4 Steps To Clearing A Sample (And Saving Yourself Serious Money)

Although a great deal of current music relies on the sampling of other artists’ work, musicians are often unclear on what it takes to legally clear a sample, and thereby avoid financial and legal repercussions down the road.
Much of today’s pop and hip-hop hits revolve around a sample from another record as the backbeat of the song. That’s not a problem in itself in that many great records have been created this way, but many new artists are unaware of what it takes when it comes to legally clearing a sample so it doesn’t cost them most or all of their royalties received from their song down the line.

It’s All Based On Copyright
Clearing a sample means that you’ve obtained the proper rights from the copyright holders to use it. The problem is there’s almost always more than one entity that has that control so that’s when it can get complicated.

To begin with, there are 2 copyrights for every song – the sound recording copyright (sometimes called Master Recording), and the publishing copyright. A record label will usually control the sound recording copyright and a publisher or publishers (if there are multiple writers) will hold the publishing copyright. You need to get all parties to agree on you using their sample, and you need to do it before you release your record.

Finding the label that released the song you want to sample is usually easy in that all you have to do is an Google search. It’s a little more complicated for the publishing side. There you need to know all of the writers and their publishing companies. The easiest way to find that info is to do a song search on either the BMI and ASCAP websites. There you’ll find detailed information on the writers and publishers so you’ll know exactly who to contact.

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