Questlove Breaks Down The Daft Punk Sampling Controversy MUSIC - 5 HOURS AGO
Zo is a staff writer at Okayplayer
Questlove outlines crucial flaws in the sampling system that almost ensure musicians and their catalogs get ripped off. Earlier this week, a Los Angeles Times report detailed the account of Eddie Johns, a disco-era singer and musician who claimed he’d yet to receive any royalties from, being sampled on the 2000 Daft Punk single, “One More Time.”
The story, which dove into the hard times Johns had fallen upon in the decades since he released “More Spell On You” (the song sampled on the French duo’s breakout single,) and how his catalog was acquired by a French label larger than the one he’d released his lone album on, was almost instantly picked up by a number of music outlets (including ours.) But much like the original LA Times piece, none of the subsequent reporting on the mishandling of Johns’ check(s) was able to determine how and why Johns’ catalog, like those of countless musicians, was severed from its creator so completely that it took 20 years and a major publication’s story to bring the oversight to the attention of the label currently administrating the rights to Johns’ music.
If it sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. And to get to the bottom of it, you need either a juris doctor in licensing and publishing or a cool thirty years of submitting and overseeing sample clearances. Questlove, as it happens, falls squarely in the latter category. And the Roots drummer’s take on the controversy surrounding Johns and Daft Punk’s dispute comes with an outline of the crucial flaws in the sampling system that almost ensure musicians and their catalogs get ripped off. In a lengthy Twitter thread posted on Friday, Questlove broke down how licensing and publishing administration is filled with opportunistic middlemen that hawk prospective catalog acquisitions from small regional labels. “The real culprit in the sampling controversy always lies with the invisible middlemen who acquire (sometimes legally) dormant catalogues that are up for grabs,” Questo writes.
The drummer goes on to explain how some notorious catalog collectors are actually an exception to a predatory norm. “A cat like Michael Jackson actually does right by his acquirements by purchasing songs from publishing houses and returning them to their rightful owner (Little Richard, Sly—-stop crying about the Beatles yall at the time they had a chance to purchase & scoffed & decided against),” he adds before explaining how the licensing system is effectively designed to present an artist’s publishing as a convenient cash grab in dire circumstances by mandating an artist re-register their songs with a publishing administrator within a certain amount of time in order to maintain the rights to their own music.
Questlove caps the thread with a number of propositions that would level the playing field for sample-based producers and the creators of their source material, including flat-rate sampling fees that allocate a fixed amount for both the labels (as a “tax,”) and the musicians who played on the sampled song who are not members of the American Federation of Musicians, a somewhat controversial union.
Read through Questlove’s take on the sampling controversy below.
B.R.O.theR. ?uestion @questlove · May 7 The real culprit in the sampling controversy always lies with the invisible middlemen who acquire (sometimes legally) dormant catalogues that are up for grabs. Those who operate this way are also super litigious—-they will cop a grip of songs (all those local mom & pop labels)
B.R.O.theR. ?uestion @questlove · May 7 Sometimes make compilations & charging crazy prices for use (one is so notorious he once tried to sue me for calling him out on acquiring black publishing songs that get sampled & suing for millions in an interview)
B.R.O.theR. ?uestion @questlove · May 7 A cat like Michael Jackson actually does right by his acquirements by purchasing songs from publishing houses and returning them to their rightful owner (Little Richard, Sly—-stop crying about the Beatles yall at the time they had a chance to purchase & scoffed & decided against)
B.R.O.theR. ?uestion @questlove · May 8 Is it really impressive when we use those precious seconds before the first verse to let y’all the listeners hear us instructing the engineer commands? (“Turn my headphones up”, “I need more piano”, “turn the bass up!”)
.R.O.theR. ?uestion @questlove · 18h I’m DYIN. I helped w the Mariah sample cause 11 years ago we were in the same situation in which Erykah has 24 hours to clear “Gone Baby Don’t Be Long” w Paul McCartney & Lenny Kravitz saw the tweet & hit up Stella to hit her pops & the song was saved! #PayItForward
B.R.O.theR. ?uestion @questlove Replying to @questlove Of course “We purchased we have a right to” is the shield that will be used. The real answer is “if a song gets written then one shouldn’t have to re-register songs every 30 years” like come 2028 Riq & I will have to reregister our songs to keep them. If we don’t? Up for grabs
B.R.O.theR. ?uestion @questlove · May 7 Also the problem, the system is set up for you to use your pub as a quick cash solution. Many a hittin rapper from the 90s had hard decisions to make last year w no income. One of the things you can opt to do is sell your catalog—-like if I had a nice hit in the mid 90s
B.R.O.theR. ?uestion @questlove · May 7 (Hypothetically) if I was Keith Murray & “Most Beautiful” “Get Lifted” “The Rhyme” (songs that already are giving the lions share of their pub to other people (Isleys/KC/Frankie Bev) were up for grabs, someone might make an offer for 2-3 million which seems nice now. You license
B.R.O.theR. ?uestion @questlove · May 7 a deal, sell your pub. Get your 2-3 mil which is a bandaid over a bullet wound. Then the owner can license to whomever. Great example is “Skinny Boys Are Back” from 86 aka the theme to Workaholics show. Thinking “we had a good run” you sell your song for say 100k...
