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The Basics on Clearing Music Samples for Music Producers

For many music producers, there can be many numerous obstacles that creates problematic situations when creating music. One of the most problematic and costly issues is issues related to using music samples that have not been cleared. For example, even minimal samples can be a major issue if the producer doesn’t get permission from the original artists. For this reason, there are steps a producer takes to avoid this mishap. Don’t get sued–it just takes time and meticulous attention to detail.

How to Clear Samples

First of all, a music producer needs to know need to know the song that they want to sample. In addition, they also need to know other information related to the song. A music producer finds this information by performing a search through the major music rights organizations. These organizations include ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers), BMI (Broadcast Music Incorporated), SESAC or Sony/ATV.

This search reveals who the artist is, along with the songwriter and publisher. A producer can also hire a copyright expert for help. This person specializes in copyright laws and the use of samples. The expert uses their expertise to provide peace of mind when the music producer works with music samples.

What Permissions Does a Music Producer Need?

Most importantly, a music producer needs to know that they need two different permissions in order to get the proper sample clearance. The first of these permissions comes from the copyright owner of the song, which is the sound recording. The second permission comes from the owner of the underlying composition.

The record label owns the first copyright permission. The publisher and songwriter owns the second part of the permission. Keep in mind that this could possibly be a lengthy process because of the fact that these copyrights can be sold to other record labels. As a result of this sale, rights to the original masters can revert back to the artists. For this reason, it is important to research and see if they have that provision included in their contract.

How to Negotiate Payments for Music Samples

At this point, a producer needs to negotiate payments with these copyright holders to use the sample. Labels may want a fee that’s paid up-front along with a “rollover”. A rollover amounts to a fixed royalty based on an expected sales threshold for the song using the sample.

Music publishers may want the same kind of advance payment which can be very costly depending on the length of the sample and the artist it’s taken from along with a percentage of all of the future revenue for the new track. This payment can fall in a range of 15%-50%, which depends on how prominently the sample is embedded in the new song.

What if the Music Sample is Not Cleared?

Of course, this all poses an important question – suppose the producer doesn’t get permission from the copyright owner or the publishers? Well, the producer talks with the artist themselves to get permission.

Alternatively, the music producer searches for the producer and music samples with copyright owners. This route may be easier, but it depends on the artist and publishing group.

Lastly, if the producer obtains permission from the publisher, but not the label, they can re-record that sample. This is legal because copyright law determines infringement by copying it, but not if an artist imitates it.

Choosing not to clear a sample before the song is released is a major risk and not recommended.  Even though it may seem much easier at the time not to clear the sample, it may not be worth the headaches of a lawsuit and lost time in the long run.

Want to Learn More?

Being a producer involves many duties, and one of the more intricate ones involves finding samples and getting clearance for them for a new song and album. While it can be frustrating to go through, having an idea of what to do beforehand lessens that frustration to make for an easier journey to finish. If this kind of creativity appeals to you & you’re curious enough to learn more, take a moment to check out IPR IPR’s Audio Production Program and the training that they provide on-site about the tools needed to succeed in that area.

Contact us today to learn more about the audio production and engineering program and starting a rewarding career in the music industry.