The Dirt: Sampling and Clearances

The Dirt: Sampling and Clearances

Sampling, simply, is when you take one sound element and include it in a new work. It can be a beat, a guitar hook, a vocal line or a sound, and it can also be a pretty common way to create a track. Gotye famously built ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’ from sampling Brazillian blues/jazz artist Luiz Bonfa’s track Saville, for example. The tricky thing if you want to use samples in your music is the legal aspect of doing so: not all samples are free to use wherever and whenever you want. Most samples will need permission.

Unearthed is an initiative for original Australian music, so to have your stuff up on the site you need to own the copyright over all words, music and any sound recording in the tracks. You can include samples in your work as long as you have the owner’s permission. Here are some tips on how to get it:

1.       The key to using samples is the idea of a ‘substantial part’. There is no set definition of what is or is not ‘substantial’ so as an artist, it is advised not to risk it if you don’t have permission.

2.       In a piece of music there’s two separate rights you have to consider when getting permission, the rights in the actual master of the recording and the rights to the underlying work or song being recorded.

3.       You don’t need a lawyer to clear rights to use samples. A little research of your own and a common-sense approach to the task will help.

4.       Find who owns the rights by researching album liner notes, getting in contact with record labels and distributers, doing some online research ( and checking in with music organisations such as APRA.

5.       When you find who you need permission from, approach the artist or the label to ask what would be required. Ensure you have any agreements or negotiations in writing.

Here are three options to source free samples:

1.       Soundcloud has a search parameter and entire streams dedicated to sounds and songs with Creative Common licenses, which means you can use them for free.

2. - this website allows you to register for free and gain access to a ton of free sounds.

3.       Sample Packs – Most software programs like Abelton, Logic and ProTools allow you to get sample packs for free.


To  get to the bottom of when, how and where you can use samples in your music, Bluejuice musician Jake Stone, who is also from the music advocacy body Music NSW and music lawyer Julia Kosky from Brett Oaten Solicitors got together to talk through the legality of the sampling process for Unearthed.