wetwebwork.com

guitarist > writer > coder

May 8, 2012
Comments Off on How Copyright Law Changed Hip Hop

How Copyright Law Changed Hip Hop

Stay Free!: With its hundreds of samples, is it possible to make a record like It Takes a Nation of Millions today? Would it be possible to clear every sample?

 

Shocklee: It wouldn’t be impossible. It would just be very, very costly. The first thing that was starting to happen by the late 1980s was that the people were doing buyouts. You could have a buyout–meaning you could purchase the rights to sample a sound–for around $1,500. Then it started creeping up to $3,000, $3,500, $5,000, $7,500. Then they threw in this thing called rollover rates. If your rollover rate is every 100,000 units, then for every 100,000 units you sell, you have to pay an additional $7,500. A record that sells two million copies would kick that cost up twenty times. Now you’re looking at one song costing you more than half of what you would make on your album.

 

An interview with Public Enemy’s Chuck D and Hank Shocklee

And more recently:

 
Was Paul’s Boutique Illegal?

 

In all, the album is thought to have as many as 300 total samples. The sampling gave Paul’s Boutique a sound that remains almost as distinctive today as it was when it was released in 1989.
 
Perhaps the main reason—and certainly the saddest reason—that it still sounds distinctive is that a rapidly shifting legal and economic landscape made it essentially impossible to repeat.
 
c/o Kottke.org