Monday, May 24, 2010

Illegal Music

The "song" I'm going to put up on June 1st is without a doubt another "illegal" song from me.

It is "illegal" because I didn't pay the licensing fees or get permission from the publishers of the song that I sampled so heavily from. and how could I? I have no idea how much it costs to legally pay to use a sample anyway. If it's over about $100 I couldn't afford it. I did some research on the web and found some really interesting sites about sample clearance.

It looks like things are taken on a case by case basis and it's a huge hassle. "Real" groups/artists like U2 or DJ Shadow have their labels legal departments take care of this stuff for them. It also appears that the bottom line to a large degree is that it's all about money in many ways. If you're U2 and you use a sample to make your latest hit record the artist that you sampled is going to want a cut. If you're an underground artist like me who has never made a dime and is completely unknown and under the radar it's a big gray area.

and I think it is a gray area. I mean, what am I supposed to do? Stop making the kind of music that I like? When I start to make one of my songs should I say to myself. "hmmmm... I better stop and clear these samples and pay some lawyer thousands of dollars so I can release this stuff for free and have about 100 people listen to it"?

the point is this. copyright laws and licensing fees as they currently exist inhibit and crush artistic expression. at least legally.

I'm going to keep on doing what I'm doing and I'm guessing that I'll be fine because I am under the radar. I would be thrilled if one of my songs became famous and I got a cease and desist letter. I can also say that it has always been my intention that if one of my songs ever were to be a "hit" and make any money that I would split any royalties 50/50 with the artist that I sampled. This is one of the reasons why I often list the original songwriters along side myself in the songwriting credits. That will certainly be the case with this month's song.

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