Dance music mag reporter goes into the studio with SCORCCiO (2014)
Used a sample on your track, but can’t afford to get clearance? We speak to sample replay expert Mark Summers of SCORCCiO, serving DJ’s & Producers with accurate remakes that can often cost much less than using the original.
For most Electronic Dance Music producers the usage of samples can be of paramount importance but it’s not always that easy (or cheap) to clear an original loop, acappella or any kind of copyright-owned sample to be used within your new tune. So what can be done as an alternative to clearance problems? What’s the next best option if you’re unable to use or can’t afford to clear the original sample?
SCORCCiO Sample Replays have given us the answers to these questions since 1996. As a testimony to providing some of the closest sounding replays on the planet, SCORCCiO have provided their replay productions to many of the best DJ-Producers and Dance Music labels in the business. We tracked down SCORCCiO sample replay producer and CEO Mark Summers, who was once a London-based House/Rave DJ and Recording Artist in the UK, to discover more about his service, and to get the low down on sample recreations vs.sample clearance
Reporter: Why would somebody want a sample replay, instead of clearing an original sample?
SCORCCiO: It’s a well known fact that the slowest, hardest and most expensive way to use a sample is to try and clear the original. That’s exactly why SCORCCiO was established in 1996, firstly out of our own experiences from trying to clear samples, and secondly from what our producer and record label clients were telling us. We found the most common problems were; 1.) it took far too long, 2.) sometimes it wasn’t even possible, or 3.) that it was much too expensive to try and clear an original sample. SCORCCiO provides a complete solution, not just on the technical and legal side, but also in terms of the financial aspect. We can also beat the clearance waiting times with the speed of our service.
Reporter: Can you give some examples of producers that decided to use your service, after they had first looked into sample clearance?
SCORCCiO: One of our first-time clients had initially tried to clear a sample,and after 6 weeks of waiting for an answer he was finally told it was going to cost him $25,000 in advance, just to clear the usage of an 8 second sample. On top of that, the original label also told him he would have to pay 75% of all his sales royalties back to the original artist. We replayed his sample within 1 week, at a cost of $700 with absolute zero royalties to pay anyone. Needless to say, he’s now a long-time client of ours. Another producer tried to get clearance on a U2 sample. Their record label denied any use of the sample whatsoever. So he got us to replay the exact same sample, whilst he went off to get the publishing clearance. Everything was complete from start to finish within 14 days, and he was signed to Sony Music less than a week later.
Reporter: So it’s quicker / cheaper to get a SCORCCiO sample replay, as opposed to clearing original samples with their copyright owners but why does the latter take the longest to achieve?
SCORCCiO: Sample clearance is a slow and painful legal process. 99% of the time you’re waiting for some music company office assistant to actually put your request into the system. Then you have to wait for the sample clearance department to contact the original artist and/or their manager. Then you have to endure all the talk back and forth about what’s been used, how much advance fee they will charge and what percentage of royalties they will want, and then that has to be logged back into the system with all the legal contracts put into place. It’s like watching a snail competing in a marathon. By the time all these people and their lawyers have finished emailing/faxing/legal documenting each other, we could have made the replay and the producer would already be having a top 10 hit on Beatport or even some national chart.
Reporter: OK, lets imagine if all the sample clearance problems are removed. would there still be any advantages to getting a sample replayed?
SCORCCiO: Absolutely. There’s still a huge advantage because even if you had cleared and paid a massive amount of money for the original sample, you would never get all the separate stem parts or the original multi-track that made up the sample. You would also never get the original sample magically fitting the new specific tempo of your new track. And if you wanted the original sample without the drums or without the vocals, well you’re going to be very disappointed after paying a lot of money for it and only receiving the widely available stereo master. On all these counts, SCORCCiO can deliver where the original sample (or the original record label) simply cannot. SCORCCiO provides separate multi-track parts and we can include/exclude whatever our producer client requests. And if the producer wants to save even more money, we can replay the sample without certain drums/instruments or vocals in fact anything that would never be needed once the replay is placed into the new track. Thus not only saving money, but having a much better fitting replay than the original master ever was.
Reporter: So anyone can get a quicker / cheaper sample replay option from SCORCCiO… but what does it cost?
