How much would it cost to license/sample a Michael Jackson song?

Can anyone give me even a rough idea of how much it would cost to sample one of Michael Jackson’s songs?

The reason I ask is that a recent song (Wu-Tang’s “Our Dreams”) sampled Michael Jackson’s Almost There, however for the album version the group had Alicia Keys re-sing the sample rather than use the original vocals from MJ. There’s been some discussion online as to whether or not the sample was removed because it was too expensive for the group to license, which then raises the question of how much cheaper it is to get Alicia Keys to appear on your song.

The best I could come up with was an article ( that mentioned Michael Jackson’s estate asking for $20 Million to license footage of last year’s tribute concert. I would expect the licensing of a single sample, however, would be significantly less than that.

A lot more than you would pay for a song by a lot of other artists. :slight_smile:

It can be a bit complex. First of all contact the record company and see if they actually own the rights to the song. If not they may be able to put you in contact with whoever owns them.

This can be complex, 'cause some artists own the rights to their music, some do not.

I recall reading to license a Rolling Stone song for inclusion in a Simpsons episode, and reruns and DVD came to $25,000.

I would expect Jackson to be in the same category

When one artist samples another songs, they don’t always pay money. You can work out any terms you want. If Madonna wants to sample a song, she can probably just ask the other artist and work out an agreement where she exchanges a sample of on of her songs.

Or sometimes just credit is enough. If a much lessor known artist gets his song sampled on a Madonna song, it’ll give him free publicity.

Remember also even if you could use a “sample” of a song and have it justified under the doctrine of “fair use,” this only applies to the USA. Many other countries don’t recognize “fair use,” at all, so you would have to make two versions anyway, even if you could use it in the USA under “fair use.”

So there is no one single answer, but you can bet with Jackson’s new record deal the cost will be higher than when he was alive

That’s an interesting point about the new record deal that Jackson’s estate signed. Seems kind of backwards that it would cost more to license an artist’s song after they’re dead, but that’s likely the case here.

I have to say it’s been almost impossible to track down any sort of dollar amount for the cost of any sample used in hip hop. The closest I’ve come in regards to MJ is some random blog commenter saying that Michael Jackson was given 30 royalty points for appearing on a remix of Jay-Z’s “Girls, Girls, Girls.”

Since the artist is dead, there will be no more songs coming from them – rarity like that always increases the price.

Not to turn this into a debate on the state of copyright, but I would think that, once the artist who actually created the music is no longer around to benefit from (or be harmed by) the use of his own work, it should become easier for others to make use of it.

There will be more Jackson songs released, he just can’t record any more. They are still releasing new Hendrix stuff and he died 40+ years ago.