The Band That Invented the ‘Amen Break’ Finally Gets Paid

The Winstons’ Richard Spencer received a cheque for £24,000 ($36,554)  following fans’ crowdfunding efforts.

Although you may not have heard of the ‘Amen Break’ before, you’ve probably heard it in dozens, if not hundreds, of songs.  Artists ranging from Amy Winehouse, N.W.A, to David Bowie, Oasis and Slipknot have all sampled the six-second drum solo.  Beyond that, the ‘Amen Break’ loop has been an ‘instrumental’ component in a number of genres including drum n’ bass and early hip-hop.<!–/*
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In order to raise money to pay The Winstons’ frontman, Richard Spencer, a GoFundMe campaign was started by British DJs, Martyn Webster and Steve Theobald.  The crowdfunding campaign quickly exceeded its initial target of £1,000 ($1,523), eventually closing with a total of £24,000 ($36,548) in March.  And now, finally, after some difficulties in transferring the money from the UK to the US, Richard has received his check.
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It’s hard to calculate the actual royalties the band should have been paid, but it may be too late now.  Members of the band were unaware of US law thats states that any civil and criminal cases must be filed within 36 months of the song being sampled.  The band ultimately missed out on benefiting from this financially.

Richard Spencer is the lone surviving member and the arranger and copyright holder for “Amen, Brother.”  “Thank you so much for this great contribution to my life,” Spencer said in a video on Facebook.

“Thank you very, very much. A-men!”

7 Responses

  1. Randall Waddith

    “The sample originally featured in the 1996 song ‘Amen, Brother’ by funk/soul group, The Winstons. ‘Amen Break’, is one of the most sampled drum beats — and loops in general — of all time. The sample played a major role in both ’80s hip-hop and ’90s European dance music era’s”

    Maybe 1996 should be 1986?

    Reply
  2. Musicservices4less

    That’s great Charlotte but how much of that check is Richard going to pay G.C. Coleman, the original drummer who I guess created that drum beat? By the way, the beat wasn’t “invented” it was created, as in “art”.

    Reply
  3. Paul Resnikoff
    Paul Resnikoff

    But, GC Coleman is dead. So the question is who this goes to. His family? Coleman concocted that beat with the band, in the context of a group and the associated creative processes. It wasn’t on a solo drumming album, so I could see the logic in handing it to Spencer.

    Reply
  4. Musicservices4less

    Paul, you are correct that the question is “who does this go to?” But it can only be answered based on the individual facts of each different matter that comes up. I would hope that in light of this relatively significant amount of income and as a high school teacher and minister, Mr. Spencer would make the effort to locate as many of the band members/estates of members as he could. That would be the fair thing to do. Of course, if there were in fact contracts signed then he would clearly be in the right to go by those agreements.

    SOUNDEXCHANGE

    But this brings up another area that is increasing becoming a major problem for “Legacy” artists. And that is SoundExchange and their supposed definition of “featured artist”. Over the past few years I have been seeing legacy sound recording artists under attack from various people who claim to have sang on a recording and therefore claim to be entitled to the featured artist share of digital royalties and not just the much smaller percentage allocated to background vocalists.
    SoundExchange takes the position that it is not their problem and must be worked out among the competing claimants. However, SoundExchange is not neutral in this matter but instead “freezes” all income involved unless and until there is an agreement. Therefore, they in effect blackmail the existing legacy artist into an agreement that may not reflect the law and facts.

    Has anyone else run into this problem with SoundExchange?

    Reply
  5. MusicRightsGuy

    Charlotte Hassan wrote,

    “Members of the band were unaware of the song’s second life, and US law states that any civil and criminal cases must be filed within 36 months of the song being sampled. The end result is that the band missed their brief window to benefit financially.”

    This is incorrect:

    1) For a US criminal copyright infringement action to take place, the copyright owner has five years to report it (17 U.S. Code § 507(a)); and

    2) For a US civil copyright infringement action, the copyright owner has three years to initiate a lawsuit (17 U.S. Code § 507(b)). Importantly, if the infringement is on-going (say, the work has continually been infringed on a website for the last ten years), the copyright owner could pursue damages for the last three years of infringing use.

    Reply

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