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How To

“Good Artists copy, great Artists steal.” Pablo Picasso – We Discuss Sampling

Photograph of the blog post author, Jon



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In my opinion what Picasso meant by this is that all artists piggyback ideas off each other regardless of genre.  A good artist will indeed borrow however a great artist will steal the vision to create their own unique piece which is something entirely different.  It is no different with regards to music and sampling.

Don’t forget your manners…ask first

If you plan on sampling music, as in life the first aspect is to seek the permission from the owners of the music/copyright. There are myriad paths one can choose to obtain permission to utilize someone else’s work within yours.  And, of course we go to my first point for the last three articles that I’ve written for Мusic Gateway – research! Yes, once again, this is what you need to be looking for.  If you want to borrow musical content creating your own melodic collage, the first thing you need to do is to find the owners of the original content.  One thing you can do is to contact the record label or publishing company directly for information.

Most countries have some sort of songwriting association that you can refer to for example in the UK it is PRS (Performing Rights Society) in Canada it would be SOCAN (The Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada.)  If you are an unknown artist, be prepared to offer payment as an option to utilize the work you are seeking to collaborate with; do keep in mind though once that body of work is completed with every sale you make a percentage will also go back to the original artists – quite the future symbiotic relationship with regards to collecting royalties for publishing and recordings.

There are also bands that may look to have their music sampled; if you first choice does not pan out this option provides you with an alternative path. Tragic to say that it sometimes come down to paying for things but remember, you are doing this to enhance your music by sampling someone’s work creating your own spin on it. However, sometimes it is not that simple which means you may have to do more research outside of that to find the person you are attempting to track down.  If you take nothing else from this article please take the permissions aspect of sampling VERY seriously as it could be quite detrimental to you if you do not!

Copyright Infringement

In elementary school we are taught to copy lines from stories to learn and perfect our penmanship as we grow older coping down word for word is classified as plagiarism, there is no difference when it comes to music.  Let’s take for example what happened to The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony and The Rolling Stones’ The Last Time improper use of sampling.  The Verve’s front man Richard Ashcroft’s had only claimed to use “four little bars.”  What I would like to request from my readers is to hear it for themselves and tell us what you think about it.

Here is ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ by The Verve.

and ‘The Last Time’ by The Rolling Stones

The Verve has never been able to recover from this blunder, more like inconsideration towards The Rolling Stones but that is the mere opinion of an obscure blogger.  As a writer I take Copyright Infringement extremely seriously, it can cause unwanted time spent not only in litigation but watching your hard work an money going directly onto the pyre of the song that was!


The use of sampling can be a strategic tool to enhance (the awareness/popularity of) any music, especially if you find the right fit to partner your original works with.  Think about it for a moment; you are an unknown musician looking to get your music heard with a desire to work with other performers. Sampling affords you the process of collaboration without collaborating, if that makes any sense.  Literally what an artist does with sampling is taking an existing body of incredible work to create a new sound with the sampled piece in your work – taking that artist with you everywhere you go.

As artists, we have a deep desire to share our work with world and also to collaborate with those who have come before and with us. The benefit in sampling is that you are bringing something from the past that can be rejuvenated to a new piece.  This can be of benefit to all artists, for one you are earning something every time your song is played while creating an extra side revenue for those you have sampled from it is a total win-win situation WITH THE RIGHT PERMISSIONS!


If you’re looking to sign a contract or want to sample a song, you can seek out legal advice and/or hire a lawyer through Мusic Gateway!


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