Sampling Music Part 2 of 3: How do I get permission?

(cont. from The Hollywood Lawyer blog post, “Sampling Music Part 1 of 3: When do I need permission?“)

Alright, so now you know you need to get clearance for a music sample. What’s next?

  1. You’ll need to get permission from the appropriate copyright owners:
    • If you’ll be sampling just the song (composition – written form of the music) …
      • The copyright owner of the song (composition – written form of the music) – usually the music publisher
    • If you’ll be sampling the sound recording …
      • The copyright owner of the song (composition – written form of the music) – usually the music publisher
      • The copyright owner of the master recording – usually the record label (recording company)
  2. Finding the record label
    • Before you track down the record label, you’ll need to gather info for the (a) name of the original music being sampled, (b) the composer of the original music, (c) the performing artist, and (d) the record label
    • You can probably track down the addresses and phone numbers for the record label online through music industry directories, websites and performing rights organizations
  3. Finding the music publisher
    • Before you track down the music publisher, you’ll need to gather info for the (a) name of the original music being sampled, (b) the composer of the original music
    • You can probably track down the addresses and phone numbers for the record label online through music industry directories, websites and performing rights organizations
    • If you can’t locate the song online, call the PROs and ask for the “song indexing” department
  4. Requesting permission
    • Now, it’s time for you to write a request to the Licensing Department or Business and Legal Affairs Department of the record label and/or music publisher. Some record labels or music publishers might even have a sample clearance form for such requests to be made through
    • In your request, you should send your music containing the sampled music, along with just the sampled music portion; indicate how many initial units you plan to manufacture and release; specify the territory (how far and vast your music will be distributed); note when your intended release date is; provide your contact info and more background history about yourself or the artist whose music contains the sampled music; and offer any dollar figure you have in mind for paying to use the sample
    • Note: Some publishers have a policy not to grant permission for sampling. As such, you may need to request clearance for the source music.
  5. The Process
    • Once you’ve contacted the music publisher, now the music publisher will consider the price and reach out to the original composer for permission with regard to moral rights, and start negotiations over copyright ownership and royalty splits on the new record
    • With regard to the record label or owner of the original sound recording for the sampled music, it will also be considering the price based on the information you’ve provided
  6. Permission denied
    • If the music publisher denies your request to use the sampled music (composition), you’re doomed. Just kidding. At this point, you should probably retain a music attorney to represent you and negotiate on your behalf. Or you can try contacting the artist/songwriter directly – this would work if the artist/songwriter still has some clout in what gets cleared.
    • If the record label denies your request to use the sampled music (sound recording), then do not worry. You could try employing the services of a sample-recreation company to work around this, but always do your due diligence in this area, or seek the help of a music attorney to see if you are in the clear by going this route. Some sample-recreation companies: Rinse Productions, Replay Heaven. Note: You’ll still need permission from the music publishing company in order to do this as well.

Alright, so those are the basic steps for obtaining permission in sampling music. Sounds pretty simple? Well, sometimes it’s not, either because of bureaucratic red tape, lack of response from the music publisher and/or the record label, and negotiating or leverage power. As such, sometimes it’s advisable that you bypass all of the above and simply hire a sample clearance expert to do all of this for you or to retain a music attorney. Some sample clearance services that you might be interested in reaching out to are: DMG Clearances, Music Resources, Inc., The Parker Music Group, Songwriters Services.

Ok, now what’s next?? NEGOTIATING THE SAMPLE CLEARANCE FEE(s) BABY! Oh man oh man, how do you do this? Come back on Monday, Oct. 13th, and read my next blog post: “Sampling Music Part 3 of 3: How do I negotiate the sample clearance fee(s)?

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Disclaimer: Please note that the information contained within this blog post and site is offered simply as a consideration to visitors who are in the entertainment industry and are seeking to learn more about various areas of entertainment, be it in film, television, music, digital, new media, merchandising and/or branding. As such, the information so provided should never be construed as legal advice. If you need further assistance or legal advice for your specific matter, please do not hesitate in contacting an entertainment attorney (film, television, music, digital, licensing, film financing) here in Los Angeles at The Hollywood Lawyer by (1) emailing us at info@hollywoodlawyer.com; (2) calling us at (323) 300-4184; or (3) filling out our online form

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