EMI Production Music Launches Six Month Sampling 'Amnesty' to Ease DJs' Woes

London-based library music business EMI Production Music is taking an innovative approach to raising awareness of its extensive catalogue.

Beginning today (Sept. 1), Sony/ATV Music Publishing-owned EMI Production Music has launched a six month amnesty on undeclared samples from its music library, allowing artists and producers that have knowingly or unknowingly used a piece of music -- be it a drum break, saxophone hook, keyboard pattern or melodic bass line -- without proper clearance to gain a licence without risk of legal action or an expensive royalty back claim.

The idea behind the worldwide amnesty -- believed to be the first of its kind -- is to encourage artists, producers and record labels to make increased use of the EMI Production Music catalogue and legitimise any recordings that have previously sampled the library, which spans more than six decades and over 125,000 master recordings.

"If you look at the length of time now that sampling has been in place in pop music and look at the depth of our catalogue, there’s probably a fair few samples that go unrequested out there," explains Alex Black, EMI Production Music global director, who helped devise and drive the scheme. "All we’re trying to do here is say: ‘Let’s engage.’ Let’s work with the record and artist community that we think are interested in sampling, or have sampled our catalogue, and see if we can do something positive that might well stimulate new and exciting collaborations."  

"The sample community has always been a bit more DIY," Black says. "Certainly where we are now in terms of technology being so good at a home level and there being so many great composers out there, just doing their thing and putting their music out amongst their circle. This is really creating awareness within those communities and saying: ‘If you do find a sample that you want to use, we are open to clearing that at a very competitive rate,’ as well as getting recognition for our composers."

Catalogues covered by the amnesty include: KPM, Music House, Selected Sound, Colour Sound, AV Music, Castle Music, Ded Good, Sparkle & Burn, all of which specialize in the creation and licensing of production music (also known as incidental or library music) for TV, commercials, film and computer games. Although the vast majority of their repertoire will not be familiar to listeners, the collection includes a number of famous British TV themes, such as "Grandstand," Mastermind" and "ITV News At Ten" and crosses every conceivable genre, from dance to classical, psychedelic rock to jazz, funk to jazz, punk to indie.     

Such is the breadth and depth of the catalogue, a large number of famous international artists have legitimately raided EMI’s vaults over the years, with the KPM library a particular favorite among vinyl crate diggers. Jay Z’s "People’s Court" includes a sample from Alan Tew’s "The Big One," taken from the 1976 album Themes: Drama Suite Part 1. The same piece of music is also sampled in Nelly’s "Iz U," while British EDM star Fat Boy Slim samples Keith Mansfield’s "Young Scene" (taken from the 1968 KPM album Flamboyant Themes) in "Punk To Funk." Mansfield’s work also appears on the Gorillaz track "Latin Simone."

Other acts who have sampled and utilized KPM recordings include Joey Bada$$, Ghostface Killah, The Go Team, Mark Ronson, Gnarls Barkley, Schoolboy Q, Freestylers and Jurassic 5, the latter making memorable use of Clive Hicks’ "Look Hear" on their track "What’s Golden."       

The use of all of those samples were licensed and cleared by EMI, with the new amnesty campaign instead focusing on any artists that have thus far held off getting a sample cleared through fear of a royalty back claim. Exempt from the amnesty is any sample which was already subject to clearance discussions and unlicensed use of the catalogue that is not voluntarily declared, but discovered by EMI.  

To support the initiative, EMI Production Music is releasing previously undigitised archive recordings from the popular KPM Greensleeves (so called because of their olive green covers), Original and 1000 series, which were all recorded by session musicians in the 1960s and 1970s and are already a cult source of samples and breaks for artists and producers. Previously only available on vinyl, these recordings have been re-mastered at Abbey Road Studios and are now available to access online via the EMI search system. Sony/ATV Music Publishing has also curated a number of KPM playlists on Spotify and YouTube to promote the amnesty.

"Our aim is to create an awareness that what have here is a catalogue that has amazing depth and richness to it," says Black, who concedes that it is impossible to put a number on the size or scale of previously undeclared and unlicensed samples from the EMI Production Music library. He is, nevertheless, confident that the initiative will be well received by those within the sampling community and wider production music business. "It’s a positive for everyone," he says. "It benefits our composers, the labels and any artists wishing to sample our catalogue."