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Music Sampling 101


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Music Sampling

The Basics

Sampling music for your own recording can be difficult and confusing. Do it quickly and easily with the right knowledge.

Every recorded song contains two basic copyrights. The Copyright of the Sound Recording and the Copyright of the underlying Composition.

First… the “six-second rule”. Somewhere along the line, musicians started saying that as long as something is less than six seconds you don’t need to clear it. This is not true. If you use someones else’s recording, no matter how small, you need to have permission to use it.

Okay, now that we have that covered let’s move on to the next thing. The two basic clearance licenses you need are the Master or Sound Recording Sample License and the Composition Sample License.

The Master Sound Recording

The Music Sample License for the Master Sound Recording is a mechanical license. Negotiate it with whoever owns that copyright. To use the Music Sample in synchronization, you must obtain a synchronization license from the publisher or clearinghouse.

A sound recording is a recording of music that is fixed in tangible form (e.g., a CD or digital file). The Music Copyright owners grant others certain exclusive rights with respect to the Music Composition, including the exclusive right of reproduction.

The Music Composer is granted ownership over a song and has the sole authority to give or withhold permission for use of their composition in other songs. They often receive royalties from those that sample their work.

To clear the use, you have to obtain permission to use the “sample sound recording” from whoever owns the copyright. If you are looking to clear a sample owned by a record label (which they often are), then you will need to reach out to the record label to see how you can get permission.

When you are dealing with a truly independent artist, you simply have to speak with them and then negotiate a license. If the copyright is owned by more than one person, don’t fret, any owner of a copyright may execute a license on behalf of both copyright owners as long as they haven’t made a deal between each other not to do that.

Payment of clearance may be a flat fee or a royalty or both. It’s up to you to negotiate the deal. Depending on what you are trying to clear for use in your song, this may be a little, it may be a lot. Remember, the copyright owner holds the cards in this deal.

The Composition Clearance

The Composition is the underlying ‘sheet music’ written by the authors of the song itself. Many artists have recorded happy Birthday, but they don’t own the underlying composition, that’s the author of the song.

Many song authors place their copyrights with a Publisher who then collects royalties and administers the rights to the song. Often, they just buy the rights to collect royalties from the song’s authors outright.

If you’re looking for Music Composition Sample Licenses to use in your song, then the Music Publisher is who you will need to contact. Music Composers can make an agreement with a Music Sampling artist that is fair enough for both parties involved.

To obtain the Music Sample License, you can either get it through a music publisher or through an online clearinghouse like Harry Fox Agency (HFA) that can obtain licenses on behalf of Music Composers.

How to get a Music Composition Sample:

In order to get a Composition Sample you will have to figure out who controls the publishing. If you can find the ‘liner notes’ of a song, not as easy since Albums and CD’s aren’t as available as they used to be you can generally see who the owner is. Often, the first step is simply to call HFA and see if they control the publishing – they are a massive licensing agency and control many songs.

If however, you are simply dealing with a truly independent artist, they may still control the publishing rights and you may simply contact them.

A word about “Reps and Warranties”. Reps and Warranties and a key part of gaining the license. You want to make certain that the people that signing your license have the right to give you the clearances. The reps and warranty section of the license agreement is where they ‘sign-off’ that they do have the rights you’re looking for.

Now that you have these two copyright licenses, you can use the sample within your own recording.

How does Creators’ Legal help? Creators’ Legal is the first and only platform built for the modern content creator. We have both the Master Sample License and the Composition Sample License ready to go. Check out the full catalog of contracts for the Independent Musician.

Creators Legal is the first and only legal platform build just for Content Creators. Get simple, straightforward, and trustworthy creator contracts in a fast, easy-to-use platform. Get yourself protected in minutes with a powerful guided Form Builder, a secure e-signature system, and your own personalized dashboard to store and organize all your contracts. And without the need for expensive entertainment lawyers!

Want to learn more? Check out, where you can get single-use contracts or monthly and annual subscriptions on all contracts for creators! Try us now!

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