Travis Scott’s “Antidote,” the second single off his 2015 debut Rodeo, is the highest-charting (No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100) and best-selling (3x Platinum) record of his four-year recording career. According to one of the song’s producers, though, the Houston native and his record labels—Epic and Grand Hustle—had to give up 50 percent of the song’s composer share in order to clear the Leon Michels-produced “All I Need” by Lee Fields & The Expressions.
Eestbound, a Toronto producer who crafted the record alongside WondaGurl, explained the entire situation to DJ Pain 1 for BeatStars:
“It was kind of a weird process,” Eestbound explained. “When Travis Scott released the song on SoundCloud, which is a non for profit organization—they still do make money, but it’s for free pretty much, there’s no money being generated—we didn’t even know. Before that, we didn't even get any paperwork or anything or an email saying he’s going to release it. After he released it, it was kind of an issue because, you know, the [artist] from the sample told Travis that they want 50 percent of the record, which is normal, because Travis didn’t clear it at first. It was actually generous that they gave us 50 percent. Most people could have easily said 75 percent and he’d just have to take it.”
First, it’s important to note that SoundCloud is a for-profit company, not a non-profit as Eestbound stated. Just because most artists aren’t benefiting financially from uploading their music to the service doesn’t mean nobody is making money off their music. Also, it should be noted that 50 percent is on the very high end of the sample clearance spectrum. Most publishers will ask for a minimum of 10 or 15 percent.
Eestbound is correct in saying that Travis is lucky that whoever owns the publishing for “All I Need” wasn’t greedy. Since Travis already uploaded the song to his SoundCloud, he not only put himself in a position to be sued but also gave the original copyright holder ammunition to ask for a greater percentage during sample clearance negotiations.
Eestbound doesn’t go into detail about the exact splits on the record, but he does confirm he owns a piece of the record.
We can spend days, weeks or months debating the merits of the sample clearance system—I’d argue sampling does way more good than harm, exposing an entire generation of music fans to tunes they might never ever come across otherwise—but just one listen to the original source material (:00 marker) back-to-back with ”Antidote” (:00, :14 and throughout) should be enough to understand why the sample, at least in this case, is part and parcel to the success of the beat.
“Antidote” could have fallen by the wayside the same way so many of our favorite, uncleared records have over the past 20 years. To think, the birds in the trap were close to singing the blues.