A History Of Music Sampling Through The Decades

The music industry loves sampling and a new joint study by Bose and Currys has gone in-depth to highlight some of the most groundbreaking and popular music samples of all time.

If you take a listen through the charts you’ll find that music sampling is as popular as ever, and the list of 2019 Grammy nominees have sampled tracks a total of 853 times in their own releases.

If you’ve ever listened to a new song and thought, ‘this sounds familiar’, it’s likely that the song you’re listening to features a sample.

This could be a sound, a hook, a vocal line or even an entire melody taken from one song and used to inspire and create something new.

When did music sampling start?

Sampling is a hugely popular, but by no means new, technique in the music production industry. A recent study found that whilst the practice of sampling really took off in the 1980s, it had been around for many years prior.

The technique can be traced back to as early as the 1900s, with Musique Concrète becoming popular in the 1940s. Using ‘real-life’ sounds integrated into a track, Musique Concrète isn’t sampling as we know it today, but it was the origin of the technique.

The 1970s saw the largest number of songs being sampled, however, 1973 was the year from which most tracks were sampled, with more than 12,000 snippets taken and used by later artists.

Fast-forward to the present day and sampling continues to evolve and increase in popularity, almost becoming part-and-parcel of music production.

What are the most popular music samples?

Although reggae was the first genre to use widespread sampling in the 1970s, the hip hop, rap and R&B genres account for 64% of all sampling across the music industry.

Music producers also love the sounds of soul, funk and disco with a staggering 91,200 songs from these genres being sampled over the years.

It’s the Godfather of Soul himself who takes the crown for Most Sampled Artists, with his back catalogue being sampled over 7,000 times in tracks from the likes of Jay-Z, Justin Timberlake, Public Enemy and Wu-Tang Clan

Music Samples Through Time

What are the laws of sampling music?

Sampling is entirely legal in the music industry, as long as permission is obtained from the original artist. However, music sampling has been the subject of many legal disputes, landing artists in hot water over their use of samples.

One of the most famous recent cases was a dispute over Robin Thicke’s 2013 hit, “Blurred Lines”. In April 2014, it came under scrutiny when the family of late soul singer Marvin Gaye filed a lawsuit which alleged that the track infringed Gaye’s 1977 song ‘Got to Give It Up’. Producer and track co-writer Pharrell Williams was also named in the lawsuit.

The verdict came in March 2015 when they were charged with unlawfully copying Marvin Gaye’s 1977 hit. They were ordered one of the largest payouts in music copyright history; $5.3 million and 50% of the song’s future royalties were awarded to the Gaye family.

Prime Loops helps you avoid any potential legal issues by delivering 100% Royalty Free sounds, this means you’re free to create, release and perform any music using our samples and loops files without the fear of landing yourself in hot water.

Want to learn more about the History of Sampling?

Find plenty more insights into music sampling through the decades and across genres with this interactive tool developed by Currys in collaboration with Bose.

The Music Samples Through Time initiative explores the ever-popular technique of music sampling in detail. Use their tool to find out how many songs have used sampling and how many songs have been sampled throughout the years.

Download music sample packs from Prime Loops here
Follow Prime Loops on Facebook, Twitter & Soundcloud
Need more inspiration? Create a Prime Loops account and get a free welcome pack of loops and samples

Related Articles

  • The Legend of Jupiter 8

    The Legend of Jupiter 8

    In an era where Synthesiser manufacturers were engaged in a race for progression and innovation around Analog technology; the launch of Roland's Jupiter 8, in 1981, represents a milestone in the histo

    Read More 2
  • 5 Ways to Get Creative With Organic Foley

    5 Ways to Get Creative With Organic Foley

    It’s all too easy, when producing these days, to get stuck inside the box and, whilst you may have a dope tune on your hands, it can be missing, well, something... Foley There’s a natural move

    Read More 2
  • The Legend of 909

    The Legend of 909

    From its humble beginnings in Osaka, Japan, the Roland TR-909 Rhythm Composer was born in 1983 with a run of 10,000 units and sold for $1300. Blissfully unaware of the impact it would go on to have, R

    Read More 2
  • UK Grime Production Tips

    UK Grime Production Tips

    UK Grime has gone from being a small, DIY spin-off of Garage through a stratospheric rise to become THE sound of the last decade in Britain and beyond! The Birth of a Genre & nbsp; Its earliest conc

    Read More 2
  • Lo-Fi Hip Hop Production Tips

    Lo-Fi Hip Hop Production Tips

    Lo-Fi Hip Hop continues to go from strength to strength, especially with the emergence of YouTube channels such as Chilled Cow, ChillHop, The JazzHop Café amongst others. The question is, from a pr

    Read More 2
  • The Emergence Of Trap Soul

    The Emergence Of Trap Soul

    ‘Trap Soul’ is the budding new star to emerge from contemporary R&B. First gaining notable success and prominence around 2016 with breakout stars Fetty Wap and Bryson Tiller achieving Top Ten

    Read More 2
  • How To Make Better Music When Your Studio Is Your Bedroom

    How To Make Better Music When Your Studio Is Your Bedroom

    Unfortunately for music producers, few of us have the luxury of having round the clock access to a first-class recording studio. Everyone has to start somewhere though and for most budding producer

    Read More 2
  • How The Best Vocal Samples Make A Smash Hit

    How The Best Vocal Samples Make A Smash Hit

    The best vocal samples can make or break a track, carefully toeing the line between a callback to a classic era of pop music with a catchy hook or just simply ruining a decent enough mix by distractin

    Read More 2
  • The Rise of Afrobeats

    The Rise of Afrobeats

    Over the last few years, no other style of music has emerged out of Africa quite like Afrobeats has, gaining global recognition and infiltrating Western charts with almighty force. Drawing from a h

    Read More 2
  • Marie Kondo Your DAW And Declutter Your Home Studio

    Marie Kondo Your DAW And Declutter Your Home Studio

    After the Bird Box challenge luckily came and went, the latest Netflix craze doing the rounds is making homes around the world a bit tidier. Thanks to Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, homeowners are ta

    Read More 2