Are Sample Packs Royalty Free?
The short answer is yes for most sample packs. Some are royalty free until you sell/stream a certain amount (around one million). Or if you release on a major label.
In that case you have to pay royalties.
Royalty Free Sample Packs
Most sites (including us) sell Royalty Free Sample Packs. What this means is you can use them in your work without having to pay any royalties, or points. The only restriction is you are not allowed to resell the samples. That’s lame. Don’t be lame.
When you buy from these sites,you can use them without worrying about having to pay the creator, other than whatever upfront cost they charge.
Sample Packs Are Royalty Free…Until They Are Not
Some packs are not royalty free. Kingsway Music Library offers music recordings that are more robust than your average sample pack site. They include rich samples with multiple stems. They’re more like loose musical recordings and they sound great. They put a lot of work into their samples and they choose not to be Royalty Free.
Well sort of…and this gets to a question you should be asking:
What Permissions Are Granted When You Buy A Sample Pack?
What am I allowed to do with this sample? Or, what do the terms and conditions state?
These are important questions to ask. What permissions are granted when you buy a sample pack?
It varies from site to site, though most agree on one thing: you cannot resell sample packs, or the samples that come with them.
Going past that, each site is different.
Going back to Kingsway. At the time of this writing, you can use the samples for your own beats, mixtapes, etc., as long as you combine it with other sounds.
In this case you’ll have what’s called “derivative work”.
In a derivative piece of work you own the copyright (if made in the US), but you don’t own the underlying samples. You own what you made but you don’t own the preexisting material (samples) you bought.
It’s a little confusing, I know.
So since the sample site still owns the samples you used, they can, if they choose, to charge royalties.
For Kingsway Music, the caveat comes in when you hit 1 million streams or plan to release via a major label.
Then you have to pay royalties. In Kingsway case, you would contact them and work out the fine details and it’ll look like a 50/50 split of some sort. Individual results may vary.
Illmind of Blapkits has a similar set up. His kits are royalty free until 1 million stream or if you release via a major label. When you hit 1 million, you pay royalties.
It all depends on the site you purchase your sample from.
Every Sample Pack Site Is Different
Some keep it simple. Some sample pack sites are royalty free. You never have to pay anything if you hit a certain streaming limit, or release on a major.
In this case you can make beats or sync with media. From albums to podcasts, Facebook, and Instagram, and everywhere else, there’s no limit. Distribute unlimited copies, and you get radio broadcasting rights. No limit.
Just don’t resell them (that’s lame. Don’t be lame).
Of course every site is different and has a different business model. Find what appeals to you as a music producer.
Royalty Fair Sample Packs
It’s a bit of a trend happening in the sample pack space. You have many sites offering completely royalty free sample packs.
But we’re starting to see more and more Royalty-Fair samples and sample packs.
That’s how Tracklib works (and where I got the term Royalty-Fair from).
What If My Song Blows Up? I Don’t Want To Pay Royalties!
If your song blows up that’s a good thing. Having to pay royalties to a sample pack library because you hit one million streams is a good problem to have.
Plus you’ll have something way more valuable today: attention. If you don’t want to continue to pay royalties your future songs should include samples that are always royalty free regardless of numbers.
But if you’re starting out or don’t have a lot of followers or streams, don’t stress. Use whatever samples you like whether you have to pay royalties later or not.
It’s silly to compromise your musical integrity and what you think sounds dope because you’re worried about what might happen.
Two Important Things You Need To Do When Buying Sample Packs
I know, if you got this far the answer to the question “are sample packs royalty free?” is: it depends. There’s two things you need to do when buying sample packs:
1. Read The Fine Print On Sample Pack Sites
Make sure you know what you’re signing up for when you buy sample packs. Read the pricing and terms.
For 99% of you it won’t matter in the short term.
But I’m hoping it will matter for you in the longer term, ya know? I hope you have one of those good problems I mentioned above 👊🏽.
And you should work like you will. Part of that work is #2:
2. Keep Your Purchased Sample Packs Organized
In the case where you do hit the one million stream mark, or you do sign to a major you want to make sure your sample are organized. You know which of your songs use which samples, where you got them from, and the terms and conditions.
You don’t want to skip that part, go big, and find yourself getting sued. It’ll cost way more than that 50/50 split you were supposed to follow through on.
Stay ahead of the this part, don’t try to get over on sample pack libraries, respect the game. Being productive and organized is a skill music producers should have in their bag.
Sync Licensing - It Gets Trickier
Many sample packs were created for music producers to create beats for artists to put on an album and distribute. You know, how you think of music today.
The Terms and Conditions generally reflect that point of view.
But with the trend of music producers and artist getting sync deals it gets a little trickier.
Let’s say you want to get your music into the hands of services where you want to get sync licenses. Let’s take a look at a few terms of conditions from these places:
According to Premium Beat it seems like samples from sample packs are probably a no-go:
“Is your music 100% original? You must own and control 100% of the copyright in both the composition and master recording of the music. Sound-a-likes and samples are NOT permitted.”
Via SongTradr it sounds like you probably can use sample packs provide you have clear permission:
It may be better to stay away from samples unless you have written permission from the owner(s). If you do have permission, you can upload music with samples but you must connect all rights owners with correct percentages of ownership before the song will be discoverable.
If you want to sell a song that contains samples, you must be certain that those samples are royalty-free and cleared for use, including securing permission from the copyright owner(s).
In this case even if you did buy royalty free samples, it’s best to get a clear email from the source to make sure you are in the clear.
And via United Masters, it sounds a little more promising:
“Yes, you can upload your music that contains samples provided you acquire the necessary licenses. In order to legally use a sample from a copyrighted song in your own music, you need to obtain a license for the usage of the master recording (which is often owned by a label) and a license for the usage of underlying composition (which is controlled by the publisher/songwriter). These licenses must cover both streams and downloads, for an appropriate amount in either case.”
You want to make sure you have the clear permission. Sometimes the best way is to email directly with the service.
So Then Sample Packs Royalty Free, Sort Of, Right?
It all depends on where you buy them from, how many streams you get, and where your music ends up.
It’s messy for sure.
But the good news is it’s messy for a good reason. As big as music production is, it’s only getting bigger. There are more and more places and chances to get your music out there.
When things are getting cleared up it means things are growing and everyone’s trying to figure it out. And that means opportunity.
The business is expanding, the channels to distribute are widening, and the opportunities are growing.
This means everyone’s trying to figure out how things work and what changes need to be made and how do we all work in a way that is fair.
You’re an artist looking to get your music out there. This is good news and don’t get discouraged if it gets complicated.
Make The Music You Want, Read the Fine Print, Stay Organized
That’s all there is to it. Make the music you want with the samples you want. Read the fine print, and stay organized.