Sean “Diddy” Combs, the rap mogul, is still paying the price for sampling The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” in his tribute song to the late Notorious B.I.G. titled “I’ll Be Missing You,” released in 1997. Yet, 26 years later, he is still paying The Police frontman Sting $5,000 in royalties daily, as Diddy confirmed on Twitter. This is an incredible amount of money for a sample used over two decades ago.
Sting revealed in a 2018 interview with The Breakfast Club that Diddy paid him $2,000 daily for the sample for the rest of his life. Diddy corrected the statement, saying that it was $5,000 a day. The tweet from Diddy sparked renewed interest in the topic and a conversation about the music industry’s complicated laws regarding samples and copyright infringement.
Diddy’s use of the song was originally cleared with Sting, but it is not unusual for samples to come with a price tag. Often, the fee is a one-time payment, but in this case, Diddy is paying $5,000 to Sting every day that he uses the sample in any form of media. This includes live performances, television appearances, and any other use of the song.
In 2003, Sting revealed that Elton John had told him, “You’re gonna be a millionaire!” after hearing “I’ll Be Missing You.” Sting used the proceeds from the royalties to put his children through college. Both Diddy and Sting have profited significantly from the song.
Sting and Diddy are still on good terms despite the ongoing payments. Sting has stated that he and Diddy are “good pals,” with the two collaborating on several projects over the years. The friendship between the two artists has likely helped make the ongoing payments more manageable.
Diddy’s net worth is estimated to be around $740 million, and he reportedly earned $90 million in 2022 alone, thanks in part to his lucrative partnership with Cîroc vodka. With this kind of money, the $5,000 daily payment may seem like pocket change, but it’s still significant for anyone.
The ongoing payments also raise questions about the music industry’s laws regarding sampling and copyright. Artists often use a small song snippet and build a new work around it. These samples can sometimes become iconic but also have significant legal challenges.
In the case of “Every Breath You Take,” the sample is a critical part of the song. The Police’s original song was a massive hit, and the use of the sample in “I’ll Be Missing You” helped make it one of the most iconic tributes in hip-hop history. However, the ongoing payments serve as a reminder of the legal complexities surrounding the use of samples in music.
It’s worth noting that the $5,000 daily payment is not typical for most samples. Instead, the artist usually pays a one-time fee to use the sample in their song. Still, it’s clear that the sample in “I’ll Be Missing You” is integral to the track, and Diddy has been willing to pay a premium to continue using it.