The art of sampling music is relatively new to the world of music. Since its debut, there have been many legal, moral, and stylistic arguments over how to deal with both artists that choose to use samples, and the artists who’s music is being sampled. After watching the movie Copyright Criminals, I full heartedly disagree with the following thesis: “The current licensing system for sampling ensures fair compensation to musical creators. ” Clyde Stultified, also known as the “Funky Drummer” of James Brown’s band, is the perfect example of how the current licensing yester is unfair towards musical creators.
One day Clyde showed James Brown a new drum pattern that he had come up with, and James instantly loved it and put lyrics to the rhythm. It has been a while since Clyde has played as James Brown’s drummer, however Cycle’s drum pattern has been sampled plenty since being in the band. In fact his drum pattern is one of the most sampled musical pieces ever and has been used in hit songs by some artists like Public Enemy, Run-DMS, The Beastie Boys, ALL Cool J, N. W. A, Prince, Reawaken, Boogie Down Productions and more!
The problem is that royalties were hardly ever paid during early sampled songs, and when they were, James Brown would get the money for being the ‘songwriter’. George Clinton, of the band Parliament, is also notorious for being sampled heavily and not getting paid for it. His songs have been sampled in songs of other artists like Snoop Dog and Rick James. George Clinton and Clyde Stultified both have seen their musical creations get used, and receive nothing in return.
Although George said “Rock and Roll has always been lazy’ he wants that to change and have future musicians create their own riffs because he feels he has not been fairly compensated. On the other hand sometimes, an artist such as The Turtles, start a lawsuit against a band that samples their music, like De La Soul. While The Turtles should have been asked for permission to use their song before being sampled, De La Soul was forced to pay an overabundant amount of money to resolve the lawsuit. While De La Soul wasn’t fully ware of the crime they were committing at the time, it cost them nearly $1 ask.
One studio executive said in Copyright Criminals, “Sampling artists are taking the life’s work of other artists and putting their own name on it. ” When an artist spends weeks writing a song (maybe even a lifetime), and another artist comes around and samples that song (which takes mere seconds); It does not seem right to not pay the original artist money nor recognition. If someone were to use the scene of one movie in another, you could bet that the second movie would have to pay the first movie as well as give credit to it.
So why should the music industry be much different? While some may argue that sampling is a new form of musical statement, many others feel differently because their ‘statement’ is comprised of a different artist’s message in that different artist’s tone. If you were to quote someone famous, you are not the creator of that statement; Just someone receipting what was once said. If you are going to make a living off of someone else’s work, more royalties and recognition would be distributed to original artists to ensure fairness.
In conclusion, when sampled music is in another artist’s song, the original artist of the sampled music is hardily ever treated fairly by the licensing system in terms of compensation. A Music Copyright in the Digital Age By Mudstone example, Clyde would be paid every time someone hears his drum beat in a song. While the issues of copyright infringement are tricky, they must be resolved to ensure fairness to artists pouring their heart and soul into their creations.