Crowdfunding Campaign to Compensate "Amen Break" Owner

spleeeeen

Platinum Member
From Engadget:

The "Amen break" is arguably the most important 6 seconds of music ever recorded. With the popularization of sampling, the 4-bar drum solo (originally from The Winstons' 1969 track "Amen, Brother") become a mainstay of early hip hop, before being sped up and chopped to become the breakbeat that defined jungle, drum 'n' bass and techno music. Despite it featuring in many, many successful tracks, The Winstons never received any royalties for use of the sample, something that a new crowdfunding campaign is hoping to fix. A GoFundMe page tilted "The Winstons Amen Breakbeat Gesture" is looking to raise as much money as possible for Richard L. Spencer, The Winstons' lead vocalist and "Amen, Brother" copyright holder.

Spencer has always maintained he and his fellow band members deserve compensation for use of the sample. In a 2011 interview, he lamented that Gregory Coleman, the drummer that played the famous break, "died homeless and broke," and urged musicians that had found success using the sample to give something back. After just a day, the total raised by the campaign stands at over $4,500 -- just a fraction of what the sample has earned others, but not a bad start.
Donate here: http://www.gofundme.com/amenbrother

 
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Matt Bo Eder

Guest
I get what's happening here and I applaud efforts to compensate people for their work. However, I must ask the question, aren't drumbeats not considered music? This is why actual songs are able to be copyrighted, because you're dealing with melody, and harmony, and rhythm. I've never heard of anyone being compensated for a drum part, or am I wrong?

Granted, the Winstons aren't the only ones the rappers 'borrowed' stuff from - even on one of the videos explaining the Amen Break, they played part of a track using the beat, and you can clearly hear the bass part from Gary Wright's "Love Alive" being used. Was he compensated for them borrowing his bass line?

I'd be interested to know if artists were compensated for by the rap culture that sampled parts of their songs being put to use in their songs. Has anyone looked in to that? That would be an academic exercise, wouldn't it?
 

spleeeeen

Platinum Member
Yeah, I don't think this is a perfect solution and I'm not sure what sort of redress (if there even is one) would be fair to everyone. I just appreciate that there's been some kind of effort made and some awareness created in the process. Is this at least better than nothing?
 
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Jankowske

Senior Member
However, I must ask the question, aren't drumbeats not considered music? This is why actual songs are able to be copyrighted, because you're dealing with melody, and harmony, and rhythm. I've never heard of anyone being compensated for a drum part, or am I wrong?
Cool! I'm gonna go rip off Tom Sawyer, In The Air Tonight, and Jack and Diane on my next album. Why not; Moby Dick, too. And no one from my generation will even notice!
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
I'm often troubled when musicians do not understand how copyright works. It should probably be part of the music curriculum, since so many musicians have unwittingly surrendered their rights in exchange for a huge pile of debt or are unaware of how to exercise their rights when violated. Does anyone know of a good copyright primer that can be linked in instances like this? I'd hate to see people suffer through Lessig's books for a trivial conversation.

The only two things that I would like to convey:

1: Nobody 'owns' anything. Copyright is a government granted monopoly given with the intention of promoting the arts and compensating artists. It's a right. I can no more 'own' copyright than I can 'own' the right to peacefully assemble.

2: As drummerfish's linked video points out, an entire pop subculture would not have existed if the rights holder(s) had chosen to exercise their rights. This is exactly what makes Amen interesting and runs counter to the intention of copyright.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
1: Nobody 'owns' anything. Copyright is a government granted monopoly given with the intention of promoting the arts and compensating artists.
I haven't known a drum part to be copyrighted, however some person or company does in fact own the recording. That would have originally been the record label, and is presumably now whoever owns that label's masters.

Bermuda
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
I haven't known a drum part to be copyrighted, however some person or company does in fact own the recording. That would have originally been the record label, and is presumably now whoever owns that label's masters.

Bermuda
The recording is protected by virtue of copyright in it's entirety. This includes the drum, vocal, and kazoo part. Sampling the drum part is no different than sampling the kazoo part.

You are right, in the old model the record label typically owns the tapes (the physical media) and copyright is assigned to the label by virtue of the recording contract. The artist(s) surrendered their rights in exchange for recording, production, promotion, distribution, and royalties.
 
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Matt Bo Eder

Guest
So to ask the question again, who gets the compensation from this crowdfunding event then? The label? The singer? The drummer's estate? the writer?

I like the fact that someone is trying to do something to maybe right some particular wrong here, but money is being raised and I'm asking who the money should be going to, that's all.
 

JustJames

Platinum Member
Cool! I'm gonna go rip off Tom Sawyer, In The Air Tonight, and Jack and Diane on my next album. Why not; Moby Dick, too. And no one from my generation will even notice!
I think you'll find that Pete Townshend will demand royalties for your use of the phrase "my generation".
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
So to ask the question again, who gets the compensation from this crowdfunding event then? The label? The singer? The drummer's estate? the writer?
Technically, since the sample is from the original recording, the owner of that master would get compensated for its use.

If somebody was to make an identical, new recording of the drum part, it would essentially be free of any mechanical claims. This is why you often see oldies compilations with re-recordings of hits (featuring one or more original members of that group.) It's not because they're trying to do a better version... they simply don't want to pay to license the original recording from the entity that owns it. They're free to make a new recording - which they then probably own - although writing/publishing payments must still be made.

It's nice that the project is trying to get payments to the singer/copyright-holder of "Amen Brother" but that's separate from the legality of who owns the master containing the loop that's been used. Or do I misunderstand, and Spencer happens to own the master? That's pretty unusual for anyone from that era of the music business. The Turtles and Dave Clark are the only ones I can think of who managed that.

Bermuda
 
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