RANT: “Replacement Music” on TV Shows on DVD

This week’s rant may sound silly, but bear with me while I try to justify my anger. You see, the people that produce television shows are required to obtain a license for most of the “pop music” you hear on a TV show’s soundtrack. I’m not talking about the instrumental “classical-type” music you hear in the background; that music was probably created specifically for the show or is part of the studio’s ‘stock library’ that it can use in any production. No, I’m talking about the sort of music you’d hear on the radio. Many shows that appeal to younger audiences like The OC, Veronica Mars and Popular – shows that often have the “this show featured music by…” ad just before the end credits start rolling – use this type of music. The problem – and this rant – comes when the shows get transferred to DVD. Many times it’s simply too expensive for the studio to license the music that appeared on the original show. Other times it’s just too confusing; for example, if a song has three songwriters, each might have his or her own publisher for the song’s rights. So instead of dealing with one company, the studio in this example has to deal with three – not to mention the actual songwriters and\or their estates. Needless to say, it can get quite confusing.

This is why many of the “TV on DVD” box sets now come with “replacement music”. Sometimes this music is decent enough, yet other times it’s so boring or monotonous or bland as to take away from the show itself. And when music is central to the show’s ambiance – such as with the Fox show Keen Eddie – the show loses so much! It’s just not the same watching Eddie chase the bad guys around London with some sort of generic techno stuff that I could compose myself blaring in the background instead of Madness’ “One Step Beyond” as it was when the show aired. Indeed, read the complaints about the Keen Eddie DVD set on Amazon’s page here. If you think this is silly, then try this: get yourself a copy of any CD you want along with a copy of Apocalypse Now on DVD. Put Apocalypse in your DVD player and queue up the “Flight of the Valkyries” scene. Turn the sound on your TV all the way down and play a random CD you chose over the scene instead. Did it suck? Yes. THAT’S why it matters. Even if you don’t care about “ambiance”, you should know that the tangle of music licensing is even keeping some shows like Miami Vice from appearing on DVD altogether. Bastards! Read all about it here.

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