It was just a normal day on the Internet when I was scrolling through my favorite social media platforms. After landing on Instagram, I received a direct message from a follower who wanted my opinion on a tweet sent out by Def Jam recording artist Logic. I read a few lines and was immediately shocked. I said to myself, “this can’t be real” so I went to Twitter to verify if the tweet was authentic and sent from his account. It was absolutely real! As we all know, we can see almost anything on social media platforms that could get your blood boiling and trigger a response.
Just want to take a moment and say, Fuck sample clearence. Fuck clearing samples. Fuck people taking all a producers money for not doing shit and fuck the companies that say no just cuz. This is hip hop. I’m tired of replaying shit. Fuck the money. This why mixtapes was so good.
— Bobby Bestseller (@Logic301) May 7, 2019
Initially didn’t want to respond publicly. But, as an advocate for music producers and educator, I felt it was necessary to clear up many misconceptions provided in a tweet seen by millions of people.
As a sample-based producer for over 20 years, I know firsthand about the challenges sampling pre-recorded music presents. I actually share Logic’s frustration with the sample clearance process. If the process was easier and affordable, we would all be happy. At the same time, based on his tweet, I think he’s totally misguided about the business of sampling though. Sampling is an art form, which has been the foundation of Hip Hop since its inception. Samples are source materials just like colors and acrylic paint are to an artist. That’s the creative and technical side of sampling. But, when a producer samples a pre-recorded song, he or she is also entering the realm of copyright law.
This is why Logic’s tweets are so dangerous.
Regarding samples pic.twitter.com/wBcezTdqAZ
— Bobby Bestseller (@Logic301) May 7, 2019
When he says, “Fuck sample clearance and clearing samples,” the statement sends the wrong message to aspiring musicians, creators and individuals who may be unaware of the legal liabilities they could face in the future. The statement is extremely irresponsible because not only does it perpetuate the use of unauthorized samples, it also encourages a producer to put him or herself in further legal jeopardy. The penalties for not clearing a sample far outweigh the benefits. Damages for a single case of copyright infringement can amount to one hundred thousand dollars for each infraction. Logic is fortunate to have a major label like Def Jam Recordings to assist him with the sample clearance process. But, what about the less fortunate like independent artists?
Another thing I took issue with was his passive-aggressive advocacy for producers. He implies that sample owners are crooks because they’re “taking the producers money for not doing shit.” I’m pretty sure a sample owner could say the same about some Hip Hop producers but I digress. Also at first glance, it may seem like Logic is being an advocate of fair pay for producers. I don’t have a reason to believe that Logic isn’t a stand-up guy, but his statement suggests that his producers shoulder much of the financial responsibility derived from using a sample. In my book The Beat Game, I talk about a concept called “Eating Samples.” When you “eat a sample,” it means you relinquish your copyright ownership within your track in exchange for authorization to use the sample. For example, if the owner of a sample demands 50 percent share of the track, that share will be subtracted from the producer’s share. If the producer’s share is 50 percent, that means the producer will be left with nothing. Under this scenario, Logic would maintain the remaining 50 percent. Nothing would stop Logic from splitting his 50 percent share with the producer. So, when Logic says, “This is Hip Hop,” he is also well aware of the business side of sampling when it comes to his share of the money.
With the backlash from his initial tweet, Logic provided another tweet for clarity. In his follow-up tweet, he clearly demonstrates a high level of frustration with the sample clearance process. He makes it rather obvious that he was unable to clear a sample for a song on his upcoming album.
Again, I’ve been the producer in that same situation plenty of times. I have missed out on placement opportunities on albums from Ludacris, 50 Cent, Diddy, Ghostface and more. But, as a sample-based producer, I understand the choices I make when using samples. Logic comes off as a spoiled artist who deserves to get his samples cleared because he is “following the rules.” He states, “I think its insane an artist can do everything they can to track down, clear and for a sample and give publishing to the original creator.”
Why is it insane to follow procedure to license copyrighted work? That’s how the law is supposed to work. 10 years from now, I would hope Logic would want someone to locate him if they want to license his work too. What also seems a little disingenuous is his support for young producers who miss out on placements because of sample clearance violations. He thinks there should be a way to clear the sample by essentially putting the money in an escrow account. Although his idea may seem to solve his dilemma, it makes him come off as a privileged artist who thinks he can pay his way out of a situation. As an artist, why would you endorse a way for someone to license your art without his permission?
I wonder how he would feel if someone rented out his home without his permission, but paid him a share of the rental profits?
Lastly, Logic cleverly uses the album versus mixtapes debate to justify his position on sample clearance. He suggests that the quality of mixtapes are good because artists are able to use unauthorized samples. While there may be some truth to his statement, he is again leading artists to get sued by publishers and labels. The term “mixtape” is only a label and doesn’t provide any protection against litigation. (Yes, you can still be sued for using samples on a mixtape, people.)
The next time Logic is denied sample clearance, I would encourage him to use his platform to educate young producers on music licensing and copyright law. Maybe then young producers would try to find alternatives like Tracklib or Splice to clear samples legally.
But his rant is now invaluable because it puts a spotlight on an unavoidable situation. And congrats to him on having the No. 1 album in the country.
Darrell “Digga” Branch is a Grammy-nominated, platinum-selling producer who has laced beats for the likes of JAY-Z, 50 Cent, Jennifer Lopez and Cam’ron, who he helped launch the Dipset movement with. Follow him on Instagram @sixfigga_digga for more music industry insight.