Sampling is NOT a Crime, its an art.

The title of Benjamin Franzen and Kembrew McLeod's documentary airing on PBS stations implies that sampledelia is a crime.
Copyright Criminals asks DJs, producers, label heads, lawyers and music critics, how sampling music and using it to make new music became a crime.

Sampling as we know it today began in the late 80's as early hip hop and house music producers used various samplers to take snippets of records, and combined them to make music which would eventually dominate music charts and dance floors around the world.

The doc does show a little about how musicians are 'influenced' by other musicians to the point of mimicking and how the Beatles (viciously anti sampling) sampled stuff for their White Album.

I've always championed electronic music artists and their sampling ways. I believe the main reasons record labels and artists took such a hard stance against this new form of music making was because of course money and good old discrimination. The majority of early sampledelia artists were black and brown and some were gay. Many had kept gay disco and their clubs open through the musical drought that preceded them where 'the best' at the top of the charts at that time were Bruce Springstein and Fleetwood Mac (sp?). When these new generation producers began making sounds out of other sounds, labels (their lawyers) and artists saw a way to make money and give some innovative, creative artists that were making sound scapes never heard before, a hard time.

I admit that some folks who sample and simply loop a part of a popular song over and over with out changing its pitch, or adding any of the various effects available, are lazy and not very creative. They are just using the sample for its popularity. See: MC Hammer "Can't Touch This" (samples Rick James' "Super Freak") and anything by Puffy who blatantly rips off Bowie and The Police.

The majority of artists that utilize samplers often spend days digging through music for the perfect beat or chromatic scales. They reverse, speed up or slow down, delay, reverb, pan, split, make stereo into mono, and many other tricks to change the sample to make it work in their piece.

Many often employ complicated mathematic algorithms to make sure they are not clashing frequencies and some to intentionally clash frequencies in order to produce never before heard frequencies. A lot of dedication and work goes into a lot of production, but many stuck in the 'musician with a traditional instrument can only make music- mindset, don't see (or hear) the revolution happening in their ears.

Check the website for future air dates. The doc is worth viewing much like Scratch and Maestro are essential in understanding music forms made from the margins.


RM said...

thx for letting us know about this. here's the video on PBS:


also pipomixes blog has it posted in 6 parts here with the PBS link:


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but I don't see how sampling is an art form in away possible definition of the word. Being a musician myself, my band and I create original songs and work hard perfecting them until we know them inside-out. I really wouldn't like it if some rapper took any part of our song, put a shitty beat to it, and then sold it as his own song, we wouldn't take that very well. This isn't about money at all, it's about someone taking credit for someone else's work, and that's why I don't consider sampling art. It's just lack of creativity.

Anonymous said...

Hey Anonymous band dude.

It's easy to characterize it that way to hate it.. take a piece of song add shitty beat. Yeah it sounds bad even to people who do like sampling. If you read the article you'd also see the author disparaged that kind of behavior.

If you think there's no musical, cultural or artistic merit to sampling then I challenge you to listen to DJ Shadow's "Endtroducing..." album. It was made with 100% samples, some you'll recognize, others you wont, but by the end I can't imagine anyone hating it.

Also check out Kid Koala and his album " Some of My Best Friends Are DJs" his cover of the old jazz standard "Basin Street Blues" on that album is awesome. It's made from turntable manipulated records of horns.

Lastly, check out a genre of music called Jungle, the entire genre is based around a break in a funk track called "Amen Brother" by The WInstons. People have cut up, rearranged, re-sampled, warped and twisted that little break countless times. There's a short documentary about it online called "The Amen Break".