In 2013 the label that gave
the world the viral hit
Shake faced a serious legal
story has become something of a modern parable for fledgling
producers who tend to sample without seeking
Guest Post by Simon
Davies for SubBass.
Baauer, the artist behind Harlem Shake, had apparently
sampled two artists in his track but had never asked to use
said samples. Then, as he went viral, the lawsuits went
Here is an introduction to some of the laws surrounding
sampling and how to avoid issues if you suddenly go big or a
label wants to sign you.
Getting Permission To Use Samples
There are two major types of sampling, one involves the
use of the master track and the other is uses a reproduction of
the composition that you can create yourself. The first
requires permission from both the label and the composer and
the second requires only permission from the
Gaining these permissions can be a
pretty long process. Depending on who you are sampling you
could find yourself facing a steep payment or never receiving a
reply. But if the fear of the aforementioned Baauer story has
had any effect, you’ll need to get in touch with the label’s
legal department and gain permission from them as well as the
individual(s) that composed the track.
Make sure if you’re using a sample from a master track
that you have both permissions or else you may start your music
career with a lawsuit that ends it.
Use Professional Sample Services
This can save you a whole lot of hassle. For independent
bands or producers it is incredibly difficult to go through the
‘clearing’ process. It is costly, time consuming and if you
don’t know how the track will go down, it might not be worth
An alternative is to use pre-collected samples. SubBass Academy of Electronic Music have
recently partnered up with CR2 and to celebrate, they are
giving their sample
tools away for free to SubBass students, alumni, friends
and family. This is a great way to sample because it’s
worry-free and you have a whole host of music at your
fingertips to play with.
You can also use sample remake and royalty free music
services that usually ask you for a one off payment or
membership payment to use their samples. This takes away the
lengthy process of acquiring permission from labels and
Make sure you do your homework on a service like this so
you don’t end up throwing money away.
Look For Audio That Is Licensed Under Creative
Thanks to Creative Commons you can
find music that you are allowed to sample royalty free.
Creative Commons works alongside copyright law to enable an
artist’s work to be used and built upon by other artists
without infringement. If you want audio that you can use for
free and without worry of a lawsuit then searching through
Creative Commons can be a great way to find it.
The main lesson here is to be careful what you use and
where you use it. If it’s for home use then it isn’t likely to
cause you a problem but say you put the track up on YouTube and
the views start mounting, it could eventually turn the heads of
the people you’ve borrowed from.