Legalities regarding sampling sounds


Actually, I guessed correctly for once. My question dealt only with not getting sued as a performer (should I ever go pro), and not getting my venue sued too. Collecting royalties is another issue. Back to the first here’s another quote:

We have a license with another PRO. Do we still need to license with BMI?

A music license with another performing rights organization allows you to perform
only copyrighted music represented by that organization. It does not cover public
performances of the nearly 13 million musical works licensed by BMI. This is
because each songwriter or composer may belong to only one performing right
organization at any given time, so each PRO licenses a unique repertoire of music.



Yet another quote:

Aren’t musicians, entertainers and DJ’s responsible for obtaining permission for music they perform?

Some people mistakenly assume that musicians and entertainers must obtain licenses to perform copyrighted music or that businesses where music is performed can shift their responsibility to musicians or entertainers. The law says all who participate in, or are responsible for, performances of music are legally responsible. Since it is the business owner who obtains the ultimate benefit from the performance, it is the business owner who obtains the license. Music license fees are one of the many costs of doing business.

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In the 51 years I’ve been performing live music, I have never worried about copyrights. I am quite sure I have played in many venues where there was no license. That one encounter I had, I paid nothing. Early on, having a musician’s union card was more important.


Corky, I started doing Open Mics last year. I knew nothing about this up until now. So I hope the bars where I played were covered, although they could not have had any idea what songs I was going to play, and which belonged to what service. There should be a better way than this. The odds are against it but all it would take is one lawsuit and there goes one’s retirement. Ignorance of the law is not a legal defense.


Many years ago, we had to submit a setlist to the venues. I knew it was for copyrights at that time. It has been decades since I had to do that. One of the well known delis here always had entertainment, but didn’t bother to acquire a license, and ASCAP got them for about $14,000 worth of cover bands and recorded music. BUT, that is on them, not performers.


Yeah, everything I am reading now seems to nail the venues and not touch the bands. A chicken-shack got nailed for over $100,000. Ouch. Thanks for sharing your real-life incident. Again, there should be a better way.

I can imagine having a marketing “leg up” going to a venue and saying they should hire your band because your band is “covered” with the major services. If they are already covered, no problem; else, that would be a big plus … who wants to get sued?


It is on the venue to keep up with performance royalty stuff, just like radio stations, as stated. Now do they- I doubt it. But they are supposed to track live bands, jukeboxes, any source of music in their venue and pay the performing rights organizations which then pay the artists. In 40 years of performing music never have I had anyone ever suggest that it was somehow my responsibility to deal with royalties for performing covers.

And I’ve had a couple instances recording songs for clients where they either had a sample in their demo that wasn’t cleared, or once or twice used sounds from demos of a piece of software we (or they) hadn’t bought. We just re-create them, or something close enough to give the feel without infringing.


I appreciate the info sharing, FredProgGH. Like so many things, there’s the rule and there’s reality. It’s good to know that the precedence is that the venue is expected to deal with the royalty details.

And – back on topic – I’m going with using “store bought” samples (including free downloads) as the safe way to get sounds that are “close enough”.

In the real world, I suppose lawsuits are only undertaken when the offense is egregious enough to win in court. The Chicken Shack had been warned and fined and continued to bring in performers without securing a Performance License, so there’s it is.


I think we all aspire to be on the radar enough to draw the attention of anyone who might want to raise heck over the use of a sample in our music :smiley:


Up till now my definition of being famous was “when somebody knows who you are, and you don’t know who that person is”. I’ll add to it “when somebody cares enough to sue you at your very best” (hopefully, Hallmark Cards won’t sue me for that … well of course they won’t, I’m not famous!).


This kind of things also comes up when on occasion people want to do EPs or albums to karaoke tracks. They’ll ask “is this legal”, and we’ll say, well no, you probably can’t get a license to reproduce this even if you knew who to go to. BUT… since you’re probably only making 100 copies and of those you’ll give away 30, sell 6 and the rest will be in your garage for then next 10 years until you throw them out, chances are you’ll be fine. So do be perfectly frank, whos really going to care.’


Great topic that: using karaoke as a backing track. Agreed that using it in a recording is illegal but using it in a live performance may not be. For instance, as long as the monthly fee is paid, Karafun lets its entire library be downloaded (Offline Sync) so that it can be accessed “in the boondocks” (their term). It shouldn’t matter if you are singing to this backing track or if your instrument is singing to it. It shouldn’t matter whether you are seeing the words on a screen or not.

I, personally, have made my own backing tracks and loaded the .wav files to my computer. Then, by assigning one key to that entire song, I can play lead to it or sing along.

This is not using a sound as a note (the original thread topic) but it is related.


Huh, yeah I suppose with any type of karaoke track you’d have to find the license agreement and read it very carefully!


One very important is that the laws are different in every country.

Are you in China? Yeah, good luck filing a lawsuit in China if you aren’t Chinese or VERY well connected.

In the US, performance rights are licensed by the venue. In other countries the playlist gets filed as a legal document. I’m not certain what the rules are for “Oh we cut that song and did an extended version of Mustang Sally while our keyboard player rebooted his laptop.”


Most of the license agreements in the plugins do state that you are allowed to use the sounds in a live performance as well as for recording. But the samples are still property of the manufacturer. So it’s not allowed to do a resampling and to sell that.
The best example for this is Eric Persing… now Spectrasonics. In the past he worked also for Roland and he created most of the sounds of the D-50. As soon as someone trys to sample that instrument and sell it, he calls his lawyers… if you google for it you’ll find some informations about it.

Regarding shows: In Germany we have an institution called GEMA. They take care of the rights of the copyright-owners. So if you do a cover-gig you have to fill out a list and name the songs you will play. This list the club will hand over to the GEMA and (normally) the club needs to pay the GEMA-fees for these songs. So it’s totally legal to play cover-music here.


Spectrasonics is the example I would give as well when it comes to sample libraries, as they are quite clear in their licensing as to what you can and cant do.

In the UK, part of the pre show arrangements with the larger venues we did were that we had to provide a setlist in advance (and not deviate from it) so the venue could pay the PRS fees to the copyright owners, which was deducted as part of venue fees, before we got our cut.

In the pub scene it is less clear cut, but I’ve always worked on the principle that if pubs are playing music, they should have a PRS license that covers you, and who is going to care at that level anyway?

And you’ll also find different copyright owners have different opinions. I have heard that Dave Gilmour likes his music being well covered as it keeps his back catalogue alive and the royalties coming in, and I understand that when he took Pink Floyd off the road in 1994, he invested £1M in Aussie Floyd and gave them the stage lighting from the Division Bell Tour! But I know of another tribute band that was starting to do well, and they had a “cease and desist” notice from the lawyers of the copyright owner, so the band had to fold.