I'm curious why certain shows from the same era of television have issues related to licensing music that was on the show when it originally aired and others don't.

For example the show Felicity which ran in the late 90s has the same music in the background of scenes that played when the show originally aired vs a show like Daria which also ran in the late 90s. The DVD release of Daria didn't happen for a long time because all of the tracks used when the series originally aired had to be replaced due to the amount that would have had to be spent on royalties for the music.

This seems to be an issue for some shows and not others. Is it purely a budget issue or do other things play into a show's original soundtrack needing to be replaced during re-release?

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    I don't know the US rules for this [I'm UK] nor have I ever seen the show, but this statement in the linked article "All of the incidental music on the show … could be heard playing over exterior shots, on car speakers and in the mall" Is badly wrong. Incidental music cannot be heard by the cast in the scene, only by the viewing audience. If it can be heard 'in the scene', then it is feature music & subject to a much higher royalty. MTV would very probably be aware of that, even if the news reporter wasn't. My partner used to work in licensing for MTV, but it was again UK.
    – Tetsujin
    Jul 21, 2021 at 16:03
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    This is why WKRP in Cincinnati will never, ever be released on home media. Jul 22, 2021 at 0:25
  • @Harper-ReinstateMonica: At least, not before all those songs enter the public domain.
    – Vikki
    Jul 22, 2021 at 0:44
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    @Harper-ReinstateMonica: According to Wikipedia, it already has. Apparently "Shout! Factory" obtained the rights to 85% of the music in the show, and had to replace the other 15%. Jul 22, 2021 at 1:02
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    @Rosie: Not getting the music rights sometimes changes more than just the background music. In an episode of The Greatest American Hero, songs on the radio are used to send a message to Ralph (the hero.) They couldn't get the rights to the original music, so any official releases of VHS or DVD have different songs. This mangles all of the scenes in which Ralph and his partners are trying to figure out what to do. The replacement music has next to nothing to do with the subject of the discussions.
    – JRE
    Jul 22, 2021 at 7:24

2 Answers 2


It's not just about the budget, but the amount of negotiation required with different parties.

It will depend on how many record labels and artists are involved, and their relationships with the company putting out the DVD.

It also depends on how important any particular track is to the scene it's used in - some pieces of music will be easier to replace than others, so that will affect the negotiations.

This is further complicated by the fact that there are two separate licenses required for any piece of music - one for the songwriting (owned by a publishing company) and one for the recording of the song (owned by the record company).

So there are a lot of factors and a lot of people involved. Here is a good article on how this works in practice.

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    Nice one. That's a good article. I suppose I might be thankful that all the stuff I get paid for these days was made in the 80s & fixed for clearances in the 90s along with the inception of PAMRA. I now watch it tick through from PRS twice a year ;)) I do remember the days of "Beatles?? You want to try clear Beatles? Go take a cold shower!!"
    – Tetsujin
    Jul 21, 2021 at 16:49
  • I would imagine another question is whether the original unmixed audio is available or not. Jul 22, 2021 at 3:36

It's all basically has to do with contract negotiations how you tell them it'll be used in what context how much of the song or music will be used. also from the time they first started using it until the reruns or DVD comes out who now has the rights to the song or music? So they start negotiations again and if the new owners of the rights don't want to agree to what the show wants to give them then they have to use something else.

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