Music

Every Sample You Take

This is part of the music business that I really hate.

Everyone knows the song, “Every Breath You Take”. It is from the mega selling “Synchronicity” album from The Police and it is credited as a Sting composition. Now as a songwriter, I believe that Sting wrote the song and should be credited as the song writer. However, it is the Andy Summers guitar riff that is even more iconic and the way Summers chose to play a simple A-F#m-D-E chord progression is what made the song a “super hit”. However Sting is credited as the songwriter, so he gets all of the publishing royalties.

So when Puff Daddy appropriated the iconic riff, along with the Chorus vocal melody for his hit song “I’ll Be Missing You” it was Sting that got paid the royalties. Due to Puff Daddy not asking for permission to sample to the song, Sting used copyright law to have the song listed as 100% to him. So from the Puff Daddy version (which sold seven million copies and won a Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group) Sting earns $730,000 a year in royalties from only one song, ‘Every Breath You Take.’

So what did Andy Summers get. In the end, both versions have the defining guitar part and that part was created by Andy Summers. From the “Puff Daddy” version, Summers got zero. A big fat zero. The reason is that he does not have a co-writing credit on “Every Breath You Take”. Whatever band agreement “The Police” had when they were in operation would have focused on their songs only and it would not have taken into account profits made from sampling.

It is a ridiculous process because Sting as the song writer had to give his permission and received payment for its use however Summers did not and it was his actual piece of music that was sampled.

Summers said in an interview with the A.V Club that the popularity of the track made it even harder for him to swallow his inadvertent participation.

“He actually sampled my guitar, and that’s what he based his whole track on,” he notes. “Stewart’s not on it. Sting’s not on it. I’d be walking round Tower Records, and the thing would be playing over and over. It was very bizarre while it lasted.”

This is what Summers said in a Guitar World interview about “Every Breath You Take”.

“When Sting first brought that song in, I didn’t think we could do it. What he came in with was something completely different from what we ended up with. He had this thing that sort of sounded like “sub-Yes” with all of these huge rolling synthesizers. He made a demo, but it didn’t sound anything like us at all. But that was what the story was with much of the material. Our word was that we had to “Police-ify” it, which basically meant the chemistry of the three of us playing on the track, each guy doing his own thing. That’s what made it sound like the Police. The thing that’s so great about all of those tracks is not just the song writing, but also the way they’re played. It was a sound only the three of us could get across.”

That is a crucial world, POLICE-IFY.

2013 marked the 30th anniversary of “Synchronicity”. The album made “The Police” kings of the world. It went straight to number 1, by knocking out Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. The music will live forever with us and the iconic music in “Every Breath You Take” is played by Andy Summers. But Sting gets all the royalties. Next time, someone tells you that Copyright is great for artists, remember this example. Copyright needs to be re-written not re-extended. It is out of touch with the world.

Former Police Guitarist Andy Summers on His New Band, Circa Zero: “It’s What I Thought the Police Should Have Done, But Didn’t” http://www.guitarworld.com/former-police-guitarist-andy-summers-discusses-his-new-band-circa-zero

Sting Earns $2,000 a Day Because Puff Daddy Didn’t Say ‘Please’ Back in 1997 – http://ultimateclassicrock.com/sting-puff-daddy-2000-a-day/

Andy Summers of the Police Calls Puff Daddy’s ‘I’ll Be Missing You’ a ‘Major Rip-Off’ – http://ultimateclassicrock.com/police-puff-daddy-rip-off/

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