let’s talk about splice baby

If you don’t know what Splice is, then you’re chilling with the rest of the music listening world that has no involvement in music production at the club.

If you do, you likely already have opinions.


During the upload of my newest album (happy! happy!! fun!!! time!!?! – on Kiwi Bear Records – available 4.29.23 on Bandcamp and cassette) it was brought to my attention that tracks containing “non-exclusive samples” are now being held back (or highly recommended to be left off) from upload to services like instagram and Tik Tok. This is because of the way the content ID systems function and the abuse that has been done by people uploading music containing Splice samples and activating content ID through ignorance, greed, or a mixture of the two. 


Story Time: my track night.owls contains multiple elements downloaded from the Splice service (unbeknownst to be, it must be said, one of these same elements had been used in a song by the metro-country duo Florida Georgia Line…). When I went to upload it, my distributor at the time came back with an issue and refused to upload it to DSPs because another track from a different artist they distributed had the same element and that artist had activated content ID on their song. After jumping through the hoops and getting them proof that the element was a royalty-free sample from Splice, they eventually released it and it went on to land on the lo-fi cool down editorial on Spotify and has become the track of mine that is the most added to personal playlists and used as music at speaking conferences, etc. 


When I uploaded it separately as a stand-alone video on Youtube, a different content ID block popped on me and I had to go through their appeals process and show them that the sample didn’t belong to the other artist, either.


The point of all of this is that I understand why the distributor is doing what they are doing: because people who either don’t know any better or people that do and are trying to make a buck, are activating content ID when they shouldn’t and creating more work for them. 


Due to the way content ID works, if you didn’t personally put down, or have recorded, every note of every individual element of your song, then you shouldn’t activate content ID. Simple as that. 


But now enough people have done that to where the distributors are balking at uploading stuff that contains “non-exclusive samples” (which is what Splice is) due to threat of copyright claims and the process that those entail. They would just rather not deal with the hassle. 


And if UMG can get AI Drake and AI Weeknd’s hit single taken down based on copyright claims without infringement of actual copyrights, then it should be clear that digital rights management in the streaming era is going to be a minefield to navigate. 


I use Splice constantly. Why?

1) I enjoy the process of utilizing samples – and it is kind of a tradition in the genre that I work in to do so

2) I don’t want to have my account shut down by my distributor for using samples that can get me a copyright strike – and I don’t want to endanger any of the labels that I may release with of suffering the same

3) I play guitar and can navigate my way around keys in a recording session – but I don’t have the skillset to, for example, re-create the sound of 70s soul music.   

Am I not worried about other people with Splice accounts using the same elements that I do? 


In a word: No. 


Why? Because most music listeners aren’t paying that much attention and they likely don’t care even if they are. 


Let me take you back to the spring of 1998 – Timbaland and Magoo dropped a track out that featured a sample of the opening theme to the 80s classic TV show Knight Rider. It made the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The very next week Busta Rhymes dropped a remix track featuring the Knight Rider sample. It too made the Billboard Hot 100, top 10 in fact, and went to number 1 on the rap charts. No one cared that the Knight Rider track was used in both songs and released with a week of each other. 


Bob James’ Nautilus has, as of last count per whosampled.com, has been sampled in 374 songs. 


Bob James, in general, has been sampled 1687 times


The Amen Break: 6099 times


Synthetic Substitution: 867 times


The point of these stats? To highlight that the number of times something is used is irrelevant. Each of the times that those mentioned above were sampled, they served the purpose that the beatmaker/producer wanted or needed. Maybe they transformed them in a way that was new and different. Maybe they used them in similar ways to each other. Maybe they all just looped the same part over and over in the same manner with different drums. 


I was on both Lo-Fi Beats and Lo-Fi Meditation editorial playlists on Spotify with another track that used the same elements that I did, but treated them in different ways. And either the editors didn’t notice or didn’t care. They just enjoyed both rides.


And that is what matters at the end of the day.


The internet and screen recording has democratized sampling to the point where your vinyl no longer has to weigh even an ounce, much less a ton, to be able to find great samples. Anything that has been digitized can be sampled by anyone with the click of a button or the press of a screen at this point.


So if you are going to sample, use Splice, use Tracklib, use libraries, use other people’s music – sample whatever you want from wherever you want for whatever purpose you want.


The art isn’t in where you buy the paint, it is in the painting you make with it afterwards.    

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