How to Clear a Sample Part 1



Music attorneys often clear samples, although this can be somewhat expensive. Clearance agencies are usually cheaper, and many are familiar with licensing samples. Record companies can also clear samples for their artists, but the cost of negotiating and obtaining clearances will later be deducted from any recording advance or royalties the artist may be entitled to.

Of course, you may decide to obtain a sample license yourself. To clear samples, it is necessary to write to the record company and publisher of the sampled song. ASCAP or BMI will likely have the publisher's current address. In your letter, ask for a quote for a clearance fee, and identify the song you are sampling and how much is used. Don't forget to include a tape of the original song, as well as a copy of your unreleased song using the sample.

In granting a license, a record company may seek a flat-fee of anywhere from $100 to $5,000, or possibly more. Record companies may also seek a royalty (from $.01 to $.07 per record sold) as well as an advance. Music publishers may also ask for a flat fee or a percentage of income from the new song, or both. Depending on how the sample is used, some publisher may also demand a percentage of copyright ownership in the new composition. Because copyright owners are not obligated to grant clearances, you may have no choice but to comply with the owner's asking price, or remove the sample. Of course, a copyright owner may also deny permission to use a sample.

Different factors affect how much money a record company or music publisher will want for a sample. Price may vary depending on how much of the sample is used, how many other samples are used, whether your song has already been released, and the type of rights a record company is willing to grant. For example, a music publisher may choose to license a sample for sound recordings only. In this case, you would be unable to use your song containing the sample in a motion picture, video or CD-Rom without an additional license from the music publisher.

Finally, to keep costs down, some artists choose to create their own samples by first recording their own "cover" version of the sampled song. By using this technique, an artist avoids having to obtain a clearance from the original record company. Nevertheless, when creating your own sample based on another song, you will still need to obtain a clearance from the music publisher of the original composition.

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