Student profile: Bringing sanity to music sampling

Saul Wyner

Saul Wyner (MSI '11), who earned his degree with specializations in Information Economics for Management and Human-Computer Interaction, developed a concept for In the Mix.

Wyner displayed "In the Mix" at the annual student expoSItion. The project envisioned a fully indexable, extracted database of song samples and song information, conclusions, and observations regarding song sampling behavior, and publication-ready integrated infographics.

The project focused on music sampling, which he says "has long been debated as a possible application of fair use, although the current legal rulings generally disagree while still remaining indefinite."

Saul points out that samples must be "cleared" by the copyright holder, which generally means paying royalties to a label and artist, even for a relatively minor sample. The penalties for not clearing a sample can be dire, such as those that resulted from the Bittersweet Symphony case.

"A full investigation into the relationships between sampling and sampled songs, over issues of popularity, sales, other sampling songs of the same sampled song, and other issues, could possibly shed some light on the effects of sampling," Wyner explains. "This is done using exploratory data analysis through visualization and filtering."

When working on his project, Wyner found that song sampling data is not easily available, and comprehensive databases do not provide application programming interfaces or other methods of easily extracting and using data.

"In addition, as songs themselves have very few relevant concrete quantitative variables, methods of comparison are difficult to find," Wyner says.