B.R.O.theR. ?uestion @questlove · May 7 next thing you know someone licenses that song to commercials/tv themes—-it was the jawn in 86, 3 years ago when i was spinning it? Kids went crazy cause they knew it as the theme. Skinny Boys aren’t getting a dime cause they sold it already thinking “it’s dead in the water”
B.R.O.theR. ?uestion @questlove · May 7 There is many a rabbit hole to uncover. In an ideal world there should be a universal flat rate established (now it’s crazy: Led Zeppelin is notorious for overcharging—strange considering they “sampled” from many a black blues singer w no credit) George Clinton undercharged
.R.O.theR. ?uestion @questlove · May 7 knowing more people will come to him for music, keep his legacy alive & now generations of people are Pfunkateers whether they knew Flashlight from school in 77, or Salt & Pepa using it in the 80s, or Digital Underground in the 90s—-ripple FX. George makes his $ from concerts
R.O.theR. ?uestion @questlove · May 7 Meanwhile James’ musicians aren’t being helped (unless they are in the AFM union, a whole nother mess of a situation) & technically their interpretation of the song is why you’re using it. Which then forces producers (most not that skilled in musicality) to make half baked songs
B.R.O.theR. ?uestion @questlove · May 7 A whole generation of folk my age wondering why (said rap banger from 2020 doesn’t hit their gut the way blah blah from 1995 felt) in closing I wish this was the modus operandi:
B.R.O.theR. ?uestion @questlove · May 7 -flat sampling rate writer of song -I guess a flat tax for label Face with rolling eyes -cut a percentage for non AFM cats (Clyde Stubblefield whose #FunkyDrummer STILL gets chopped) should have a pieces) —this keeps those who are creative with sampling in business. This also generates interest in
.R.O.theR. ?uestion @questlove · May 7 those who are getting sampled: you become a fan, you cop more of their music, and pass it on. Leading back to the Daft Punk story—-I wanna know what circumstances occurred that caused the writer of the song to no longer have his publishing. THAT is the story.
B.R.O.theR. ?uestion @questlove · May 7 aight rant over.
Disco Artist Sampled In Daft Punk’s “One More Time” Says He Hasn’t Received A Dime MUSIC - 1 DAY AGO
ELIJAH C. WATSON Elijah Watson serves as Okayplayer's News & Culture Editor. When… Disco Artist Sampled In Daft Punk's "One More Time" Says He Hasn't Received A Dime Photo Credit: Kevin Mazur/WireImage Eddie Johns, the disco artist behind the song “More Spell on You” that’s sampled on Daft Punk’s “One More Time,” said he hasn’t received any royalties from the pop hit. Daft Punk‘s “One More Time” is one of the duo’s most beloved and successful hit songs. Released in 2000, the track continues to be timeless decades later and is a testament to their legacy as influential electronic dance music figures amid their breaking up earlier this year.
But a part of what makes “One More Time” what it is, is a sample of Eddie Johns’ “More Spell on You.” Well, in a recent report from the Los Angeles Times, the disco artist shared that he hasn’t seen a dime from royalties for being sampled on the song. Johns made “More Spell on You” back in 1979 but his career never took off. Fast forward to 2000, and the song resurfaced as a sample on “One More Time.” Unfortunately, Johns wasn’t credited on Discovery, the album that the hit single appeared on.
The 70-year-old Liberian-born Johns has suffered from homelessness in Los Angeles for over a decade, and “had a stroke 10 years ago that left him unable to work and forced him onto the streets or into shelters,” according to the Times. Johns said he hopes to get some credit from the song and, amid the Times‘ report, it looks like that might now be a possibility.
A representative for Daft Punk told the Times that the group has paid royalties for Johns’ “More Spell on You” “twice a year to the producer and owner” of the song for years, adding that “Per the agreement it is the duty of the producer of ‘More Spell on You’ to pay (part of such) semiannual payments to Eddie Johns.”
The rights to the song belong to French label and publishing company GM Musipro, which is led by founder Georges Mary.
“We have not heard from (Johns) since the day we acquired in 1995 a catalog from another label that featured this title,” Mary said in an email to the Times. “We have tried to do research on him, but without any result. For our part, we are going to study his file and do the accounts to his credit. We will get back to him immediately on this subject, at the same time as we will inform him of his rights.”
It’s unknown just how much Johns will get once he’s made a part of who gets royalties from “One More Time,” but there;s no denying that he should be credited.
“What part of that Eddie shares in, we don’t know yet,” Erin Jacobson, an attorney knowledgable in music industry intellectual property, told the Times. “But it does seem that Eddie should have some credit on the composition and the master side, which didn’t get handled. Now it’s up to all the parties to remedy that.”