top of page

How to clear a sample in 6 steps | Sampling & Infringement Explained

Updated: Mar 14, 2021

How to clear a sample in 6 steps | Sampling & Infringement Explained In this video I explain how to clear a sample. These 6 steps to clearing a sample get you started but it's not all that needs to be done. The negotiations have to take place after finishing these 6 preparation steps. This episode is also good for learning how to clear a sample as an independent artist, how to clear a sample for a beat, how to clear a sample for a song, how to clear a sample from a movie, how to clear a sample in music and much more!

1:20 Infringement

2:05 Proof of ownership

2:39 Improper Appropriation

5:00 Interpolation example

6:08 6 steps to clearing a sample

6:58 Understanding the rights involved

8:53 Knowing the music that you sampled

10:19 Develop a strategy to license

11:49 Addressing the fears of the owners

16:16 Express your Intended use

19:04 Allow time to complete the process

20:08 Download FREE profit maximizer


To prevail in an action for copyright infringement, a plaintiff (the original copyright holder) must prove that it owns the right or rights in question and that the defendant’s (the person sampling) conduct infringes on one or more of these rights.

To prove infringement, the plaintiff must show:

(1) that the defendant copied from the plaintiff’s work.

To prove copying, the plaintiff must show directly or by evidence and reasoning that the defendant MECHANICALLY copied the plaintiff’s work, such as by sampling it, or that the defendant had the plaintiff’s work in mind when he/she composed the allegedly infringing work. (Blurred Lines INTERPOLATION Lawsuit)

To prove infringement, the plaintiff must show:

(2) that, taken together, elements copied AMOUNT to an improper appropriation.

To Prove improper appropriation, the plaintiff must show

(A) that at least some of the elements the defendant copied constitute protected subject matter (this means copywritten), and (B) that audiences for the two works will find these elements in the defendant’s work to be similar to elements in the plaintiff’s work.

Infringement turns strictly on proof of copying and improper appropriation. The fact that the defendant’s work is even similar, or substantially similar, to the plaintiff’s work does not necessarily mean that it infringes the plaintiff’s copyright.

So how do you combat this… YOU CLEAR YOUR SAMPLES!!!

6 points to clearing a sample

  1. Understand the rights involved

  2. Know the music you want to license

  3. Develop a strategy to license

  4. Address the fears of the copyright owner

  5. Express your intended use to the copyright owner

  6. Allow enough time to complete the process.

Understand the rights involved

In order to clear the samples, you have to gain clearance from two parties

  1. The record label that holds the copyright in the sound records/master recording, and

  2. The publisher(s) who hold the copyright in the underlying composition.

Know the music you want to license

Before approaching the publisher and record label it would be of great help to yourself and them, for the sake of time, to know what it is you are requesting clearance for. That means knowing the timestamps in the song where you sampled how much of it you used and the context. It also means knowing the original record label and publisher if necessary as well as things like;

  • Lyrics

  • Release date

  • Songwriters

  • Popular uses etc…

Develop a strategy to license

Now that we’ve gotten the first two easy tasks out of the way let’s get down to it.

Question 1: are you going to do it yourself? Well, I’d say you should especially if you’ve gotten this far. Why? Number 1 you will want the experience of doing it yourself anyway and number 2 it can be expensive to get outside help to do it for you, however if you are really inexperienced you may waste time and money be careful.

Calling the publisher may be the easiest task but getting through to the major label licensing department may not be such a quick process but there is always room for a miracle.

Question 2: Are you going to get someone else to do it for you? If you have no desire to clear the sample yourself then your work is done and you may give it to your attorney, someone at your label, or hire a clearance company to do it for you. If you want to get samples cleared go to DMG Clearances Deborah has been running that company since 1996.

Address the fears of the copyright owner

When you finally find out who owns what you will want to consider the fears of the other party.

  1. Fear of making a bad deal

  2. Fear of piracy

  3. Fear of getting sued

Fear of making a bad deal

The copyright owners won’t know you from a can of paint if you’re new and if you are established they won’t be able to determine the success of your new project. Make things as fair as possible when negotiating so you can build a relationship with the past greats.

Note: One thing I learned from 9th wonder is to write a handwritten letter to the copyright holders so that it will make them feel just a little bit better about giving you clearance.

Fear of Piracy

Though people have subscriptions for streaming services Piracy still exists and with so many digital products in the music space the original owners will want to cover all bases when it comes to lost revenue. In what territories will it be released? Where will you try to skimp on the deal with them? That’s what’s running through their mind.

Here’s a loophole, sampling for promotional purposes that don’t have a direct revenue stream! I would be extremely cautious of this as it is difficult to measure.

Fear of getting sued

The copyright owner may want to clear your sample but past contractual relationships on their side may have gone sour or they may have uncertainties about the original contracts that exist from years ago that they might not be able to find anymore or may come up after they cleared the sample with you.

Express your intended use to the copyright owner.

Be ready to answer the questions below, and if you cannot, then hand it off to the person who will do the clearing for you.

  • What is the nature of the work in which the music will appear?

  • How will the music be rendered in the work?

  • Will the music be featured, prominently, or used only in the background?

  • Will the music comprise all or any part of the work?

  • Do you intend to use other songs in the work?

  • Will you use non-music components, such as motion pictures, animation, text, photographs, dialogue, or other visual or audio elements?

  • Will the music or lyrics be changed or edited?

  • Will the title of the song be used in a special way?

  • Will the work be a dramatic adaptation of the song’s lyrics?

  • Will the song be performed dramatically?

  • In what markets will the work be distributed?

  • Will the song be used to promote a product?

  • Will the song be made part of a product?

Allow time to complete the process

Though it may seem easy you can see it’s not. So, please allow time to get your samples cleared. Putting a song out before it’s cleared can cause tarnished relationships and loss of revenue. Ask me how I know. :-)

Books & Free Guides

The Musicians Self Publishing Guide #1 -

Download Free Music Profit Maximizer Checklist -


Follow Me and the Show Facebook:


bottom of page