It's a feat that the Avalanches pulled off the grand theft audio of Since I Left You. The album contains an estimated 3,500 samples, including one totally flagrant grab from Madonna's 'Holiday'.
Legally speaking, getting away with a sample can be tricky. Even more so if it's in your track totally undisguised. Getting clearance is even less likely when you're sampling the Queen of Pop. But, somehow, The Avalanches did it.
As Chater told Triple J:
Everyone would make music individually and then share it with each other; we'd make tapes of our favourite samples we'd found at the time and often put something stupid, like 'Holiday', on there as well just for a laugh. That Madonna sample was just something on one of those tapes, and after a while we just got so used to it on there we thought we may as well try to clear it.
But, since then, the world of sample clearance has changed. Some suggest that the battlelines were first drawn in 1991 when a landmark case saw Biz Markie's record label face an injunction for the Gilbert O'Sullivan sample in the track 'I Need a Haircut'.
Flash forward to 2008, and El-P's talking to Spin about the decline of sampling in hip-hop: "The people that do sample [are the ones who] can afford to."
According to RZA, "In the old days, samples were $2,500 or $1,500. I paid $2,000 for a Gladys Knight sample for 'Can It Be All So Simple' off Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). That was a big intro, and the hook was repetitious. Something like that nowadays would cost $10,000.”
And, when you couple the rising prices of sample clearance with the decline in music industry revenue over the last 10 years, sample clearance starts to seem like a losing battle. By 2008, if you were in the business of getting samples cleared, then it seems like the best advice was to find another business.