The Complete Guide To Derivative Works For Musicians
Updated: Apr 29
In today’s music climate, crafting derivative works like remixes and duets is an essential part of growth as an artist. But why are derivative works key to the success of modern musicians? And what types of derivative work should you produce?
We’ve crafted the complete guide to derivative works for musicians below so that you can start crafting your own. Let’s jump into it!
What Is A Derivative Work In Music?
According to copyright law, a derivative work is any piece of content that includes major copyrightable elements of an original work. In the world of music, these are works that include sounds, samples, or entire sections sourced from a released song.
How Have Derivative Works Changed?
Historically, we’ve seen derivative works in music through remixes and samples. The industry today is rapidly evolving to include more forms of social-first content, such as the “Duet” or “Stitch” feature on apps like TikTok.
Official derivative works like using a sample in a released body of work or crafting an official remix still require copyright clearance, but the door has opened for all artists in certain social use cases. Musicians are now able to participate in many social media derivative works, which provides artists with a variety of benefits.
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Why Should Musicians Invest In Derivative Works?
The expanded access of derivative works is great news for musicians. Here’s why every musician should be invested in derivative creation:
Virality: Despite having little social proof beforehand, many artist have been able to catapult their success by remixing a familiar A-list track. This is now more possible that ever for artists with short-form video platforms like TikTok encouraging algorithmically friendly derivative remixes.
Accessibility: This is one of the first times in history that derivative music creation is accessible to anyone who has access to social media and a DAW. Budding artists can capitalize on derivative work’s sense of familiarity to audiences while showcasing their musician perspective.
Creative Inspiration: Derivative works are arguably easier to create since you’re already provided with foundational elements of a song. Crafting derivative music isn’t just effective from a marketing standpoint, it’s efficient.
Finding Your Audience: You can target desired audiences by strategically creating derivative art based on a body of work. Derivative works allow you to target fanbases without shelling out thousands of ad dollars.
Audience Cross-Pollination: On major digital streaming platforms (DSPs) like Spotify, both the derivative artist and derivative creator are linked to an official remix release. This is an extremely effective way for all parties to increase their reach, and is one of the reasons why we’re seeing a resurgence in official remix albums.
Networking: Derivative works, even unofficial ones, can lead to creating an official release or collaboration with an artist you admire. They put your perspective of a beatmaker front in center since the consuming audience has a clear idea of your starting point.
Derivative Works Anyone Can Participate In
These are the types of derivative works that any musician can currently enjoy and interact with:
Duets: Duets on TikTok, Remix on Reels, and YouTube Shorts all offer artists opportunities to engage and build upon original songs or pieces of content.
Stitch: TikTok’s Stitch feature allows you to begin your video with a small clip of an original work, which can be a great way to show your starting point before showcasing a derivative work.
Unofficial Remixes: You’re free to post unofficial remixes as “original sounds” on TikTok.
Derivative Works That Require Clearance
These types of derivative works are still beneficial for artists, but they require official clearance to be released publicly.
Samples: Whether you’re using a 5-second or 50-second clip of a released song, you need to clear your samples properly and contact the original creator’s team.
Official Remixes: Official remixes require direct participation with the original creator, an agreed contract of splits, and cooperation surrounding how the remix is released and advertised.
Collabs: An official collaboration with another artist usually results in an entirely new, original track. In some cases, another artist may be invited to contribute a verse on an alternative version of a song, but these opportunities are typically initiated by the original artist. Successful collaborations require an open understanding of royalty splits up front and direct communication between the two artists and their associated teams.
Whether you’re just starting out your career or booking stadium shows, derivative works bring you plenty of benefits as an artist. Enjoy building off of the music that inspires you the most!