Soul and electro-funk had a powerful breakthrough in the 70’s and our very own Reggie Calloway was at the forefront as part of the all-star act Midnight Star that took the genre by storm. The multitalented group is known for chart-topping hits like “Freak-a-Zoid”, “Wet My Whistle”, and “No Parking (On the Dance Floor)”. Recently, one of their most popular songs has resurfaced on today’s Billboard Hot 100, thanks to Lil Duval, Ball Greezy, and hip-hop icon, Snoop Dogg.
Lil Duval’s “Smile (Living My Best Life)” feat. Snoop Dogg and Ball Greezy is a feel-good anthem that was released in July of 2018. The catchy hook, “I’m living my best life”, embodies a funky melody that samples Midnight Star’s classic single, “Curious”.
Anyone who listened to the Billboard Hot 100 in the fall of 2018 can confirm that “Living My Best Life”, lived its absolute best lifespan on the charts, debuting at number 83 and reaching number one on the R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart in September of 2018. A popular song like this surely racked up hefty revenue in royalty streams, which begs the question – is everyone involved in the song (even those who were sampled) reaping the benefits?
We interviewed with musician Reggie Calloway to get a deeper understanding of the music sampling process with a rundown on copyrights, royalties, and everything in-between. We hope other music creatives can use this real-life experience as a compass when choosing to sample one’s music.
Q. When did Midnight Star release their single, “Curious”
A. “Curious” was first released in 1985 as part of the “Planetary Invasion” album. We were coming off the “No Parking” album which had sold 2.5 million copies at the time. This was great for us because the competition to out-do ourselves was very high; the game was stiff back then. The first single, “Operator” quickly topped the R&B Charts. “Curious”, however never became a single, though it was one of the most requested songs on the album, so of course that contributed to album sales.
Our lead vocalist, Melvin Gentry, was the one who wrote the song with Bobby Lovelace and Boaz Watson, and I produced and co-published it (along with the album). We ad libbed off the line “curiosity never hurt nobody”. The song also features a skit in the beginning where Belinda walks across the audio soundtrack of the stage as if she’s recording a theatrical play and the rest is history.
Q. How did the group find out that Lil Duval & Snoop sampled “Curious” in “Living My Best Life”?
A. A friend called me and told me about it. We realized it in about a month’s time after the song was released. Then after they shot the second video for “Living My Best Life”, Lil Duval and Snoop’s team asked ours for a sample clearance. If you sample a song, you have to get two licenses – one for publishing and then a second one for the masters from whoever owns the original master; this is what the license clearance entails.
Q. What has the process been like to ensure Midnight Star would receive royalties for sampling “Curious”?
A. Our publishing administrator contacted me. The parties making the license request had to contact all publishing owners and get the ‘ok’. Once we all confirmed, then we started the negotiation process. We had to negotiate the shares of the splits on “Living My Best Life” which technically means creating a new copyright (showing the percentages of ownership on the new song).
Q. Do you have any advice for music creatives who want to sample another artist’s work?
A. I recommend that if an artist wants to use a sample, they clear it before they release the song so they can avoid any delays in release, higher prices or splits, and unnecessary legal action. It’s great when artists want to reach back and pull from the catalogues of prior hit records, creating a new life and copyright that speaks to today’s music, but it’s best to get the legalities out of the way first.
Q. Has your music been sampled in any other work?
A. Absolutely. “Curious” is probably our most sampled song but “Casanova” has been sampled in popular music throughout France and different countries. Trick Daddy, Trina, and a few others are on a song called “Down Wit Da South” that samples our song “No Parking (On the Dance Floor)”, and some others are “Feels So Good” which was sampled by Too Short in “What She Gonna Do?”, “Slow Jam” sampled by Wale in “Mother Nature (Slow Jammin’)”, and Snoop was actually part of a song in 2005 with Twista and Sleep Eyed Jones called “Had to Call”, which samples our song “Love Is Alive”.
Q. Wow! That’s impressive. And do you receive royalties for all those sampled songs?
A. Yes! New copyrights had to be created for all of those songs that shows the new splits broken down. The new copyrights confirm that all of the publishers and songwriters receive their fair share for the songs that have been negotiated. It’s interesting to think back to a time when sampling was done illegally and there was no way to track it unless it was obvious. Now people are going through the proper processes to release sampled music with the data being tracked. That makes it easier for artists to feel open about their music being sampled.
Q. Any final thoughts or words of wisdom for the eager music creatives out there?
A. Sampling is a win-win for everyone involved if it’s done correctly. Do it the right way so you can live your best life and enjoy the success of your new work without the stress of legal concerns.
Reggie Calloway continues to live his best life these days with big plans for 2020. In January, he released his new Gospel album “God Is the Source”, which includes his latest single “Be Alright”. If you’re a fan of live shows, you’ll be thrilled to see Reggie in concert on June 18th at Vibratos in Los Angeles, owned by the legendary Herb Alpert. To top it all off, the summer of 2020 will be the 30th anniversary of Reggie and his brother, Vincent’s hit record, “I Wanna Be Rich”, prompting the star to release fresh versions of the song in a new album package.
For more information about Reggie’s new projects, follow him on social media at @reggiecalloway, and for information regarding music samples and copyrights, browse through the Blog and News pages on our website.
About Sound Royalties
Founded by CEO Alex Heiche, Sound Royalties, LLC is a privately-owned specialty finance firm that helps music industry professionals fund personal and professional projects without ever taking ownership of their copyrights, allowing for pass-through income, and empowering creatives to choose from a variety of flexible pricing options. The company’s core business is offering royalty advances of anywhere from $5,000 to the tens of millions. It does this by advancing artist, producer and songwriter royalties paid through music labels, distributors, publishers and PROs such as BMI, ASCAP, SESAC, SoundExchange and many more. Sound Royalties works with a wide range of leading music industry professionals, including GRAMMY Award winners, platinum recording artists and notable music industry executives in every genre.