you’re an electronic or urban music producer, you’re more than likely to be using samples in your tracks. Is sampling stealing other people’s music though?

The following guide is meant for anyone using samples in their music, and most of all, those unaware of the basic rules that you must follow in order to remain within law’s framework. Releasing music out there containing uncleared samples is a choice that you make at your own risks. Many factors are to be taken into account, such as your online visibility and the notoriety of the artist you’re sampling. For the foggy heads, just keep in mind that you can be sued and asked to pay huge fines by the copyright holders for using uncleared samples in your music. But don’t worry, we’ll got you covered step by step.

Buy online samples

The easiest and most affordable way to use cleared samples in your productions is to through specialized sites. Some of them offer free sample packs and others will require a contribution of around 20 $ per packs (for a hundred files). Pretty affordable, right? A few names amongst the most popular sites: Looperman, Loopmaster, Musicradar, Samplemagic, Audiofanzine …

Please note that the terms and conditions of use of these sites may vary. It is important to keep abreast of the following: is commercial use allowed? In which countries? On all sales platforms? What is the duration of use allowed for the samples purchased? Is there a maximum number of streams/downloads allowed?

Other sites that have taken profit of sampling’s popularity like Splice offer to download the VSTs, beats and sounds favored by star producers. To name a few: Amon Tobin, Deadmau5, Sophie … Each sound and instrument is legally usable for $ 7.99 per month.

Native Instruments, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of electronic instruments, has also started its own digital sampling platform. Sounds was just made available in Europe and provides a massive amount of samples and loops for $ 9.99 per month. Strong point: it’s 100% legal. But hey, subscription does not prevent you from reading the terms of use to avoid unpleasant surprises the day you want to market your music…

In some cases, it will be necessary to add the names of your sample’s original title composers to the metadata. Be careful, your music distributor will remind you that featuring your release with Deadmaus, Carl Cox or another famous producer IS copyright infringement.

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Sample an original track

So, the next track you’re about to drop is fire? Bad luck, you’ve used unclear samples from original tracks, or even soundtracks. In the case you might want to market your music and make money out of it, you will need two different licences. One for the master recording which is owned by the label. Another one for the original composition. For this last one, you’ll have to ask to the publisher/ songwriter.

  1. Find the publisher or owner You’ll find this information on the sites of copyright management companies, just go through their repertoire: ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, SOCAN. It is possible to solicit them to get the contacts of the right-holders or you can do your own research on your side.

  2. Contact the publisher(s) The person you want to be in touch with is the publisher. That’s the person in charge of copyrights. If you know the label in charge of the song you’re sampling, they can also help you to find the publisher.

  3. Sign an agreement (IMPORTANT): unlike cover songs, sample licensing isn’t compulsory. So that means the copyright owners might not want to grant you permission to use that sample if they don’t like your music. But in case they do, the cost may vary greatly. The notoriety of the artist and the duration of the sample you’re using are to be taken into account.

  4. Free unclear sampling Many DJs and producers use a plethora of samples, sometimes a hundred in one track. Obviously, a wide majority of them can not afford to pay the rights holders for each sample that hey use. The ability of producers to use effects, and tricks for using samples without the rights holders to be noticed is pretty much an art. Far behind us is the time when rappers were sampling on their MPCs without worrying about copyright…

However, if your song is available for free on the internet and it contains recognisable samples well, it depends on your luck to receive a huge fine by mail. Above all, it is your ability to make your samples unrecognizable to avoid outing your checkbook. Or to be sued.

To conclude, your aggregator is at your disposal for any questions related to sampling in your music. In most cases, you may not want to opt for the YouTube Content ID program, as this may result in unjustified content claims. Again, do not hesitate to contact your distributor, it is your main contact for all concerns regarding the commercialization of your music.