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The Sampling Continuum: musical aesthetics and ethics in the age of digital production

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Adam Behr



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


This article argues for a view of popular music production that better accounts for sampling than has historically been the case by viewing it as a continuum of activity. Weighing evidence from interviews with musical practitioners against the legal and industry frameworks we illustrate, first, how sampling has been legally differentiated from other types of musical copying. Secondly we show that, despite this, comparable ethical codes exist within and across musical methods wherein sampling is part of the spectrum of activities. Thirdly, we discuss the ubiquity of digital technology within popular music production and the resultant closer relationship between sampling and other musical techniques moving onto, fourthly, how the sampling aesthetic has become integrated into musical practice in a manner insufficiently accounted for by its legal and industrial contexts. This ‘post-sampling’ reality places sampling and other musical techniques along a spectrum, in practical and ethical terms, and musicians would be better served by sampling being treated as part of the overall musical palette, allowing both scholars and the law to concentrate on ideologies of practice across the tools that musicians use rather than between different specific techniques.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Behr A, Negus K, Street J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal for Cultural Research

Year: 2017

Volume: 21

Issue: 3

Pages: 223-240

Online publication date: 12/06/2017

Acceptance date: 01/06/2017

Date deposited: 05/06/2017

ISSN (print): 1479-7585

ISSN (electronic): 1740-1666

Publisher: Taylor and Francis


DOI: 10.1080/14797585.2017.1338277


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Funder referenceFunder name
AH/K000179/1Arts & Humanities Research Council-AHRC (formerly AHRB)