A new study suggests that sampling in hip hop and EDM might actually spur sales of the tracks sampled. The study, “Fair Use, Girl Talk, and Digital Sampling: An Empirical Study of Music Sampling’s Effect on the Market for Copyrighted Works,” by W. Michael Schuster, a Texas Judicial law clerk, looked at the 374 samples used in Girl Talk‘s 2010 album All Day and compared the sales of the original tracks sampled from the year before All Day and the year after. Schuster found that, “to a 92.5% degree of statistical significance—the copyrighted songs sold better in the year after being sampled relative to the year before.” Tracks that had been released 66 months prior to All Day had a 4.4% increase in sales and tracks released 30 to 66 months before the release of All Day enjoyed a nice 10.9% bump in sales.
Although Girl Talk has made his living off of his unique mash-ups, these numbers are not unique to All Day. Etta James‘ 1962 R&B classic “Something’s Got a Hold of Me” was resurrected when it was sampled by Avicii on “Levels” and Flo Rida on “Good Feeling.” After her passing in 2012, James’ sales increased by 378% as an entirely knew generation were introduced to the soulful singer by the EDM and hip hop world.
The study done by Schuster is just the starting point for a conversation that will often be revisited in the coming years. Many sample heavy acts such as Pretty Lights and Griz are pigeon held into releasing their albums for free in order to avoid strict copyright laws. One thing is for sure, if anything was to influence copyright laws it would be a label’s potential to cash in twice on prior releases. Fortunately for many artists, Schuster’s 74 page study concludes that, “this study sets the ground work for an objective financial review of fair use and market effect, which would yield needed predictability and stability to the fair use doctrine (at least, with regard to digital sampling).”