Uncommon Approach: The future of sampling

Uncommon Approach: The future of sampling

I just finished watching a documentary called “Copyright Criminals” on PBS. It was about the history of sampling and the legal issues associated with it.

‘Uncommon Approach’ is a column written by Paul “Nasa” Loverro, owner of independent label Uncommon Records. With this frequent column, he gives readers an all access look at the ups and downs of running an independent Hip Hop label in this day and age. An in-depth column from the perspective of an Indie label owner. 

I just finished watching a documentary called “Copyright Criminals” on PBS.  It was about the history of sampling and the legal issues associated with it.

I was still at Def Jux when most of it was filmed (I was there when they came to tape), and since I haven’t been there since 2005 I knew that most of the interviews were pretty dated.  This didn’t really hurt the movie overall, but it did hurt any attempt at looking forward.  It only barely touched the internet age, the fall of the major labels and the most recent events that have changed the industry.

It made me think about how I approach sample clearance (or the lack there of) at Uncommon Records.  I saw a lot of the comments in the video, from people that fought for payments from samplers, to nervous musicians that had sampled records.  I quickly realized how irrelevant all of that was in 2010.

A lot of the best music these days is available from free directly from the artist.  This isn’t to say that I personally believe that there isn’t room left anymore to sell music online, much the opposite, but it does change the game.

Right now as I type this I’m listening to “Wu Tang Vs. The Beatles – Enter the Magical Mystery Chambers“.  It’s a perfect example.  Obviously you can’t release a record like this.  You’ll get sued.  But you can easily put it up on Bandcamp, which they did, collect your e-mail for downloading it and give it to you for free.  The e-mails that they collect on this will be worth a lot more then the money they would have gotten for it.  The bonus is, since it’s being distributed for free, their not making any money to sue for.  Can you sue for a mailing list?  Haha.

These days even if you step beyond the freemium model and start selling music with samples, there’s a lot less to worry about.  Firstly, there’s not as much money in the industry.  Not as much money for you to make selling your sampled music (bad news) but also not as many major labels with resources to sue you for your sampled music (good news).  With labels worrying about people that are TRULY stealing their music and giving it away for free, they don’t have time to have people sitting around listening to the latest hip-hop releases on Itunes anymore.  I guess in a way it’s poetic justice for an industry that tried to shut down the artistic ambitions of an entire generation of mostly lower income and minority people to have their industry destroyed by an insidious enemy in the form of illegal downloading.

Another level
Do I think about sampling anymore?  Personally, not really.  I know that for myself, I cut the shit out of samples nowadays and I dig deep.  BUT, now I can jack popular music that I never would have touched before and flex my skills doing that and release it for free.  If you listen to “Law & Order” from me and Willie Green (Bandcamp) and don’t recognize the sample in my “Flashback Remix” then you missed out on a big rock and roll hit.  I would have NEVER thought about sampling that record unless I knew I could get it out there for free.  So creatively, now people that are familiar with my style can hear me cut up records that they know too.  This is another level of understanding between the listener and sampling producer I think.  That’s what made records from that film like “3 Feet High and Rising” and “It Takes A Nation….” so special on another level.

So here we are, full circle with sampling rights.  As far as I’m concerned, be creative with the way you cut stuff up, take advantage of the freemium services out there like Bandcamp, build your Mailing List to the sky so you can sell stuff later, and keep proving that sampling is art.

Read all columns by Paul “Nasa” Loverro HERE

Just an ordinary guy always on the hunt for extraordinary music. Not just as the founder of The Find Magazine & Rucksack Records, but also as a freelance music journalist (bylines at Tracklib, Bandcamp, Wax Poetics, DIG Mag, among others) and—above all—out of love for all kinds of good music.