We’ve seen an abnormal amount of news in regards to uncleared samples in the past year. Azealia Banks attempting to use Munchi’s "Esta Noche" as a single had label reps scrambling to clear samples with two parties. The release of the song was eventually blocked by Munchi, but it grabbed our attention. Samples were in the process of being cleared, but this was nearly two years after Munchi’s song had been given out for free. We saw Baauer being threatened by Hector el Father in regards to the sample used in “Harlem Shake” nearly a year after it’s initial release. Arty and Mat Zo went back and forth with will.i.am over his use of their song "Rebound" on his new album-track "Let's Go" in a situation that's not been publicly resolved, although Arty did receive credit on the album.
If you follow hip-hop, there has been an abnormal influx of issues there as well. From Prince Paul to Easy Mo Bee, we have seen red flags being thrown all over the place in recent months in other genres. If you are wondering why “Cartoons and Cereal” never landed on Kendrick Lamar’s debut album, all signs point to sample clearance issues blocking this classic single from being added to the release. We already spoke on the steps you should take if your music has been stolen, but felt like taking a step back to evaluate the current landscape was in order.
We’re slowly starting to see producers that are singing / rapping on their own records. Pretty Lights added a lengthy process to his new album, spending a year recording his own material and pressing it to vinyl so he could sample completely original work that he created. Until recently, we have all been under the impression that if you give out a track for free, you can sample whatever you want, and that there’s no foul if no money is being made. In reality, Soundcloud and YouTube are removing tracks that sample artists without permission with an increasing frequency, and that should be an indicator that the balance is being shifted in favor of these artists that are being sampled without permission.
I reached out to longtime friend Gregg Sauber in order to help me clear some of these questions up. He’s a been Copyright Coordinator for Sony Music Entertainment (Legacy Recordings) for years, and has seen his fair share of drama in the process of ensuring that artists are fairly compensated for their work. He’s as professional and knowledgeable as they come, and I leaned on him to answer some questions in regards to sample clearance.