Music Distribution and Digital Sampling


The music industry is changing so much.  Chapter 21 of Managing Media Work mentions that individual artists of today can “more easily and efficiently produce, record, and distribute their music digitally” (238).  Anther trend we are seeing is that artists are choosing to other means of distribution “other than through labels” (240).  Examples used are Radiohead’s 2007 album, In Rainbows.  Similar situations have been seen recently with Lady Gaga’s Born This Way being sold on Amazon for $0.99!  The Original Broadway Cast recording of the musical Book of Mormon was sold on Amazon for $1.99 on Amazon last summer just before the Tony Awards (aka The Academy Awards for theater!)  The Book of Mormon had 14 nominations of which they won 9 Tonys.  Because of the low Amazon price, more people were exposed to these artists, and these people in turn are more likely to buy tickets to a show someday.

Another phenomenon the music industry has seen lately is digital music sampling. As the music industry expands and artists’ creativity grows with the use of technology, digital music sampling has become more and more common.  In a nutshell, digital music sampling occurs when a small segment of a preexisting recorded track is re-used in a new sound recording (Finnel).  The recycled segment can be anything from a loop from a drum solo or repurposing of a bass line or chord structure to spoken word re-engineered into a rhythmic pulse.  My personal first experience with digital sampling was Albino Blacksheep’s remix of the scene from Lord of the Rings with Gollum and Sam where Sam is explaining about potatoes.  The first introduction to digital sampling for the older generations was Will.I.Am’s Yes We Can song, where a speech by then-presidential-candidate Barack Obama is spliced.  Though digital music sampling has become more mainstream in recent years, it actually first appeared in Jamaica in the 1960s, and entered the United States in rap and hip-hop music of the 1970s and 1980s (Court Case: Newton v. Diamond, 349 F. 3d 591, 593 (9th Cir. 2003)). While it has enhanced the musical material available for DJs to draw from, many questions have arisen regarding the legal implications in relation to copyright, fair use, transformativeness (the right to use previously created material in a original work if it transforms its purpose, message, etc), and de minimus use(when the amount of original material used is so small it does not matter or effect/ cannot be identified).

This is an issue that can apply to many creative industries- all of them really!  Distribution and ‘re-use’ (arguably transformation) of old, copyrighted material in original, new works- what implications are there?

Deuze, Mark. “Chapter 21: Same as the Old Boss? Changes, Continuities, and Careers.” Managing Media Work. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, 2011. 237-247. Print.

Finnell, Judith Greenberg. “How a Musicologist Views Digital Sampling Issues.” The Magazine of the Los Angeles County Bar Association 33 No.6 (1993) <;.

~Emmalyn Helge


One Response to “Music Distribution and Digital Sampling”

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