Interview: Per Stenius, CMO of Tracklib, the Record Store For Sampling
Sampling has always been an integral part of hip-hop music. From the very beginning, producers would sample the drums from soul and funk records for the pioneering emcees to rap on. Sampling used to be done out of necessity because there simply wasn’t the availability of the beats we are familiar with today. The choices were either to take or to buy records you liked and rap over those melodies. Variations of this continued on until the late 1970’s when the first samplers were developed by Kim Ryrie and Peter Vogel.
Now with the ability to create beats with the sounds of guitars, drums and other instruments, sampling didn’t really need to take place; however, hip-hop won’t ever let it die. These days, sampling is a way to pay homage or tribute to a song that really means something to you, to show respect to that artist or group. Some people use samples to remain popular in today’s trend of bringing back older things people loved in lieu of creating something completely new.
Whatever reason you choose to sample, the hardest part has always been avoiding copyright infringement, AKA getting sued for stealing! With Tracklib’s new platform, however, you can get as creative as you like for a very affordable cost and no headaches! Even J. Cole has used this new service!
Per Stenius, CMO of Tracklib graciously took the time to answer some questions we had about the platform.
What was the spark that started the idea for Tracklib?
One of our co-founders, Eric, is an artist himself. He had a few bad experiences trying to figure out who owned the rights to music he wanted to sample. And he also received requests from people that wanted to sample his music, for which he wasn’t really sure what to charge or how it worked. So he said one day: it’s crazy that there isn’t a unified system for sampling. It’s been a vital part of music production for the last 40 years or so, but most producers still have no idea what’s allowed or how to clear a sample. There should really should be [a] simple [way] for producers to know what a sample costs and you should be able to clear it with a click of a button. Yeah! So we built it.
Your website says 2018, but how long did it actually take to get your brilliant idea off the ground? I want our readers to understand that there is no such thing as overnight success, well unless you’ve been blessed with a miracle!
Haha, no. From the initial idea it took us almost 5 years to launch Tracklib. Our blessing was that we initially underestimated how incredibly complicated the field of music rights can be. If we knew what we were getting into, [I’m] not sure we would have gone through with it to be honest. But I think we finally found a solution that works for all parties; the original artists, labels, publishers and the producers that want to sample. But it took us a while, to say the least.
Now the big chunk… How did J. Cole and T-Minus hear about Tracklib? Having an endorsement by such major players in the game is amazing! Did you slip a flyer under their doors?
We reached out to Dreamville’s camp about a year ago to let them know about Tracklib and gave beta accounts to some of their in-house producers before we launched. But we didn’t know about the J. Cole track until a few days before it dropped. And we also have samples on a few other big releases coming this year. We already have some of the world’s best producers using the service so we are very excited over all the great music being created around the world right now.
It feels pretty amazing to hear people like Questlove, Erick Sermon, Statik Selektah, Prince Paul, Vic Mensa and Inspectah Deck publically support us saying that they think Tracklib is changing the game for sampling.
I browsed around your catalog and you have an amazing amount and variety of material. How do you acquire it? Can anyone submit tracks?
Eventually we will definitely allow for everyone to submit the music they own the rights to. But now in our initial phase we are focusing on signing bigger labels and publishers to be able to grow our catalog quickly. We are currently scouring the planet to find interesting labels with amazing music that we think people want to sample. But people are of course more than welcome to reach out to us and we might be able to include their music in our catalog.
If a track that I want to sample isn’t on Tracklib how would you advise me to proceed as an artist?
Unfortunately, Tracklib will never have ALL the music in the world, so there will always be a need to clear samples “the old fashioned way”.
If you want to sample a song not currently on Tracklib, I would recommend you to reach out to our amazing partner Deborah Mannis-Gardner, who is the best in the biz. She clears samples for Drake, Eminem, Kendrick and a lot of other top artists. But don’t let that scare you, she will work with smaller artists too. She can be reached at https://www.dmgclearances.com/
But we are also trying to tell producers to start searching for samples directly on Tracklib instead of elsewhere. Look at it as walking into a big record store with almost 70.000 songs (and rapidly growing), where you know that you’re allowed to sample every single song and you know exactly how much it’s going to cost.
I’ve heard many ideas on what ‘fair use’ is in sampling, what are your thoughts? How much can artists actually get away with?
There are a lot of misconceptions on what’s allowed and not when it comes to sampling. But from a strictly legal point of view, it’s pretty simple. If you create music using sounds that someone else owns the copyrights to, you need their permission. Regardless how much you chop, filter, twist it or play it in reverse. If you can get away with it is a whole other question. But our goal is to make crate-digging and sample-clearance as easy and affordable for everyone [as possible] and educate producers about how it works so they don’t have to be afraid of getting caught.
Finally, how would you like to see Tracklib grow in the next few years?
Around 20-25% of all tracks on [the] Billboard Hot 100 contain samples from previous recordings. We definitely want a majority of them to come from Tracklib in the future. But that’s only the top artists, who in most cases already clear their samples. A majority of samples in music today however are not cleared. Mostly because a lot of artist don’t know how to clear samples, didn’t know they had to or couldn’t afford to. Our goal is to make crate-digging and sample-clearance affordable and as easy as possible for everyone. And also get producers that currently aren’t sampling because they think it’s too complicated to start. People should be free to create whatever music they want to and be free to release it without having to worry about what’s allowed or not. That’s our goal.
Tracklib’s mission of making sampling accessible and affordable for everyone is definitely off to a great start. Having a growing library of 70,000+ songs allows for artists of all genres to find a sound that really speaks to their creation. J. Cole put it best when he said, “Music becomes more pure and soulful when it’s true, and it has to be true these days with the way the internet works, and the way the game works, everyone wants authentic raps” (Tracklib, 2019).
Creatives can now enter the new year excited and optimistic about sampling - whether they want to do it to show their respect or simply to chase clout. Visit tracklib.com to check out their catalog and find the inspiration for your next big record. Producer, T-Minus says, “The special thing about having individual tracks is that you can take something that sounds one way in its original body of work, and completely flip it to a different vibe. You can really change the progression of the music that way. It takes sampling to a new level." (Tracklib, 2019).
Now that you have this game-changing information, go out there and find a track that speaks to you. You have Tracklib to thank for your worry-free samples!