Episode 2 – Sampleing Laws

Sampling Laws

Question: Why is it so important to make sure your samples are cleared? What happens if you don’t?

Biz Markie - I Need A HaircutThis person found that out for us… the hard way. In 1991 Biz Markie changed Hip-Hop and the entire music industry when he sampled Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again” for his song entitled “Alone Again” and stuck the song on his album entitled “I Need A Hair Cut.” Biz Markie did this with out getting that sample cleared. Let’s also realize that he just had a platinum single in “Just A Friend” and a gold album in “The Biz Never Sleeps.” He had the potential to sell another million records on his next album. In his defense, rumor has it that Biz Markie and/or Warner Brothers at least tried to contact O’Sullivan to get the sample cleared but O’Sullivan was in solitude and no one was really able to contact him. After O’Sullivan and/or his record label found out about this song and uncleared sample there was a lawsuit between Grand Upright Music, Ltd v. Warner Bros. Records Inc. in which Warner Bros. (which is the label that Biz Markie was on) at the time lost. The result of this law suite was that his album had to be taken back off the shelves in every record store immediately. Now… there were serious repercussions if a sample was not cleared. This also allowed artists to start suing record labels and winning these law suites if they could prove that their music was sampled without permission. Now the hip hop producers could still dig for those samples but if the sample is not cleared then that song is just not happening.

Biz MarkieThis is very interesting concept however the fact still remains that beats like Synthetic Substitution by Melvin Bliss who just recently passed away, Ashley’s Roachclip by Chuck Brown and The Soul Searchers (yeah, the Godfather of Go Go Music, that Chuck Brown) and the most sampled loop ever The Funky Drummer by James Brown and Clyde Stubblefield are still being sampled today and those artists are not getting paid for them. However, that is a story for another time.

Simply put… Before you could sample without clearance and get away with it and this still pretty much applies to those artists that aren’t going “Gold”, “Platinum” or what ever the next standard is (and I’m not saying it is legal either) but now if you have that potential you must clear all samples or it will get ugly and that is how Biz Markie changed Hip Hop and the entire music industry in the process.

If you have any discrepancies to what you just heard, comments on what you just heard or have new ideas on who or what changed hip hop and I will still challenge your ideas too then send an email to patrick@patrickscientific.com

Until next time peace

Audio Verison as done originally on Strictly Hip Hop on WEAA 88.9 FM below.

Additional notes:

In a somewhat rebellious stab back at the music industry, Biz released his next album entitled “All Samples Cleared” poking fun at his lost law suite. In another somewhat rebellious stab, Biz Markie is OK with people taking for taking samples from his music and that is a long list of people from Del The Funky Homosapien to the Trip Hop band Sneaker Pimps.

Mental note:

All of this happened before the digital age so vinyl and cassettes were the medium for Biz Markie’s album. Since he had the potential to sell 500,000 units it is possible that Warner Brothers manufactured $500,000 units all to have them be unsellable.  In the digital age you would just remove the one song and call it a day.  That is a lot of money to loose in an investment.  Think about it!

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  • http://www.twitter.com/kinnymack5000 Kinny Mack

    i was able to find I Need a Haircut, it was a blessing too. i got that joint on cassette for the amazing price of .99 cents. :)

  • http://www.hiphopolitic.wordpress.com Vegas

    I remember when this happened. It’s unfortunate on both sides. These older artist fathered a lot of what we create today, but record companies own everything. They deserve to reap the benefits of their talents. I love hip-hop, and I love samples. This Biz Markie situation, and others, are lessons for future artist to BE SMART, OWN YOUR MUSIC, CREATE ART, AND RESPECT THE GAME.

    • http://www.patrickscientific.com Patrick Scientific

      That is a very “Bigger Picture” view of the post. Thanks for sharing!

  • Dj “O”

    Well it was definitely informative because I never knew how clearing samples came about. Never knew that Biz’s LP had to be taken off the shelves either. That also makes me wonder if that had anything to do with why Biz didn’t last as long as he should have.
    This was a good topic to touch on though. Through out all discussions on who killed hip-hop, I’ve never heard anybody bring this up.

    • Patrick Scientific

      DJ O: Glad you learned buddy! He payed a big price for everyone!

  • H’dm

    It is good to bring this topic back to light, and for the importance of future producers that think that they can get away with not clearing samples.

  • http://www.IJustPlayTheMusic.com DJ Soundwave

    Great post!

  • biggroove

    THIS IS VERY INFORMATIVE FOR THE YOUNGER GENERATION COMING UP IN HIP-HOP.BUT THIS IS ONE EXAMPLE FROM ONE ARTIST SURROUNDING SAMPLING.THE LESSON HERE IS ONE OF DOING CORRECT RESEARCH BEFORE ATTEMPTING TO USE RECORDED MUSIC TO BUILD A TRACK.TWO IN BUILDING YOUR OWN TRACK YOU CAN RESTRUCTURE WHAT EVER YOUR FIRST THOUGHT TO SAMPLE WAS WITH AND INTERPRETATION OF KEYS, CORD STRUCTURE.IT ‘LL COST A WHOLE LOT LESS AND YOUR THOUGHT CAN BE VIEWED AS AND ORIGINAL CONCEPT!!!!!!!! AS A PRODUCER AND A n R OF AND INDIE LABEL ,,,, YUNGSTA ENTERTAINMENT 85% OF THE TRACKS BEING PRODUCED OUT OF PERFECT BLEND STUDIO ARE ORIGINAL CONCEPTS… AND IF WE SAMPLE WE PAY FOR SAMPLE CLEARANCE !!!!!!!!!!!

  • dropajewel

    Awesomeness!

  • http://www.seantoure.bandcamp.com Sean-Toure’

    Great points made by every one. Great blog Mr. Pat Scientific!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks buddy!

  • Kil

    I feel you but nowadays I feel like EVERYONE has become greedy and see hip hop as another pay day. So as an independent artist I can’t clear samples because I don’t have the money. So what I am suppose to do? Not make music? Or just keep giving music away for fee? Ain’t gonna happen. In my opinion, unless you’re signed to a label (major or independent) I’m not clearing samples. For example, if I have a 12 track album and all 12 tracks use samples and I try to clear them and let’s say the people I’m sampling are CRAZY COOL and just charge me $1,000 per song…that’s $12,000! I don’t have $12,000! So like I said, I should just stop making music if I wanna clear stuff. To me, people sue the labels because they know labels have money, why would you sue me? I have no money. I’m sure a publishing company, the artist or whoever owns the rights to the song doesn’t hope to get a townhouse and a bunch of old vinyl as their settlement and that’s all they can get from me…so I’m bucking the system! Catch me if you can…

  • Mrkay7

    i remember the biz case..that took alot of steam out of his career and helped to bring the downfall of cold chillin’ records being distributed by warner bros..alot of the artists that were being sampled didn’t think that rap was going to be around for a long time and didn’t know how much you could make from samples..they charged small fees back then..now people charge thousands and want publishing.(most of the old artists don’t own their publishing)..i know for a fact that dudes like prince wanted 50% of the publishing..this forced cats to stop sampling and learn to play keyboard ..producers that don’t sample see bigger publishing checks