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Television and music rights.


RABid

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I'm seeing more and more issues with shows not being aired because of music rights. The last two instances...

 

Last week I decided to buy the Murphy Brown series on DVD. To my surprise only the first season was released. From what I have read the cost of the Motown soundtrack caused the studio to abandon plans to release more seasons.

 

Tonight I looked for the broadcast time and channel of Big Blue Madness, the University of Kentucky basketball practice that is open to the public and always aired on TV. This is the first year since it began that it is not broadcast live and in its entirety. A press release from ESPN mentions that they are doing cut-ins to avoid the problem of clearance for any songs that are broadcast during the practice. To see the entire show you have to watch on ESPN3 internet.

 

Has something changed recently or are networks and studios becoming less willing to pay for the music rights. One equation might be that years ago a single season of a TV series could sell for $80. Now $25 is high. I don't watch a lot of network television now. It makes me wonder if studios are cutting back on the amount of popular music they are willing to include in a show.

This post edited for speling.
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Back when those shows aired, music rights were more reasonable (or abused depending on your perspective).

 

Years later when DVDs are released, music clearances have to be re-negotiated for mechanical royalties. The owner(s) of the music either got greedier or the owner(s) of the show are less willing to pay for music rights.

 

Often the popular music is replaced with either generic music, or the music of the artist(s) is re-recorded using session musicians which reduces certain royalties.

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Back when those shows aired, music rights were more reasonable (or abused depending on your perspective).

 

Years later when DVDs are released, music clearances have to be re-negotiated for mechanical royalties. The owner(s) of the music either got greedier or the owner(s) of the show are less willing to pay for music rights.

I don't think this is completely true. When many older shows were originally broadcast, very few were offered for sale afterwards, and if they were, it was one episode per tape (remember those?). Now, people buy these box sets up. The original licenses were just for one broadcast, perhaps a couple of reruns in the season or over the summer. Now, the studios are going to bring in some money so shouldn't the music owner get their share of that? Sure, perhaps some are trying to get more than their fair shake, while some studio chiefs might expect that they should be able to use the music and give those songs exposure. But even if either of the two sides aren't being so extreme, surely the rate they paid for the original broadcast is different than for sales.

 

Nowadays, if you're licensing music to a movie or a TV show and you don't include the rate for the later media sales and distribution (DVD, Hulu, Netflix), you're a fool.

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It's just been announced that the box set of "The Wonder Years" will be released by Time-Life.

 

A spokesman said:

 

" Getting the rights to the music featured on the show (some 200 songs from artists like the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Percy Sledge, not to mention Joe Cocker's iconic cover of "With a Little Help From My Friends" has been almost impossible up until now."

 

 

SSM

 

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It's just been announced that the box set of "The Wonder Years" will be released by Time-Life.

 

A spokesman said:

 

" Getting the rights to the music featured on the show (some 200 songs from artists like the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Percy Sledge, not to mention Joe Cocker's iconic cover of "With a Little Help From My Friends" has been almost impossible up until now."

There couldn't be a more perfect example. This has been a Holy Grail for many years and I didn't think it would ever happen. See also: Batman.

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WKRP in Cincinnati is another example of a show that featured then current music which can no longer be used in re-runs due to lapsed licensing. Who knew that licensing was cheaper for programs shot on videotape? From Wikipedia:

 

Music licensing[edit]

The show's use of Blondie's "Heart of Glass" was widely credited with helping the song become a major U.S. hit, and the band's record label Chrysalis Records presented the producers with a gold record award for the album Parallel Lines, on which the song appeared. This gold record can be seen hanging on the wall in the "bullpen" where Les, Herb, and Bailey worked in many of the episodes in the second, third, and fourth seasons.

 

The songs were often tied into the plot of the episode, and some pieces of music were even used as running gags. For example, the doorbell to Jennifer's penthouse apartment played "Fly Me to the Moon" (which was later replaced by "Beautiful Dreamer" due to copyright reasons).

 

Music licensing deals cut at the time of production were for a limited number of years.[17] Hugh Wilson commented that WKRP was videotaped instead of filmed because when the show was originally produced, a loophole in music licensing deals reduced fees for using songs in videotaped programs. The loophole was intended to accommodate variety shows.[18][19] When the show initially went in syndication shortly after its 1982 cancellation, the original music remained intact because the licensing deals were still active at the time.[20] Once the licenses expired, later syndicated versions of the show did not feature the music as first broadcast, but rather generic "sound-alikes" by studio musicians to avoid paying additional royalties. In some cases (when the music was playing in the background of a dialogue scene), some of the characters' lines had to be redubbed by sound-alike actors. This was evident in all prints of the show issued since the early 1990s, which included its late-1990s run on Nick at Nite.[17][20]

 

As a result, production on a WKRP DVD was delayed for years because of the expense of procuring music licenses. When it finally was released, much of the music was replaced by generic substitutes. In addition, some scenes have been cut or truncated and voice-overs used to avoid using unlicensed musical content.[21] Other scenes that were originally edited for television and thus never before seen were added back into the episodes to give viewers the back story which further explained a later scene.

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