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Samples

The music industry can often act like a headless chicken when a sea change occurs in the ways in which music is made or consumed.

Currently the big bone of contention is performance rights generated by the new ways in which people get their music. Downloads, streaming and online videos are becoming the norm for how we get our music these days but the royalties given to the artists are minuscule. Just as the DVD same the demise of VHS players, kids these days are unlikely to own a simple radio. I would hazard a guess that even the mp3 is on its way to becoming obsolete technology as a smart phone does its job easily and with more functionality. Progress has no mercy.

Technology had previously changed music when sampling became easier to incorporate into tracks. All of a sudden snippets of songs were cropping up and becoming the foundation for new songs. As with all new toys some played with this new thing excessively. Early pioneers like Bomb The Bass excelled in making tracks composed almost entirely of samples. On the b-side of Yazz and the Plastic Population's Doctorin' the House you got all the samples used on the a-side with nice audible gaps inbetween so you could use them yourself. Of course the originators of these samples were quite dischuffed at this and began to demand recognition and compensation. On albums such as KLF's The White Room and Faith No More Live At The Brixton Academy the sleeve notes included what samples had been used and their length. This could be a real problem for any singer on a live album who decides to improvise 7 seconds of the Right Stuff by New Kids On The Block (or New Skids On The Jocks as I knew them) during the chorus of a song.

For the most part the sampling furore died down but did occasionally raise its head. The Prodigy caused much controversy (as they often did) with their overuse of the 'smack my bitch up' sample by Ultramagnetic MCs. Similarly Welsh band Super Furry Animals ran afoul of Donald Fagen by looping a line from a Steely Dan song Show Biz Kids that went "You know they don't give a fuck about anybody else". The line was looped over 50 times and was often used by SFA to end their gigs with the track sometimes going on for over 10 minutes. The track almost didn't happen as Fagan refused to clear the sample and only relented when the Super Furries agreed to his condition that he receive 95% of the royalties from the song. Obviously that man give quite a considerable amount of fucks...or should I say sold 50 uses of the word fuck in one song to a popular Welsh beat combo who used it to make a much better protest song than Steely Dan did. I'm sure there is a lot of irony at work here.

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