Sampling is a powerful tool that has helped music producers to create some of the most popular genres in modern music.
Today, samples can essentially be found anywhere you cast your net, and sampling has become one of the most popular ways for producers to produce music.
A simple production technique, sampling has become a huge industry and big business. Earlier this year, Splice, the popular platform for rights-cleared sounds and beats, claimed to have paid out more than $25 million to musicians in its artist-to-artist marketplace.
But does music have a samples problem?
There’s no doubt that working with samples is as inspiring as it’s ever been, but the industry at times seems bogged down by legal debates, paperwork and overwhelming selection.
Sampling used to be limited to the field recordings captured from the real world. Some of the iconic early dance and hip hop hits were produced by recording analogue synths and drum machines, or by grabbing snippets from tape or vinyl records.
But now, any digital audio is potential sample material, since sampling takes place entirely in the DAW and within plugins.
The rise of bloated libraries and bland daily pack releases only adds to the problem. There’s simply so much out there, and in my experience, nothing hampers a music producer’s creative juices more than a long session of mindlessly auditioning samples.
Whether you’re looking for the sound in your head or something to spark inspiration, the options can be somewhat paralysing.
With regard to music copyright, if you use uncleared samples that aren’t yours, the music you create with them doesn’t belong to you and the copyright issues from uncleared samples follow your music wherever it goes.
Automated tools that vet new tracks for monetisation on streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music can detect even a short sample that’s heavily processed with audio effects.
If you try to use a digital distribution service to start getting paid for music that contains uncleared samples, your release will get stopped in its tracks.