How to Clear a Sample

Label Engine Articles, Help

Clearing a sample for your music can be a complicated and time-consuming process, not to mention it’s not even guaranteed it will be cleared! But it’s essential if you want to avoid any legal issues down the line. Here are some steps to help you clear a sample for your music:

1. Identify the sample: The first step is to identify the sample you want to use. You’ll need to know the name of the song, the artist, and the record label. You’ll also have to provide the licensor with how long the sample is, how many times it’s used throughout the record, and what part of the song you are using.

2. Determine who owns the rights:

There are 2 different licenses needed to clear a sample legally for you to use.

  • A copyright license for permission to use the master recording (often owned by the artist or label)
  • A copyright license for permission to use the underlying composition (often controlled by the songwriter and/or music publisher) 

Once you’ve identified the sample, you’ll need to determine who owns the rights to the song. A quick Google search should give you the information you are looking for when it comes to the master recording rights. For publishing rights, your best bet is to head to the largest PRO’s (performance rights organizations) databases and search for the record there. Some of the big ones in the US are ASCAPHarry Fox & BMI.

3. Contact the rights owner and negotiate a price: You’ll need to reach out to the rights owner to obtain permission to use the sample. You can typically find their contact information on their website or through a music licensing agency. The rights owner will likely require a license fee to use the sample in your music. Negotiate the terms of the license, including the length of time you’ll be able to use the sample and any restrictions on how it can be used.

4. Get it in writing: Once you’ve negotiated the terms of the license, make sure to get it in writing. This will protect you from any legal issues down the line.

5. Pay the license fee: Once you have the license agreement in place, you’ll need to pay the license fee. This can vary depending on the sample, how the sample is used, and the rights owner, but it’s typically a one-time fee ranging anywhere from a few hundred to thousands of dollars.

It’s no guarantee that you will be able to have the sample cleared, so do this well in advance so you aren’t left in a pickle when release day is around the corner! Clearing a sample can be a tough task, but it’s essential to protect yourself and your work. Follow these steps for your best chance at success!