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Tracklib Releases State of Sampling Report

Tracklib is a music service that enables music creators to discover, sample, and license original recordings. On February 7, 2019, Tracklib released its first State of Sampling report. Moreover, the company states they plan to release a new report annually. The report consists of an overview of key trends and developments in sampling that influenced artists and contributed to 2018’s hottest tracks.

Report Summary

Here are some of the topics covered in the report:

  1. Breaking down sampling in the Billboard Top 100.
  2. The What, Why, and How of sample selection from artists themselves.
  3. ‘The Queen of Sample Clearance’ Deborah Mannis-Gardner on the top 3 2018 sampling trends that she observed in the music industry.
  4. Highlights of some of the hottest sampling News featuring the world’s most popular artists.

Sampling is alive and well–and actually growing in top music. Hip-hop is the world’s biggest genre and shows no signs of slowing down. Unsurprisingly, this also impacts the number of samples. The rising popularity of Lo-Fi beats this year also introduced more young producers to sampling. Another development: more sample-packs and advanced tools mean less need for sampling smaller elements such as a snare. Case in point: there are extremely few drum samples used in Billboard Top 100 songs of 2018.

About Tracklib

Tracklib is a music service that offers legal and affordable samples at scale. Music producers can easily browse more than 70,000 tracks and purchase downloads for sampling. By the same token, artists can instantly get a license with an easy-to-use category and sample length calculation.

The State of Sampling

What’s the overall state of sampling right now? The Tracklib team dug deep into statistics from 2018’s music to answer this question. A full overview like this has never been done before and we will make this an annual tradition.

One important fact is 1 in 5 songs in the Billboard top 100 of 2018 include samples. As a matter of fact, there are almost twice as many samples now compared to a decade ago. This State of Sampling feature has been built around actual numbers to give insights into how much producers sample.

Effect of Hip-hop on sampling

Looking back on 2018, 20% of the top 100 tracks also contained samples. This statistic has been fairly consistent in the last few years, remaining around 20-25%. However, looking back 10 years, the number was 14%. The increasing popularity of Hip-Hop probably also had an impact on the number of samples. In 2018, Hip-Hop surpassed Rock to become the most popular music genre in the United States.

Samples doubled in 10 Years

The Billboard Top 100 Songs of 2018 had 28 samples. These included songs like Cardi B’s “I Like it” and Drake’s “In My Feelings” and “Nice for What.” In fact, this is the reason the number is a bit higher than 20%. Comparitively speaking, 10 years ago, the End of Year chart of 2008 only included 15 samples.

Of the Top 100 songs, Drake’s “In My Feelings” contained the most samples, with 4 separate licensed samples. Another interesting point, Kanye West produced and released 42 songs during 2018. They included samples from 53 different songs.

Other music genres

Looking by genre, sampling is most common in rap music. However, this isn’t surprising because sampling is an integral part of Hip-Hop productions. As a result, 38% of last year’s biggest Hip-Hop songs contained samples. R&B is the runner-up with roughly half as many samples (20%) as rap music.

Rock artists Sampling

Rock has the least amount of samples used. Only 8% of last year’s biggest Rock songs contained samples. For example, Panic! At the Disco sampled James Brown and Death Cab for Cutie sampled Yoko Ono in 2018 releases.

Two-Thirds of All Albums Contain Samples

A majority of the top 50 albums last year contained samples. A total of 204 samples appeared on those albums. As a result, each album averaged four samples.

Top sampled album

Drake’s album ”Scorpion” contained 21 samples, making it the most sampled album in Billboards top 100 albums 2018. That’s the same amount of samples as the Billboard’s top 50 for Pop, Dance/Electro and Latin combined.

What We Sample

As early as the 1930s and as late as the 2010s, each decade differs from each other in terms of style and samples.

Producers tend to sample music from their childhood. By looking at the songs a handful of top producers sampled in the last three years, that becomes clear. Interestingly, the artist’s birth year affects what songs they choose to sample. It obviously differs from song to song, but on average, the release year for the songs a producer samples tend to be around when they were between the age of 5 and 10.

ProducerAv. year sampledAge then
Murda Beatz20028
Mike WiLL made it200110
London on da track19987
Boi-1da199610
Kanye West19836
Swizz Beatz19824
No I.D.198211

Most sampled decade

A common belief is music from the 1970s is the best suited to sample. In a survey, Tracklib’s users also said they prefer to sample 1970s music to other decades. However, data shows that not one song on the Billboard Top 100 last year sampled 1970s music. Surprisingly, the most common decade to sample right now is actually the 2010s.

Hip-Hop samples Hip-Hop

Hip-Hop is not only the biggest genre on the charts, but also by far the most common genre to sample. In fact, around 50% of all samples came from Hip-Hop.

Sampling online video (YouTube, Instagram, etc.) is also becoming increasingly more popular.

Trends in Sampling

‘The Queen of Sample Clearance’

Deborah Mannis-Gardner is one of the world’s most renowned sample clearance experts. Last year her team cleared over 1,500 samples. In fact, she has worked with artists including Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, Jay-Z, Drake, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Lady Gaga, and many others.

Trend #1: When estates take over

Some artists always deny sample requests, and Prince used to be one of them. But sampling his music definitely got easier this year. I’ve secured the rights to Prince for a client, for an interpolation, which never happened when he was alive.

The top 50 songs in 2018 for genres Pop, Dance/Electro, Rock, Latin, R&B and Rap (300 songs in total) contains only 1 direct Drum sample (in Pop).

Trend #2: More Obscure Sources

Many producers tend to do their crate-digging online nowadays, which helps them find a lot more obscure music to sample. This, of course, makes my job a lot harder since it can be very hard to figure out who the original rights owners are. The biggest problem I’ve had is Russian stuff. And Cuban. As a US citizen, I can’t even call Cuba.

Trend #3: Release First, Ask Later

Most top artists are not taking any chances and are clearing everything. Marshall (Eminem) is like that: he used a couple of words just one time, but because it was a nod to another artist he thought it was very important to clear it. And then you have artists on the other side of the spectrum where the mentality is more like ‘Release first, clear second’. I’ve seen more of those, this year. Nothing I would recommend, obviously.

Big Samples in 2018

A few examples taking sampling to another level last year; from sampling a BMW seatbelt warning to a 1936 Christmas song. These are some of the biggest and most talked about samples in 2018.

For this piece, Tracklib mainly looked at Billboard’s End of Year lists for the top songs and albums. As a result, the report doesn’t include every single song or album that appeared on the top 100 throughout the year. It only looked at the top 100 for the full year. Tracklib counted direct samples and interpolations from previously released music as samples. However, Tracklib did not count references of lyrics. It is also worth noting is that since the study only examined the biggest hits of the year, it doesn’t necessarily represent the statistics of sampling as a whole. Besides Billboard’s charts, other sources examined include Chartmetric, ASCAP, Whosampled, DMG Clearances, Sample Spotters and Tracklib’s own user survey.

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David G.
the authorDavid G.