Sampling is a technique where you use a part, or “sample,” of one sound recording in another. When you sample, you’re essentially mixing existing copyrights to create new works, known as derivative works. Originating in the mid-20th century, it became increasingly prominent with the rise of electronic music and hip hop in the 1980s. By manipulating pre-recorded sounds, artists could create new compositions or augment existing ones. This process brought a paradigm shift in the way music was made, affecting numerous music styles, notably hip hop, EDM, and pop music.


Artists were sampling […] records because they heard something in that music that spoke to them, that they instantly wanted to inject themselves into the narrative of that music.

Mark Ronson, British DJ and Record Producer

The pioneers of sampling primarily utilized hardware samplers. The Akai MPC, a series of sampler-music workstations, played a key role in this field, allowing users to sample and loop fragments of songs. Linn Electronics’ LinnDrum was another important early tool, providing drum machine sounds that could be used in new compositions.

In modern times, software has largely replaced hardware for sampling purposes. Applications like Native Instruments’ Kontakt have allowed more artists to sample sounds with more flexibility and complexity than was previously possible.

It’s worth noting that the use of sampling has led to many legal and ethical debates about copyright infringement. Artists, copyright owners, and the law continuously grapple with how to balance creative freedom with the rights of original creators. Since sampling encompasses both the original song’s master recordings and its composition, obtaining both a master sample license and a composition (publishing) sample license is necessary.

For more comprehensive information, visit the Sampling (music) page on Wikipedia or refer to “The Plain & Simple Guide to Music Publishing” by Randall D. Wixen.