SCORCCiO: We take many things into account about the final cost. Obviously the type of sample has the biggest influence on that but we also consider the status of the client. If a DJ-Producer is unsigned with an unreleased track, we are going to be more generous about the final cost than if the track is already (or about to be) signed to a major record label or media company. Our prices are always reasonable anyway.
Reporter: How much do you normally charge for your replays, do you have some price lists?
SCORCCiO: It would make our task so much easier, but unfortunately it’s just impossible to have a standard price list for our service. Mainly because all samples and their usage can be so different – there’s infinite variations. The complexity and length of the sample is a major player on the price. Some people might say well, it’s just the guitar that we need or it’s only the chorus vocals needed but that guitar could be a very difficult and long acoustic flamenco style, or it may be the unique voice of Michael Jackson on the lead vocal with a Gospel Choir on the backing vox. We do have a basic idea of prices for each musical element, but we always take into account what’s likely to be the most difficult to replicate and how long it’s going to take for us to really nail the sound. Instrumental samples with synths and drum machines would be the lowest priced replays, simply because those types of sounds are more easily accessible than trying to find a certain kind of rare instrument or human singing voice. But again, the price all depends upon the individual sample itself – we always need to hear exactly what’s required first.
Reporter: It can’t be easy to make such a close copy of an original sample… so how do you do it?
SCORCCiO: Again, that all depends upon the sample itself. For most productions we tend to pick up on the most obvious sounds that are high up in the mix first, and then work our way down from there. Although we often like to deal with the most challenging parts first, like some muffled but important background sounds that will eventually form the backbone of the sample. Or perhaps the sample has a great drum loop or bass-line, and we need to home in on that first, because that’s what holds the entire sample together. There’s a multitude of ways in which we work, but it mostly involves analyzing the sample many times to the level of where we can pinpoint and concentrate on each individual sound. We have developed and patented our very own Sound-print Technology Process, which can capture the original EQ sound-print, and then imprint that same sound back onto each track of our sample replay. It can be an extremely tedious and exhaustive job but that’s precisely what we have to do. Without question you need to have some very good ears for the task if it was easy then everybody would be doing it!
Reporter: Ever had a sample that was difficult or practically impossible to try and replay?
SCORCCiO: We have come across a few samples that at first seemed extremely tricky. There was one in particular which had this constantly evolving arpeggio of an extremely rare Asian stringed instrument, and it went on for 5 minutes running throughout the entire track with different timbres and inflections. It was a huge challenge, but we managed to find a musician who had studied and actually owned the instrument. After 3 long days and nights of recording, editing and mixing we finally got it. And then after that we just called it “the bastard!”
Reporter: In your experience, what’s been the most popular type of sample replay that most clients seem to request?
SCORCCiO: Vocals – by far the most popular. DJ-Producers nearly always want those. Either a very short clip (1 second long), or an entire song of 4 minutes. Acappella vocals can be one of the most demanding elements to recreate. Depending on the complex nature of the original voice + processing, it’s often the editing, not the recording of the singer, which takes the longest time to work on. Sometimes we’ll record a vast amount of takes and then painstakingly piece each syllable together, in order to match up with the original. Considering vocals are usually very prominent and wide open to the highest amount of scrutiny, we work with some of the best vocalists around the world and take our production methods to the extreme. This ensures that we get an end result sounding as close to the original sample as humanly (and technically) possible.
Reporter: What’s been the most strangest or funniest type of samples that you’ve ever had to replay over the years since 1996?
SSCORCCiO: The most bizarre one was a kazoo, playing a really simple but funny riff. It was difficult to stop laughing whilst doing that one! Another one was Homer Simpson singing Duff Beer for me, Duff Beer for you. We have no idea what happened to the replay after we’d sent it to the client, but he was overjoyed with it!
Reporter: Would you say the service that you offer plays an important role for producers and artists using samples these days?
SCORCCiO: Yes I would say it plays a vital part in the process of sample-laden tracks. A sample replay can be the absolute deciding factor about whether or not your track is even going to be released. When an artist or producer offers their demo track to a music company, and that track has an obvious sample running all the way through it, the first thing the A&R person will usually say is We have to do something about that sample clearing it would take too long and we don’t have the budget to pay for that anyway so we’ll have to get it replayed. Some record labels are also completely put off by the idea of releasing tracks that incorporate original samples and those tracks will never see the light of day, all because the label didn’t think about the benefits and cost effective advantages of getting a SCORCCiO sample replay.