Sampling has always played an essential role in hip-hop music. But in many cases, it has come at a steep price for musicians and producers who did not receive proper permissions from the original artist. Sean “Diddy” Combs is one of the many producers who learned the hard way that sampling without permission can lead to a hefty cost.
When hip-hop artist Notorious B.I.G. was murdered in 1997, Combs brought together his wife, Faith Evans, and the group 112, to record a tribute entitled “I’ll Be Missing You.” Combs sampled the hit song, “Every Breath You Take,” performed by The Police in 1983 as well as the hymn “I’ll Fly Away” and the song “Adagio for Strings.”
The song spent 11 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and received the Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.
However, Combs forgot to get permission to use “Every Breath You Take” from the songwriter Sting, who’d been a member of The Police. And as a result, Diddy says he has been paying royalties to the tune of $5,000 per day.
The Black Millionaires, a digital platform dedicated to black wealth generation, recently posted a clip on Twitter from a 2018 Sting interview on “The Breakfast Club.” Radio host Charlamagne tha God asked Sting if Combs was paying him daily for royalties. Sting confirmed that Combs asked for sample permission after the song was released. As a result, Sting said he is paid $2,000 per day in royalties for Combs using the song without permission but also shared that there was no animosity between himself and Combs.
“We’re very good friends now,” Sting said during the interview. “It was a beautiful version of that song.”
When Combs recently got wind of the resurfaced clip, he responded with his own tweet on April 5 saying, “Nope. 5K a day. Love to my brother @OfficialSting!”
That seems pretty hefty, totaling more than $1.8 million annually. There is no way to verify how much money has changed hands over the song sample.
Even for authorized song samples, there are no standard fees, according to legal resource platform Nolo. Typically, the music publisher will require an upfront “advance” payment which ranges between $250 and $5,000 as well as a percentage of the song income (usually between 15 percent and 50 percent). But Diddy failed to get permission, which could have led to him being sued by Sting. But judging from comments by both, they seemed to have come to a payment agreement, whose terms seem to be undisclosed.
Combs, The Media Mogul
Paying royalties is par for the course for Combs, whose career has evolved since he released “I’ll Be Missing You” in 1997. Today, Combs is one of the wealthiest people associated with the music industry. According to Rolling Stone, Comb’s net worth is $1 billion. In addition to being a music mogul, his Ciroc and DeLeon tequila partnerships have helped him rake in over $60 million. In addition, Combs is a majority shareholder in Revolt, a media network established in 2013.