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Principles of Sampling Come Full Circle

Massive Attack’s Grant Marshall and Robert Del Naja

Image source: The Guardian Music Blog

One of the anxieties often cited by those who guard intellectual property is how artists who sample ultimately steal from those who created the “original” material, therefore taking away potential revenue from the original source.  Another common argument is that the original source runs the danger of going unrecognized by those who enjoy the material composed of samples. Even if sampling artists may pay royalties, it is often argued by those who believe in creating things with their bare hands that artists who sample are simply unoriginal. Yet, as the article “What is your sampling Epiphany,” by Simon Reynolds entertains, at the moment, the republishing of material as a set of recordings sampled by well-known music studio artists has the potential of becoming a common trend–not to mention a major form of revenue for record companies.

We have reached a state in the consumption of post-production when those who have developed a career based on other artists’ samples have become the ones who support renewed sales of the originating sources in the form of reissues. This is the case with Massive Attack’s Protected Massive Samples. Now, it appears remix culture is coming full circle. The implications of this trend might further complicate copyright law in the near future. This trend is worth keeping in sight.

The article by Reynolds ends with a very compelling citation of Virilio, which was actually forwarded to me by my colleague, Greg Smith. It reads more like an aphorism that exposes that dialectics of culture:

The French philosopher Paul Virilio argued that every new technology comes complete with its own unique catastrophe; the invention of the aeroplane, for instance, was also the invention of the plane crash. The corollary of the sample epiphany is what I call the “sample stain.”

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